A group of college students decide to celebrate their last year of college together by having a costume party aboard a train on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately the victim of one of their pranks that went horribly wrong (do any of them ever end with someone not dying or being physically/mentally scarred for life?) has decided to join them, and the only thing on his mind is revenge. As the killer goes on a bloody rampage leaving a trail of bodies behind him it becomes apparent that no one may get off of the train alive.
Out of all of the slasher flicks that Jamie Lee Curtis starred in this is probably the one that receives the least amount of attention. I am a fan of this movie and am not afraid to go as far as to say that it is actually better than Prom Night (which Curtis is also in, for the 2 people in the world who aren’t aware of it) in a lot of respects. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with a movie that centers around someone killing off the people who played a cruel prank on them, and this movie (along with Slaughter High) is one of the best films to incorporate the idea.
I think that the setting is quite effective as the characters are pretty much trapped with no place to go to escape from the killer. I know that there are many, many films out there where people are trapped in some place that they can’t get away from for whatever reason while a killer picks them off one by one, but there aren’t many examples where said place is a moving train. The people can’t just jump off of the speeding train (I guess technically they could but it isn’t the best-or safest-idea in the world) and essentially they only have a limited amount of space in which to run and/or hide in when the killer is hot on their trail. Basically my point here is that it is a sh*tty situation to be in as if you ever find yourself going through the same thing as the characters in the movie do you are pretty much just screwed (and not in the good way).
Another thing that I really liked about it was that we don’t know what the killer looks like so he could be anyone in the movie. He has the habit of changing costumes and we don’t get to see his face until toward the end. There is also a pretty neat little twist concerning his identity that I would have never in a million years guessed correctly. Unlike all of M. Night Shamalamading-dong’s horrible movies this twist is effective and actually works, so I don’t think that many people will see it coming (if they do they may want to consider looking into a career that involves using detective skills).
The characters are all the standard ones that you are accustomed to seeing in your usual slasher flick and while some people will most likely bitch about this fact I have no problem with it (like the good people at the Coke company learned back in the 80’s, you don’t change things if the formula is working). Along with the drunken, sex-crazed frat boys, the asshole who is a total d*ck to everyone that we can’t wait to see die, and slutty sorority sisters we have Jamie Lee in her usual role as the nice, ordinary, somewhat attractive final girl that we know will somehow outsmart the killer and live on to see another day. In addition to this usual bunch of suspects this film also gives us David Copperfield, who plays (what else?) a magician. If nothing else what other slasher flick can brag that Copperfield (who was a pretty big deal at one time) was a part of the cast? I just think that it is unfortunate that he didn’t attempt to make the train disappear like he did the Statue of Liberty back in the day.
I have always really liked Terror Train, and as I did with Sleepaway Camp (my favorite movie of all time) I have introduced a lot of people that I know to it who loved it. There is a half-ass remake of it (kind of, since it is more like Hostel or Turistas than anything else) starring Thora Birch (who must have agreed to do it because she had a car payment or something) that came out a couple of years ago but it can be skipped as it is lousy and has pretty much nothing to do with the original. If you are in the mood for a classic slasher flick from the 80’s then I highly recommend that you check out this movie.
Terror Train (1980)