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Terror Train Review (1980)

My History With the Film:
Terror Train is one of those films I had heard of but never really paid attention to. It’s not commonly discussed amongst horror fans and I never see it show up on anyone’s favorite slasher list. Outside of Randy mentioning it in Scream, I don’t think I’ve heard it mentioned by anyone in my entire life.

I noticed Terror Train was streaming on Amazon Prime and one night I decided to see what Jamie Lee Curtis’ more forgettable horror film was all about.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A killer stalks a fraternity party being held on a train.

What I Liked About It:
-The more and more slashers I see the more and more I think that the setting is truly the star. So many slashers from the 80’s are essentially the same film with minor changes. I enjoy this formula, but what makes these films truly stand out is the setting. Terror Train has a fantastic setting. The train is a small excursion train that has a broken radio and isn’t well staffed. This provides an excellent contained setting for a killer to hide and achieve his goal.

-Jamie Lee Curtis (Alana) is fantastic in her role and I think this film made me appreciate what a true Scream Queen she is. I’ve seen both Halloween, The Fog, and Prom Night, but Terror Train seemed to be the forgotten film of the group which is disappointing, because it’s a much better film than Prom Night.

-There is a great twist with the killer. The film’s obscurity actually worked in my favor since I had no idea it was coming. I figured it out about half way through, but I thought it was portrayed well.

-There are some legit tense moments in this film that felt realistic. The one that comes to mind the most is when Doc (Hart Bochner) finds himself locked in a cabin car and thinks the killer may be inside with him. The director was patient showing Doc exhaust all options of places the killer may be hided and even went as far as to have him attack the shadows he could not see in.

-David friggin Copperfield is in this movie and it’s not a cameo! He’s actually a full-fledged character and he’s not bad. Neither is Hart Bochner (Doc) who I immediately recognized as Ellis from Die Hard!

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-The pacing was a bit off, but I think that has more to do with when the film was made vs. the script. So, I can’t truly fault the film for that.

-The ending was a bit drawn out and the film could have probably been ten or fifteen minutes shorter.

Additional Notes:

-The film came about after Daniel Gordnik watched Halloween and Silver Streak. He woke up his wife and asked her, “What do you think about putting Halloween on a train?” She answer, “That’s terrible.” He wrote down “Terrible Train” on a piece of paper on his nightstand and went to bed. The next morning he wrote a twenty-two page treatment and changed the title to Terror Train. By 3 PM he made a deal to make the film.

-This was David Copperfield’s only acting role. He apparently had so much trouble saying his lines, he swore he’d never make another movie. He has gone on to portray himself in several movies though.

-Director Roger Spottiswoode went on to direct some big budget Hollywood flicks including: Air America, Stop or My Mom Will Shoot, Turner & Hooch, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The 6th Day.

-Filming was shot at night inside a warehouse in Montreal. The train was rigged up and shook to make it appear to be moving.

-The film was included on Roger Ebert’s “Most Hated” list.

Terror Train should be a generic slasher, but I felt like it was actually better than most. The cast was great and so was the killer. The film contains some great twists and turns and the occasional tension. I thought the kills were solid and I loved the setting.

I’ve watched a lot of “classic” 80’s slashers of the years, and to be honest, most have not lived up to the hype. Honestly, outside of My Bloody Valentine, I’m not sure if I loved truly any of them. However, Terror Train was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed watching it. It’s definitely one of my favorite slasher films and I rate it a solid four out of five.

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