TERROR TRAIN’s poster knows how to sell the movie



Ed. note- Trains and masks make for a solid slasher in another Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle.  Enjoy all three films in Opening the Vaults, Vol. 3- P.F.


It’s very rare that a horror movie scares me, especially a slasher flick.  I’ve always preferred the supernatural monsters to knife wielding psychopaths.  I’m a big, powerful guy, so I’m pretty confident I could handle a slasher, even if he had a large butcher knife in his hand.  But if I had to fight off a werewolf?  I have no doubt I’d be torn to shreds.  Occasionally, however, I come across a movie that scares me the way any good horror show should.  TERROR TRAIN is one of those.  It takes the idea of the slasher flick and puts two very nice twists on the clichéd formula, and in doing so lives up to the dread its title implies.



Jamie Lee has no closet in which to hide this time



The movie begins with a bunch of pre-med students gathering for a beer blast.  Kenny, a pledge for a fraternity, is promised a shot at a sexy night with Jamie Lee Curtis.  Arriving to the bedroom and removing his shirt and pants, he finds himself in bed with what I think is a corpse stitched together from different cadavers’ parts (it’s filmed in a very confusing manner).  Traumatized, he spins in place, catching himself up in the netting that shrouds the bed.  Flash forward three some odd years, to the same crew of students boarding a train.  The revelers are garbed in costume for a New Year’s Eve celebration (don’t worry, this is much better than NEW YEAR’S EVIL).  What they don’t know is that they will indeed encounter terror on this train.  The first victim doesn’t even make it onboard.  The train departs, leaving his corpse behind, the first of many.



This train is full of terror



TERROR TRAIN distinguishes itself from the glut of slasher flick in two ways:  the train and the costumes.  The train itself is a perfect setting for this type of movie.  There’s nowhere to go.  Once the characters are on board, they’re trapped in with a merciless killer.  I felt a sense of claustrophobia overcome me as I watched the movie.  I’m not claustrophobic in the least, but the film was so efficient I felt caught on the train with the characters.



Is this the killer?


Also very clever is the killer’s system of hiding himself.  Almost every time he kills someone, he switches masks.  Unlike a HALLOWEEN movie, where everyone knows Michael Myers is out to slash them, here anybody could be the killer.   For the characters, they’re unaware and think it’s just a party;  for the viewer, it’s a puzzle trying to figure out under which mask the killer is hiding.



Or is this him perhaps?



The characters themselves are fleshed out well enough.  Viewers probably won’t like Doc, but may fear for him as he locks himself in a compartment with the killer.  Jamie Lee plays the woman in distress with a very realistic performance including tears, and does enough to craft this character distinctly from Laurie Strode;  it’s a credit to her acting skills, even at a young age.  Her final showdown with the killer is better than average for this sort of film.


Copperfield fittingly as the Magician




There’s also an interesting casting stunt with the Magician.  His name is Kenny, but is he the Kenny that was traumatized those 3 years ago?  Or is this just another miscue to throw the audience off the path?  He’s not the same actor from the opening scene, and here’s where things get fun.  Director Roger Spottiswoode brought in David Copperfield to play him.  Though I’m showing my age I consider it a master stroke to hire the young man who would years later make the Statue of Liberty disappear on live television.  Cris Angel has nothing on the old master.


My main problem with slashers is how formulaic they are.  Fortunately, Spottiswoode broke rank with TERROR TRAIN, and in the bargain produced a decently scary entry.  I’ll leave you with this:  I ride trains in New York City all the time, and I’m glad I never pissed off a burgeoning med student.



-Phil Fasso


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