Terror Train (1980)

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Movie Review
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Terror Train

Directed By: Roger Spottiswoode

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner, Sandee Currie, Tim Webber, Derek MacKinnon, David Copperfield

Synopsis: Three years after a prank puts its victim in an insane asylum, the members of the fraternity that planned the prank are the targets of revenge.

Thoughts: Jamie Lee Curtis cemented her status as a scream queen in a span of three years when she starred in Halloween. Halloween II, The Fog, Prom Night and Terror Train in a span of three years from 1978 to 1981. Each of these films is considered to be essential horror viewing, and for good reason. You could do a lot worse than a marathon session of these movies.

Like many of the horror movies of the early 80s, Terror Train was made on a miniscule budget and was filmed in Canada. The cast is filled mostly with unknowns, with the exception of Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson and David Copperfield, who was added to the movie by a fellow Canadian Producer. The original script did not include a magician, but one of the producers was a big fan, and David Copperfield was a fellow Canadian, so his role was added. Sometimes it’s all about who you know!

It’s not surprising to find out that Curtis carries the movie with her presence. The rest of the cast (victims) really don’t do a lot to invoke any empathy. As a matter of fact, most of them are pretty much world class assholes, which is what got them into trouble in the first place.

As the movie takes place during a costume party, the killer changes his appearance quite often. I thought this worked against Terror Train, as so many 80s slashers are remembered for an iconic killer. Had the killer here maintained a “look”, this movie might rank higher on the 80s slasher list.

Terror Train also throws out more than a few Red Herrings, trying to keep the viewer from guessing the identity of the killer. I rather liked this approach in Terror Train, as it kept the movie from getting stale in the absence of more visually interesting killer.

Director Roger Spottiswoode is better known as an action director and this was his lone foray into the horror genre. He’s also directed Turner & Hooch, Air America, Tomorrow Never Dies, The 6th Day, and many others. He was an editor on the original Straw Dogs as well. Terror Train was his first feature film and he obviously used it to work on more main stream movies. I can’t blame him for that and at least he gave the genre a classic to look back on.

As I mentioned, I consider this to be a real 80s classic and essential viewing for horror fans. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, there really isn’t a better time of year to rectify that. Scream Factory has an outstanding release of this if you are looking to pick it up for you collection.


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