Terror Train aka Train of Terror (1980)
Now following the success of Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis cemented a reputation as a scream queen, by starring in other horror classics such as The Fog, Prom Night and the little known diamond that is Terror Train. The thing with Queen Jamie Lee of Curtis is that for me she is the guarantee of an above average, memorable slasher and this film is no exception to the rule.
And oh yeah – Sir David of freaking Copperfield is in this one doing magic – suck on that Prom Night!
So our plot begins with a cruel frat party prank on New Years Eve, which involves a stolen disintegrated corpse (yummy), the stereotypical geeky virgin Kenny ,and the promise of him getting his bony hands (among other appendages) on Alana, who has begrudgingly been duped into participating. As you have probably guessed, it doesn’t end well for poor old Kenny, and he winds up being hospitalised and having to leave medical school. What happens to the cool, beautiful people that ruined his life you ask? Well, duh, nothing – pretty kids don’t suffer consequences (they might get frown lines or something).
Cut to New Years Eve three years later, and the students are all (amazingly) still friends with apparently clear consciences. Being the rich, arrogant so and so’s that they are, they’re having a costume party on a train, I’m assuming this is to not only celebrate New Year, but the fact that they have gotten away with kicking puppies, stealing sweets from babies and being general douches in the time that’s passed.
Someone hasn’t forgotten the incident though, and before the party train even leaves the station the killer has already picked off the weakest of the herd, and then disguised as the most terrifying Groucho Marx I’ve ever seen (granted, apart from the actual Groucho Marx I haven‘t seen many), boards to get his slaughter on. And boy does he!
The deaths are mostly unconvincing and really not gory enough for me and my bloodthirsty tastes, but the thing that confused and irritated me beyond belief was the scene in which Alana and the laughingly named Doc stand by do nothing but cry and freak out while their friend dies of a stab wound. Ahem, hello? What’s wrong with this picture?
Oh yeah, that’s right, they are bloody MEDICAL STUDENTS!
Doesn’t really say a lot for the teaching methods in American Medical Schools now does it?
Although it’s a standard slasher in basically every way, there are some pretty amazing moments in this film for me – David Copperfield (who was pretty hot and had not yet reached the cheesy Wotsit like complexion he sports today) and his cool little magic tricks (he‘s pretty much convinced me that he‘s a distant relation of Dumbledore just by appearing in this film), a smidgen of cross dressing and an array of people in funny costumes dying – fun!
It’s not a patch on Halloween, let’s face it, what film is? It does however stand up better than any modern slasher in comparison, which means that some Hollywood exec is going to stumble upon it one day and remake it with dead eyed wannabes and oh so ironic post modern hip (do the kids still say hip? Did they ever? Have I just revealed my total inability to have any idea about the youth of today? Oh well ..) pop culture references, replacing David Copperfield’s role with (pauses for a shudder) David Blaine and therefore annihilating everything I loved about it in the first place.
My advice – watch it while it’s still flawed and pure, rather than tainted and puerile.