Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reader Recommendation: Terror Train

I guess I'll go with Terror Train.  You must, must, must see this slasher.  Jamie Lee Curtis and David Copperfield??  Copperfield should be enough to pull you in.  It's one of [the Naked Eskimo]'s all time favorite slashers.  Plus, it takes place in a train!  Claustrophobia!  It's also an instant play from Netflix.  You wouldn't have to wait for it!”--Recommended by the Bodacious Barbarella Cult

I did not wait for Terror Train. In fact, I’ve decided to do a new sort of Netflixing where I close my eyes, press a bunch of buttons and hit ‘ok’ when I feel inclined. And that my friends is how I decided to finally watch the infamous Canadian pleasure, Terror Train.
Quick Plot: Like every ‘80s slasher, Terror Train begins with a prank gone wrong as premed fraternity brothers haze Kenny, a nerd (identified as such by his thick glasses, naturally) by cock teasing him with Alana, played by original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis (save your hermaphrodite jokes for the showers boys). Due to some confusingly hung drapery and Kenny’s overreaction to kissing a corpse, the poor geek gets the crazies and we flash forward three years.
To celebrate their last winter break, the now senior fraternity members and their gal pals don Halloween costumes and take a rather awesome old fashioned train ride, complete with uncomfortable cots, tiny bathrooms, a band composed of high fashion hipsters who don't play their own instruments, and...get this, David Copperfield!

The rails are rocking harder than Night Train to Terror  (not true; nothing rocks harder than Night Train to Terror) but before you can say all aboard, a mysterious masked man has swiped a frat boy’s Groucho Marx disguise and begun a slow but steady killing spree of some of the past prank participants. The only person that seems to be actively doing anything about it is the kindly conductor Carne, played by lovable presence Ben Johnson. 

I won’t spoil the twist of Terror Train, a neat little plot point that’s both slightly predictable but really not. People die. The killer is revealed. I giggle. And Jamie Lee Curtis cries. You know the story.

High Points
You can’t not love the setting, an antiquated (unless you travel through Russia) train that instantly offers plenty of claustrophobic and inescapable titular terror
In these kinds of movies, it’s always good to have a hateable antagonist due for a painful demise and Terror Train packs a doozie with Hart Bochner’s Doc. With his smarmy attitude and girl-shriek, Bochner (who later went on to play another smarmy doomed fella in Die Hard and, more importantly, directed one of the best Jon Lovitz vehicles of all time, High School High) is like a slightly taller Tom Cruise, possible homosexuality and all.

(You sir, are no match for Hans Gruber.)
Low Points
Aside from its fantastic location, there’s just nothing that different about Terror Train to make it overly memorable. Sure, it’s better in quality than Slaughter High  or Graduation Day, but just about every character and plot point feels like it was taken out of a slasher recipe book and served on an assembly line-run cafeteria
Lessons Learned
The best magic trick of all involves super fast nail polish removal
Shaking your dead and bleeding friend generally does not bring him back to life. Perhaps that’s something learned in med school, as opposed to undergraduate university
Much like Jamie Lee, David Copperfield tragically missed out on a promising career as a disco dancer

Dear nerds of the world: I don’t know how many movies can support this before you take note, but please believe me when I say the gorgeous popular girl does not want to sleep with you and if she does, she probably isn’t going to tell the whole school about it in order to lure you to her bed
Terror Train is the very epitome of all that’s good and bad about the ‘80s slasher. Each character fits the exact role card required (good girl, slutty girl, slightly bad girl, bad handsome boy, likable chubby dude, wimpy boyfriend, second kill black guy, etc.) and with the exception of a slightly bizarre reveal, nothing really surprises the modern viewer. That being said, any slasher fan will nostalgically grin at seeing JLC cut some dance moves and a masked baddie ax his way through bratty coeds. The film is currently streaming on Instant Watch which is pretty much where it should be seen. Not really worth a whole lot of energy investment, but vital for those slasher completists.


  1. Sigh. David Copperfield.....why do you make my heart sing? And why can't he do magic at MY birthday party, why why why!!!!!!!!!? I'm celebrating my birthday the weekend of Rock and Shock, I expect you to bring him Emily.

  2. He does seem rather small. I could probably sneak him into my purse, providing he doesn't go all "I'll take you to my private island for a raping" like The Enquirer told me he did a few years back.

  3. Terror Train is one of my all-time favorites! It won't make a convert out of non-slasher fans but for the true slasher aficionado, Terror Train is hard to beat. You could carp that it doesn't have any memorable splatter FX but the mystery angle is handled really well with the climatic reveal managing to be genuinely surprising.

    By the way, thanks for giving a shout-out to High School High - I love that movie!

  4. Oh Jeff, I've seen High School High way more times than any woman should admit. I have a good friend who happens to be an administrative assistant and in my mind, I always refer to her as "my bitch!...well, significant...other." Also, a future pet (or child) will totally be named Anferny.

  5. Terror Train is one that just says "80s Horror" to me, just such nostalgia. Not the best film ever, but still has enough going for it to make it worthwhile. I love it.

  6. Yup, 1980s in all its glory to be sure Wings. I think if I grew up with it, I would definitely have softer spot in my heart for those disco beats. Still, Copperfield & Curtis = best slasher pair I've seen yet!

  7. Havent seen this one for a while.. dont reemember it being too bad.
    Jamie lee Curtis sure was a Fox..

  8. Really? I like Jamie Lee as one of those 'she seems really smart and cool in real life' ladies, but...well..I never thought her face had much in the way of prettiness. Maybe it's the unconventional, with the added bonus of a pretty decent body?

  9. What?! Hart Bochner directed High School High? That's hilarious! And that picture of Jamie Lee and David is priceless :) I must say that I agree with your thoughts regarding JLC's looks--she is unconventional looking which I always found interesting, considering that her parents (Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh) were both very attractive people when they were young. I guess I found it interesting because Jamie Lee doesn't resemble either one of them in my opinion.

  10. You learn something new and exciting every day Dorian! I too was thrilled to discover that the Die Hard dude directed one of my favorite spoofs. And yes, JLC deserves some credit for having a leading lady career without having the leading lady looks. Good for her!

  11. Curtis may not have leading lady looks, she sure does have leading lady boobs!

    I saw High School High in the theaters, but I can't recall enjoying it too much, but I do enjoy me some Terror Train! As is the case with most Slashers, it has more than a few faults, but it has a great visual style that partly comes from the setting and also the era in which it was made.

  12. True about the boobs, even it does take nearly 10 years to actually see them. I'm surprised you're not a HSH fan Matt. For some reason, I can see you digging it, but then I forget that not everyone is as randomly attracted to Jon Lovitz as I am. I myself am not the hugest slasher fan (just since most offerings do so little with the formula) but I definitely did appreciate the setting of Terror Train. It was used well.

    Plus, Copperfield discoing.

  13. This is an okay movie, but if you're going to go with lesser-known Jamie Lee Curtis horror, go with Road Games. Seen that?

  14. I have not! Is that one of the Ozploitation action films? I'll put it on the queue!