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A college fraternity prank goes wrong and a student ends up in the mental asylum. Three years later, it's graduation time, and the members of the fraternity decide to have a costume party aboard a train trip to celebrate their graduation. Unknowingly to them, a killer has slipped aboard, killing them off one by one, disguised in the costumes of the victims. Written by
This horror movie's location exteriors were filmed in the Canadian province of Quebec which had icy cold temperatures during the shoot. Ironically, scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis' next suspense movie after Terror Train (1980) was Road Games (1981), set and shot in quite the opposite of conditions, in the dry, hot and dusty Nullabor Plains of Australia. See more »
The killer repeatedly pulls Alana closer to him during the course of their conversation. Though supposedly holding her wrists to keep Alana from moving, she always returns to the same position as when the scene first began. See more »
Well, you know what they say: cold hands, warm heart.
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The 20th Century Fox logo, fanfare music have been completely dead silence. See more »
"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
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