“Terror Train”— entertaining at best


Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The true fear factor of this film is debatable. Regardless, the poster is unquestionably creepy.

Will Schneider, Reporter

I’m shocked that “Phantom” was more of a train wreck than any of the train themed horror movies I own. “Terror Train” is a New Year’s themed slasher movie (they really did make one for every holiday, as “Arbor Daze” can attest to) with the greatest premise to any slasher movie ever.


It’s about a college frat’s New Year’s costume party on a train, with all of the beer, drugs, and David Copperfield magic that entails. Onboard, of course, is a mentally unstable lunatic who was the victim of a disturbing frat prank and is out for bloody revenge. While probably the most off the wall and creative premise for the movie gives it some props, it’s also where the movie’s creativity ends.


The rest of the movie is tried and true for people who have even watched a few slasher movies. You have your stupid teens, silent killer, and people who constantly go the wrong way even though the movie takes place on a train. While it would seem like it is just another generic slasher movie, which it is, there are a few things, both good and bad, that set it apart.


Starting with the bad, the characters. While they are more developed than in a standard slasher movie, the main protagonists are absolutely loathable. The movie begins with these characters, as college freshman frat brothers tricked a another frat pledge into getting into bed with a corpse. These are our heroes, by the way.


Aside from the generally despicable nature of what they did, there is also the fact that only one person in the group is remorseful of her part in it, in spite of knowing that he was sent to the hospital because of it. When it is brought up, it’s often either downplayed or brought up as how it affects them instead of the person they traumatized. In fact, it almost makes you root for the killer.


The only one who isn’t completely punchable is Alana Maxwell, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, if only because her character regrets her part in the prank, but it may be mitigated for some viewers due to how annoying she is.


In spite of her being the only one to show regret at the prank, she vocalizes it in the most irritating way possible, often yelling like a banshee, and it gets on your nerves really fast. It was clear that Jamie Lee Curtis was on set for a paycheck, as she has done far better, even before this movie was released.


There are two exceptions to the above. One is the magician, played by David Copperfield. Not only is he far less annoying and laudable than the other characters, but you actually do see David Copperfield do his magic tricks. Even in a movie, they are still impressive.


The other character is Carne, the train’s conductor, for being perhaps the only person onboard to have a brain cell and act in a reasonable manner. These two are pretty fun, and at times steal the show for me.


The other bad thing is the setting. Being on a train, there are generally only two places anyone could go, so most of the kills rely on people going the complete opposite way they should or getting themselves cornered with suspicious strangers.


This is especially blatant in the final act, where Alana runs to the cars without anyone in them, and at one point, locks herself in a cage, apparently with some sort of death wish. It makes the characters seem stupider than they were before. Some of this can be excused by them being at a party and most likely plastered, but it’s still glaring.


Again, this also plays to the movie’s advantage. The idea of a killer at a costume party disguising himself as the guests he murdered to get close to his victims in a great concept, which I feel was wasted here. Also, the train setting itself provided some creative and interesting lighting and cinematography choice, making the killer always seem threatening and marketing the train seem creepy in spite of its lighting and easy escape routes.


Aside from this, the rest of the movie’s aspects are painfully average. The score is good, but not great. The kills are fun, but nothing special. It is very much a take the good with the bad type of movie, something to watch if you don’t want to think for an hour and a half and just want to see some obscenely idiotic pricks get shanked.


Even its negative parts aren’t something that’s a deal breaker, and it is still perfectly enjoyable in spite of them. It is easy accessible, being all over DVD and VHS, as well as a now sadly out of print Blu-Ray release by Shout! Factory. If you want something scary or smart, stay clear. If you want a dumb fun movie to watch at midnight with some friends, “Terror Train” is a fine choice.