Terror Train is another early 80s entry into the slasher film genre. Unlike many of it’s peers, though, Terror Train has something major in its favour. The presence of slasher scream queen royalty in the shape of Jamie Lee Curtis. Yes, Laurie Strode herself graces this low budget shocker with her presence. But does that make it worth the watch? Well, read on to find out…
It’s New Year’s Eve and a bunch of college co-eds have planned a masquerade bash aboard a chartered train. What they didn’t plan for was that a knife-wielding psycho would crash the party and begin slaughtering the guests one-by-one! Who is this mysterious costumed killer? Could it be the magician (David Copperfield) with a talent for swordplay…. a former frat pledge with an axe to grind….. or any number of other guests both invited and uninvited?
(Taken from the 88 Films release).
So, rather than being set on a summer camp, or college campus, Terror Train is literally set on a train. Now, this makes for an interesting situation. By their very nature, trains are limited in where people can hide, and how visible someone would be. Sure, the masquerade ball allows for the killers identity to be kept hidden for most of the film, but it does make for an interesting setup. And the film does take a few chances. For example, the killer is actually in plain sight for large parts of the films runtime, but as the audience, you are unaware until the “big reveal”. This actually makes rewatches really fun, as you try to wrap your head around how the killer gets from A to B and back again.
And yes, the plot is slasher film 101, but why mess with a working formula, right?
Terror Train Analysis:
Taken as a part of the post Halloween explosion in slasher films, Terror Train is actually one of the better films. The tight, claustrophobic location gives it a feel unlike many of it’s peers. And it leans into the setting heavily. Of course, this limited location helped the film-makers get as much of the budget on screen as possible. And whilst the effects are generally good, they are kept to a minimum when compared to friday The 13th, for example. Now, don’t expect high art here. But the film moves along at a good pace, almost as if the momentum of the train is driving the action.
And the cast helps enormously. As expected, Jamie Lee Curtis give an assured and confident performance as the films “final girl”. She screams, cries, and fights back just like you would expect her to do, always maintaining an element of class that the film maybe doesn’t deserve. She is ably supported by Oscar winner Ben Johnson, clearly working here for the love of acting. And a young illusionist makes his screen debut, as David Copperfield puts in a decent showing as the magician hired to entertain the students.
Given the cramped nature of the sets, the film looks suitably cinematic, all things considered. The use of light & space to play up the claustrophobia is actually quite masterful. The audio is perfectly acceptable, being neither brilliant or poor.
Rimini Editions have put together a nice little package here. You get the following extras:
- An interview with director Roger Spottiswoode (English with French subtitles).
- An interview with Judith Rascoe (English with French subtitles).
- A portrait of Jamie Lee Curtis (french audio only).
- The film in English with or without French subtitles.
- The film in French dubbed audio.
- A booklet about the film (French).
- Blu Ray & DVD copies of the film.
It all comes packaged in a nice cardboard DVD case sized digipack type case (similar to the one Hell Night came in) with some lovely new artwork on the front.
Terror Train: The Verdict.
Terror Train is a wonderfully entertaining entry into the slasher cycle. It has a unique premise that helps it to stand out from the myriad Halloween/Friday The 13th clones of the time.
Overall, this is a 4.5/5 fiends set.
Buy Terror Train: Amazon.co.uk