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Since I started the website I've done a Slasher marathon every summer. This time I thought I'd start things off in the first week of...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Terror Train (1980)



For the third movie in my slasher marathon I chose another that I tend to revisit every couple of years. Released in 1980 Terror Train is a fairly early entry into the slasher genre and stars Jamie Lee Curtis fresh off of her role in Halloween. Time to dive into some horror on the rails!

The movie opens, as many slasher movies do, with a prank that goes horribly wrong. During a college hazing Kenny is hurt trying to get away from a corpse that the popular kids used to freak him out. We find out later in the movie that Kenny was institutionalized and that he also had a violent history. Three years later the pranksters are graduating and are having one last blow out party on a rented train. They all hop onboard for a night of fun unaware that someone has joined them to get revenge on what happened to Kenny. As the bodies start to show up our heroine, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and her ever decreasing group of friends try to figure out who the killer is. Soon she is alone and facing the killer!

I’m going to start off by saying I was a little disappointed in the kills. All but one of them happens off screen, and the one that does happen in sight of the audience is a rather tame head smash into a mirror. Being that this was so early in the slasher movie cycle and was before the censors really started cutting things up I had hoped for a bit more. I guess they were going for more of a Halloween vibe rather than a Friday the 13th blood splatter. That is fine if you are able to create and sustain tension and a sense of foreboding. Terror Train doesn’t do this.

Love the look of the killer in this movie.
The story is uneven, starting off with a bang only to slow down until the last twenty minutes where it picks back up. After one early kill we get way too many scenes of people drinking, fighting, and David Copperfield doing magic. Yeah David Copperfield is in the movie and does part of his act. It is pretty cool to watch, but not what I want or expect to see when watching a slasher movie. Back to the kills the best slasher movies tend to have the kills spaced evenly throughout to keep the audience interested and involved. Most of the mayhem in Terror Train happens towards the end and it makes for a very “back loaded” experience.

Jamie Lee Curtis is awesome!
There are some saving graces for Terror Train that makes me go back every couple of years and check it out again. Jamie Lee Curtis does a good job in her role and is clearly a cut above most actresses that did these movies. She plays scared very well and as the last friend standing gets a lot of screen time. Legendary Hollywood actor Ben Johnson also does great in a supporting role as the Conductor of the train. Between the two of them they bring an energy to the screen that is lacking without them. I’m also a sucker for a movie set on a train. The enclosed claustrophobic setting just pushes my buttons and Terror Train takes every advantage of this setting. From the dark train compartments to the fear of being trapped with a killer the setting is successfully leveraged to create some tension. Sadly again this is mostly at the end of the movie.

Clearly, I’ve got a soft spot for Terror Train. It has flaws but I still believe that it is worth checking out at least once in spite of the flaws. This is especially the case if you are going to sample the fun that was the ‘80s slasher craze.

Next up in my Slasher marathon Cheerleader Camp


© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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