You know, the entire time I was watching it, and even right now as I sit down to write this, I’m not 100% convinced I haven’t seen Terror Train before. There were several moments where I had wicked déjà vu, and was absolutely sure this was my second viewing of this movie. But I’m so sure I haven’t watched it before! I’m guessing this has to do with the fact that Terror Train is crazy generic, and even if you haven’t seen it before, you can predict exactly where things are going from the first minute onwards, though there are some unique touches here and there to keep things interesting.
Terror Train tells the timeless tale of a sorority prank where a bunch of pre-med students want to mess with this pledge. They trick him into thinking he’s about to get it on with Jamie Lee Curtis, but instead these silly fuckers have put a mangled corpse in the bed. Isn’t that fucking insane?! It’s one thing to embarrass the guy but to get him to put the moves on a dead person goes way beyond the realm of “oh man you know what would be funny?” So the guy goes insane, and three years later these same people are having a costume party on a train and someone starts murdering them. Gee, I wonder who ever might be responsible for these goings-ons.
Here you do have the angle of people wearing costumes so the killer can easily blend in and continue to switch costumes. I don’t think they did enough with this idea though. This concept has the makings for some suspenseful scenes, but it’s always pretty clear when it’s the killer you’re watching. Some moments where you’re not completely certain would have worked wonders.
One thing that makes Terror Train unique is the presence of magician David Copperfield, as you’ll find the majority of movies don’t feature David Copperfield. I figured it would be a bit part but this guy keeps on coming back. Sure his character only really exists to show how rad David Copperfield’s magic is, but it gives the movie some personality. I like that some fairly long stretches of the movie are devoted to simply watching Copperfield do tricks and shit. The plot isn’t moving forward in any way, it’s just giving us the chance to sit back and go “oh shit, motherfucker put a cigarette through that quarter! Witch!” And he does serve as a potential red herring I suppose.
Something I may have imagined but if I didn’t is actually pretty unique, is that I’m 99% sure the main fraternity asshole guy absolutely has the hots for his male best friend. After his friend and Jamie Lee Curtis get in a big fight (for reasons I don’t think justify a big fight) this guy consoles him but not in the “hey man let’s get you laid” way you might expect, but with “if things don’t work out, you know you always have me. I’m serious you know”. The way he says it could just be a misinterpretation of the line by the actor, but it really seems like there is something going on below the surface there. I’m choosing to believe the latter anyway.
Terror Train was another one of the movies that gave star Jamie Lee Curtis her status as a scream queen. After watching this I’m really not surprised. I’m pretty sure she screams more here than in both Halloween 1 and 2 and holy hell can she ever hit some heights. I had to turn the volume down twice once she got going. She’s fine in the role, it’s just an issue of her character being very bland.
That’s basically the issue with the whole movie; it doesn’t do nearly enough to differentiate itself from the rest of the slasher movie stable. There’s not much suspense, there’s no real surprises, and no real effort to create a guessing game as to who the killer could be. Though I have to admit the killer’s death is pretty great for sheer abruptness and awesome sound effects. Then the movie just stops immediately after they die. So that was pretty great. The movie itself though is passable, but certainly not a classic.