Director – Roger Spottiswoode
Cast – Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner, David Copperfield, Derek McKinnon, Sandee Currie, Timothy Webber, Anthony Sherwood, Howard Busgang, Steve Michaels
Release Year – 1980
Reviewed by John of the Dead
“Scream Queen” Jamie Lee Curtis made a name for herself in the early 80s after appearing in John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween, and his subsequent 1980 classic The Fog and the 1980 slasher Prom Night. The nice-breasted teen heartthrob brought her nasally voice back for a third 1980 horror flick with the lesser known slasher, Terror Train. This flick brings an interesting setting to the slasher horror sub-genre and was a very fun watch overall.
This flick follows a group of college friends who four years earlier pulled a horrible prank on a friend, which left him in a mental hospital. They are seniors now and have planned the ultimate New Years Eve party, a costume party on a moving train. The night goes well until someone begins killing all those involved in the horrible prank four years prior. A killer is on the train and thanks to the costume party, has a fresh reservoir of identities to choose from.
What really made this film a fun watch was it’s atmosphere. I’m a big fan of “nowhere to run” situations, and a moving train is about as “nowhere to run” as it gets. This ups the ante and tension of the film and provides the killer with the advantage. The storyline of the train being the host of the costume party was epic. We see the killer take on different identities with some creepy looking masks which once again gives him the advantage given the party goers confuse him with whatever friend(now DEAD friend) was wearing the mask prior. The plot is one that we have seen probably about 500,000 times before. We all know how the story goes…a group of friends do something mean and horrible to someone and then some time passes and the wronged person seems to be getting revenge on those responsible. Regardless, I enjoy these plots because I am the biggest fan of vengeance and redemption. It also is quite enjoyable to watch a film who’s plot has been done many times before yet somehow the film provides a fun watch despite it’s clichés.
The direction for this film is positive, and proves to be a good debut for first-time director Roger Spottiswoode. Mr. Spottiswoode found a career after this film and went on to direct Tomorrow Never Dies, and the horrendous Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. This film paces pretty well and although at times it seems too much time has passed since the last kill, we are given some pretty entertaining stuff. For instance, the role of “Ken, The Magician”. During the magician scenes I kept thinking to myself “Wow, this guy is great. I wonder how the director got these shots done.”. Well, I was wrong. These scenes needed no camerawork from the director because the role of Ken(The Magician) was portrayed by none other than David Copperfield himself! This film is still his only on screen role, but it’s an awesome one.
I do not have any major complaints about this film. The pacing could have been tighter at times and we could have seen a little more gore but what we got from this film as far as pacing and gore was good enough. This is an 80s slasher flick, so the usual elements of that horror sub-genre are applied to this film. Bad acting, some cheezy dialogue, you now how it goes.
Overall, this is a fun watch that I recommend to all fans of the slasher sub-genre. I really do not understand why this film is lesser-known than it’s mediocre predecessor Prom Night. This flick has all the right goods and gives us interesting elements for a genre and plot that is filled with clichés.