Synopsis: A masked killer targets six college kids responsible for a prank gone wrong years earlier and whom are currently throwing a large New Year’s Eve costume party aboard a moving train.
Stars: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner, David Copperfield
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
TMMM Score: (7/10)
By the time Terror Train hit the rails in 1980 its star Curtis was already the anointed Scream Queen of her generation. Since 1978’s Halloween she had gone on to star in John Carpenter’s follow-up, The Fog and filmed the middling slasher film Prom Night back-to-back with this underrated little chiller. Like Prom Night, this is a Canadian made film that was picked up for US distribution by Twentieth Century Fox…and who could blame them? Curtis was an established horror star and with the popularity of Friday the 13th the horror genre was about to take off like a rocket.
Often a forgotten Curtis film when you consider her body of work as a whole, Terror Train has always been a favorite of mine. It’s not in the same league as Halloween or Friday the 13th but it holds its own with an interesting premise, devious killer, and a twist that continues to work nicely.
After a brief prologue charting a fraternity prank gone wrong, Terror Train picks up on New Year’s Eve three years later when the same frat boys and sorority girls are getting ready to board an all night leisure train for fun. As this is a college party there’s lots of booze, sex, and even a mysterious magician (Copperfield in a performance that is hysterically serious) that may be move involved with the past than anyone would expect.
Every time I see the movie I find myself forgetting that while it’s nicely effective in moments, its flimsy plot is filled with holes the size of the Grand Canyon. These plot holes become easier to navigate if you just give yourself over to it without fussing too much.
Knowing some of the twists that await the audience, I always find myself cringing at some of the more obvious moments when the film shows its hand to viewers that are playing close attention. Even so…I’ve introduced this to several friends and none have really picked up on where it’s headed.
While I still stick by my classic films for Halloween, a new BluRay upgrade of Terror Train was released this year and I had to pick it up and give it another spin. The thirty-three year old movie looks better than ever and has several honest-to-goodness seat jumping moments that are as effective today as when I first viewed it.