Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Terror Train
After John Carpenter’s Halloween, a wave of imitators and clones erupted from the film’s success. And who could blame them? The usual path was when something was a big hit, others would follow in the footsteps in hopes to fall into the same path for success. Of all the movies to come out this way, Terror Train is probably the only Halloween clone I can think of that is actually not that bad. It shares similar characters and cliches and even go as far to have Jamie Lee Curtis play the female lead. Regardless of how a film is obviously banking on the footsteps of another, the real question is does it work as a movie on its own. The answer is yes and no.
The whole movie is set on New Year’s Eve as a group of medical students are set out to a costume party on a train. Its never said if they are going to a destination but I guess New Year costume parties were the rave seeing Trading Places set a scene during one. However, these guys are in trouble as they get axed off one by one with a killer loose on the locomotive. To be fair, this movie has the clever way of hiding its killer as each victim has a costume the murderer dons to avoid getting caught. Its an idea I do like that really gives our serial killer more of an easy way to hide and draws suspicion over who is a party goer and who is the killer.
Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis is in this as Alana Maxwell, a medical student that is very much a clone of Laurie Strode minus some of the moral values. To be fair, she doesn’t engage in the sex and booze but she is acquitted against one thing that I will get into later on. Considering how “pure” she is and how well one-step ahead she can get, there’s no sense of risk that she is likely to end up dead as a door nail. For those who know their horror movie survival rules well might have a hard time getting past the predictability factor as keep guessing which body will drop next. Alana is just too obvious to be safe.
The middle section of Terror Train is easily the strongest element as there are moments of intense shock and some really well shot scenes. Most notable is when Alana is locked in a office entrapped within a metal cage and cornered by the killer. The villain goes as far to burst out all the lights and attempt to kill her with an iron rod. You can feel a sense of claustrophobia even within the boxcars as its so tightly filmed that you can almost feel the passengers trying to fit in the small space. The lightening knows when exactly to set itself on mood and atmosphere just as much as the cinematography which I feel is a huge strength here.
Viewers might also be interested to know that famed magician David Copperfield makes an appearance as a magician as his first and only on screen appearance. Its a very small role but he makes up for it by performing stage tricks to the amazement of the booze induced teenagers. When the film is not attempting to be frightening, it takes a back seat and lets us see some good old fashioned magic tricks so there is some entertainment value here to be hold. Its a shame David never went on to do anymore films as he is not a bad actor here and becomes a big part in the “who dunn it?” scenario.
Outside of the fact Terror Train is a clone of Halloween, the biggest problem this movie has is the opening and the conclusion. The prologue itself I personally feel gives away exactly who the killer is and the motive. With that out of the way, we don’t really have a sense of care of the teenagers he axes off as we feel its more a “just deserts” feel. I want to give it away but I fear there is no reason seeing the game of unmasking the killer is spoiled at the start of the film. However, there is a small twist near the end that explains how the murderer got on the train in the first place which I think is really clever. But even the way it ends doesn’t pack much punch. The killer is revealed, something causes them to get a fuse of trauma and is easily dispatched. This is my only problem with the entire movie seeing the entire middle is just well done. If the opening was perhaps used as a flashback near the end and given an ending with some punch to it, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
Terror Train is really not that bad but I can’t say its a good movie hands down. If it just sharpened up on its “bookends,” maybe it would have been a stronger movie but the way its filmed and how much use of space they take to advantage on the train is just so unique not to ignore. This is one of those films that is easily to sit through and at least not as over the top or overly gory unlike later slasher films in this genre. On the surface, its harmless to sit through but if your looking for a different spin on the slasher genre that doesn’t use Halloween as its “questionable inspiriation,” this might not be for you. Close call but this deserves a marginal recommendation to this crazy tain. .
Posted on October 23, 2014, in Horror-Wood 2014 and tagged David Copperfield, genre, Halloween, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Carpenter's Halloween, revenge, Slasher, Terror Train. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.