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Of the slasher films that Jamie Lee Curtis would appear in after the
masterful Halloween (1978), Terror Train is truly the best. It's also
one of the better genre entries of the early '80s.
College students hold a costume party on a train, only to have a masked stranger come aboard with murder on their mind. But is this murderer really a stranger?
As slasher films go, Terror Train really has a lot going for it. The claustrophobic setting is an ideal place for suspense and it works! The direction is compact and nicely done, making great use of the rather creepy-looking masks that the killer wears. This film also boasts one of the most suspenseful chase sequences in the genre! The cinematography is slickly-well done. The music score is unique and beautiful (especially Alana's theme, heard mostly in the beginning of the end credits).
The cast is also in good form. Jamie Lee is good as her likable heroine self. Handsome Hart Bochner does well as the two-faced frat leader. Veteran actor Ben Johnson is a welcomed addition as the train conductor. Even David Copperfield manages to be a little menacing in his role as a mysterious magician.
All together Terror Train does well, making for a good slasher-thriller with a few tricks up its sleeves. Definitely a highlight among 80's slasher films.
*** 1/2 out of ****
The 1980 horror film TERROR TRAIN might best be described as HALLOWEEN on
the rails. In it, a fraternity has a party taking place on a train speeding
through the Canadian night. And then, one by one, without anyone knowing it
(a situation made even more complicated by the fact that everyone's dressed
up in disguises), they all get bumped off in shocking and violent fashion by
a maniac. And as with HALLOWEEN and THE FOG, the heroine at the center of
this is none other than Jamie Lee Curtis.
But unlike most HALLOWEEN-inspired bloodfests, TERROR TRAIN does boast a lot of good things to lift it above the worst of an always-bad bunch. The director here is Roger Spottiswoode, who served as a film editor for some of Sam Peckinpah's films, including his 1971 horror film STRAW DOGS. The train's conductor is portrayed by veteran character actor Ben Johnson, a stalwart of both John Ford and Peckinpah who won a Supporting Actor Oscar in 1971 for THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. Even more, the atmospheric cinematography of TERROR TRAIN is provided by the legendary British camerman John Alcott, whose groundbreaking work for Stanley Kubrick, including 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and THE SHINING, is legendary. Furthermore, the violence and bloodshed are surprisingly kept relatively down; and while the revelation of who the killer is may not in and of itself be so surprising, it does give the opportunity for both Johnson and Curtis to be heroes.
TERROR TRAIN may not be everyone's cup of tea (and it doesn't really compare to HALLOWEEN); but for those willing to take a spooky ride, it is well worth it.
Jamie Lee Curtis was once again cementing her status as the Scream
Queen, after the successes of "Halloween", "The Fog" and "Prom Night",
but this one unfortunately wasn't as successful as the previous ones
and remains the least remembered. But that doesn't mean that this movie
is bad. A Slasher movie set on a train is something different I
suppose, which makes Terror Train a stylish and inventive and really
makes the most of it's settings. And I also loved the fact that the
killer uses different costumes for each murder, pure genius.
The only draw back on this movie is that most of the murders happen off-screen, but more than makes up for it in the performances like Derek MacKinnion who plays Kenny a very well rounded performance, Ben Johnston does well in his role as the train conducter and even real life magician David Copperfield plays his part well. Hart Bochner plays the coward Doc annoyed me and glad he got his just desserts and once again Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant as the lead heroine and gives the best chase scene in this movie which is the main highlight of this movie in my books.
All in all "Terror Train" is an underrated gem and a highlight on Jamie Lee Curtis's glowing CV.
"Terror Train" is the final Jamie Lee Curtis horror movie (not
including the "Halloween" sequels) and it certainly is a high note to
go out on. The film doesn't have the substance and art that "Halloween"
or "The Fog", but one might find that "Terror Train" is an above
average slasher film that, like its fellow Curtis movies, relies more
on story and thrills than blood and guts. This movie truly puts others
like "Prom Night", "My Bloody Valentine", "Madman", "Happy Birthday to
Me", and "Graduation Day" to shame, and one could easily argue that its
better than the extremely popular "Friday the 13th" films.
"Terror Train" is a little more complicated than most slasher fares. It is about a fraternity holding a New Year's Eve costume party on a train but someone has boarded the train with a vendetta against the college kids for an accidental prank that occurred several years beforehand. While on the train, the killer takes on the costumed identity of whoever he kills, so who is the killer and who is just dressed up. Its got a great plot and the movie delivers some as well.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Ben Johnson are the stars of this movie, but other big names are included as well. David Copperfield is one of them; he does his job playing himself basically, but the true acting chops go to Hart Bochner, who plays the stuck up, rude, and mostly mean fraternity brother responsible for the accident years ago. Ben Johnson is of course good, but his role is limited to a train conductor. Jamie Lee Curtis is pretty much playing yet another heroine in a horror movie, and her performance is stellar but nothing special.
"Terror Train" is a great slasher film recommended for slasher fans. It has its plot holes, but overall its makes up for them with a good story, some decent suspense, and a great twist ending that you won't soon forget. It definitely doesn't fall off the tracks.
"Terror Train" is available on DVD only on a simple DVD with just the theatrical trailer included. The impending remake may bring about a special edition.
Three years after a prank gone wrong, a costumed killer is targeting some snotty college kids on board a train. I happen to like trains and I enjoy a good '80s slasher film as well. This one isn't half bad. Not great but good. Some will be disappointed as there isn't much gore. The cute girl quota is filled by Jamie Lee Curtis, Sandee Currie, Joy Boushel, and Vanity. Who can forget Hart Bochner and Ben Johnson? Well, quite a few people can but they're good here anyway. Of course the big selling point is David Copperfield playing -- wait for it -- a magician! The plot's fairly thin and the killer is hardly a surprise but it's all good fun with some suspense and a decent cast for the genre. All aboard!
The college students Doc (Hart Bochner), Michelle "Mitchy" (Sandee
Currie), Mo (Timothy Webber), Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis), Edward "Ed"
(Howard Busgang) and Jackson (Anthony Sherwood) plot a prank for their
college mate Kenny Hampson (Derek McKinnon); however the joke goes
wrong and Kenny ends up in a mental institution. Years later, Doc and
Mo decide to celebrate their graduation with a costume party and a
magician (David Copperfield) aboard of a train. In the embarkation
platform, Ed is murdered by a killer that wears his costume of Groucho
Marx. Then he kills Jackson and wears his costume of The Swamp Thing.
The conductor Carne (Ben Johnson) discovers his body, but who might be
the masked killer?
"Terror Train" is an average slasher, with a claustrophobic story developed in a moving train. The identity of the killer is discovered but the he and his victims wear costumes and is difficult to identify who might be him. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "O Trem do Terror" ("The Terror Train")
The picture narrates how a group of fraternity executes an initiation
prank to a young boy who is emotionally frightened . Years later , a
masquerade party is celebrated on chartered hired train and someone
mask wearing realizes a series of body count scabrously murdered . The
train chief (Ben Johnson) will try to track down the killer among the
numerous students (Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner , D.D.Winters :
Vanity). The psychotic murderer is wearing the costume of each
successive victim . Who's the killer ? .
Jamie Lee Curtis , as usual , interprets a scream girl (similarly at Hallowen , The fog , Prom night and Road games) in the role of a young student besieged by a cruel and sadist murderer . Jamie Lee Curtis shot this film back to back with the similarly themed slasher film Prom Night in late 1979 ; both films were shot in Canada ; Prom Night in Toronto and this one in Montreal . David Copperfield (as always) acts showing his magic numbers . The film has enough scares , it is plenty of shocks , terror and great loads of bloody and gore . Although technically well made is mediocre and offers a few novelties . Nice cinematography by John Alcott , photographer of ¨Clockwork Orange¨ and many classic English films . The film was professionally directed by Roger Spottswoode . He'll posteriorly attained many success and he'll direct much better movies , such as : ¨Shoot to kill¨ , ¨Under fire¨ and even one with James Bond/Pierce Brosnan . Rating: Average but entertaining .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As far as 80s slasher movies go, "Terror Train" could easily be
mentioned among the worst of them. It has a very silly story involving
a fraternity that pulls a vicious stunt on a naive young pledge by
getting one of their girlfriends (Jamie Lee Curtis) to lure him into
bed with a corpse at a New Year's Eve party. It sends him over the edge
and he goes to a mental hospital. Three years later, the fraternity
holds another New Year's Eve party, this time on an old steam engine
locomotive train. A killer slips aboard and exacts revenge on the
partygoers. Is it the prank victim from three years ago, and if so,
where is he? It's the kind of premise that only happens in slasher
movies and not in real life.
However, "Terror Train" does have a few big things going for it, and I was surprised at how much I liked it anyway. John Alcott does wonders with the movie's cinematography here, and it helps that the train sets are very realistic and claustrophobic. Alcott plays some of my favorite horror film cards, working movie magic with shadows and lighting. This is the main reason that anything in the movie works at all, because "Terror Train" actually has very little suspense as far as the story goes. The kills are mostly unscary in and of themselves, but the photography and the design of the shots really stretches the material as far as it will go. There are a couple of great "boo" shocks that might give you a thrill, including a few well-orchestrated "hand-grab-from-nowhere" moments.
The filmmakers were also lucky that they had some acting talent on hand. Obviously their trump card was Jamie Lee Curtis, who was the number one box office draw for these types of films at the time. She is absolutely luminous in this movie, especially since most of the other characters are completely flat. Watching this film, you can really see why she became a star; she was already light years ahead of the material, and this was still near the very beginning of her career. Ben Johnson also turns out to be a major presence in the film as the conductor, and if any real comparisons are to be made between this film and "Halloween", Johnson would be the in "Dr. Loomis" spot opposite Jamie Lee here.
But comparisons to "Halloween" are mostly superfluous. The director wasn't going for John Carpenter here, and he does have a nice sense of style. What brings the film down is a heavy sense of deja vu, not to mention the huge lapses in logic, which are right on the surface here. For instance, there is a rather obvious conversation near the beginning of the film where the conductor reveals that the train has no radio. We also spend a lot of the movie wondering why Jamie Lee Curtis' character would be involved in such a mean prank. Of course the script dictates that she didn't know the extent of what was going on, but we still question whether she's the "good girl" or not.
The script isn't very sly in terms of its plot exposition, and the murders themselves are unrealistic (especially one victim who is smashed into a bathroom mirror). You also might wonder how the killer could manage donning all the different costumes in the film, especially when his identity is revealed at the conclusion (you'd have to have already seen the movie to understand, but it involves a spoiler I would not dare give away because it is one of the big pleasures of "Terror Train").
David Copperfield is actually very memorable as...well, as a magician. Ironically, his illusions are way more interesting than this entire movie. A few of the tricks look like they were done with "movie magic" instead of real time, but they're very entertaining nonetheless.
Of course the goods come at the climax of the film, where JLC must go up against the psycho killer alone. At this point her characters still hadn't learned how to actually finish the killer off with the first strike, choosing instead to inflict what must be flesh wounds in hopes of warding him off. But the final confrontation is genuinely creepy, if a little unbelievable.
The violence isn't quite as graphic as other films of the genre. There is a severed head (rather unconvincing) and a few bloody scenes, but otherwise it's fairly tame stuff. Nothing in the movie quite gels, and I can't really say "Terror Train" is any kind of classic, but its own relative obscurity actually works in its favor at this point. Aside from its initial cable-TV run in the early 80s, as well as a brief release on video & laserdisc shortly after, the film almost disappeared into obscurity until its recent DVD revival. Therefore the few shocks it contains are not yet overexposed, and the film isn't often seen. Even though it's not a great film and in many ways is quite stupid, I did enjoy it anyway and I will probably be watching it again.
"Terror Train" is one of the better entries in the slasher cycle.
Three years ago, Alaina Maxwell, (Jaime Lee Curtis) humiliates the class nerd in college during a prep rally by accident. When the class takes a trip on a train as a graduation party, she goes along with the others partying. Unknowingly, the entire class is being watched from the shadows by an unknown person. The class members start dying along the route, and the conductor, Carne, (Ben Johnson) is the one who keeps finding the bodies. He informs the class that a killer is on the train, but when they can't find him after a sweep, they demand to be let back on. Alaina finds that the killer is after her, and tries to fight him off and stay alive.
The Good News: As the slasher cycle started getting it'd feet in the late 70s, it was inevitable that the copy-cats would come out at some point. Fortunately, this is a copy-cat but a really good one. The familiar clichés found in the genre make for predictable viewing, but the way they're accomplished are what sets it apart. The film has some wonderful suspense moments that are courtesy of the spectacular camera work. After being locked out of her compartment, a figure approaches down a darkened hallway. This leads to a short chase where it's revealed to be a false alarm, but the idea was still there because of the camera work. The highlight, though, is the clever and downright creepy ending sequence where, after a brief struggle, a character locks them-self in a compartment in the same room with the killer. After several attempts to break in, the killer grabs a long pole and knocks out every light in the room, rendering it totally dark. It sets up a brilliant series of shock jumps that is only due to the camera making sure that the darkened part of the room is the main focus of the sequence. It's a great sequence that really sticks out. The double-twist with the killer's identity is nice, as the first one is pretty easy to guess, but the second one is a great one that does come from out of the blue.
The Bad News: There's really nothing in the way of gore here. A couple of after-effects and finding some bodies with knives and other objects found in them, but that's pretty much it. Considering that it has some deaths that needed some blood, as well as a couple off-screen as well, lowers the gore content pretty drastically. Considering the time it came out, this should've been a little more gorier. Plus, the film does fall into the slasher cannon of the time, so it is fairly predictable and really offers nothing new.
The Final Verdict: Coming out at the right time in horror history didn't hurt it at all. It's "Halloween" on a train, so that should really be the definitive response giving by this. Slasher fans with find a lot of good things here, but non-slashers will pretty much find this to be another by-the-numbers movie.
Rated R: Violence, some Language and Brief Nudity
I really was not expecting much from viewing Terror Train, quite
honestly, and I don't think many would. I did not know much about
anyway, but I had been really wanting to see it regardless, because it
looked cool and it starred Jamie Lee Curtis, who we all know was a big
horror star back in the 80s, and I enjoyed all the films she starred in
as well. It seemed like it would be a fun watch, and it was.
Well, this was no Halloween or The Fog, but I liked it all the same, even if it is not as classic, professional, and suspenseful. The plot is a college fraternity hosts a New Year's Eve costume party upon a moving train. Simple enough, and sometimes simple plots are the best kinds of plots to go with, though the simplicity of Terror Train makes it seem dull and mediocre at times. I liked the very cool and unexpected twists this movie had though, and even though sometimes the characters were annoying, they were nicely done and they commingled with the type of atmosphere the film had perfectly.
It tries to be more than it is at times, but if you can appreciate B-Movie horrors, or are just a horror fan in all, it is a good time, though nothing to really praise. Overall, Terror Train was very interesting and a nice edition to the slasher genre. There's not much I can really say about it, but it's satisfying in a sense, and I recommend it if you think you'll get any enjoyment out of watching it.
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