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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Terror Train (1980) Horror Slasher

Terror Train (1980) - Jamie Lee Curtis was quickly making a name for herself in the horror genre, 1978's Halloween really put her on the path. Coming into this film just two years later she had already appeared in The Fog (1980)  released in February and Prom Night (1980) release in July. She was everywhere and stardom was already in the cards for her. This third film in a year may be the lesser of the three, a classic revenge slasher where we know who the killer is all the way through even if we can't identify him at times.
 Derek McKinnon) three years earlier. Setting him up with the idea he was going to have sex with Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis) they lead the young man up to a frat house bedroom, except the switch is on and Jamie Lee is hiding whispering to Kenny to come kiss her. While Kenny moves to the cadaver prop up in the bed in the darkened room. When he kisses her and flips out while the six schemers bust in laughing, and Jamie feels guilt for her role in it. Kenny becomes unstable leaving school and spending time in a mental institute. So now out he has a plan to get back at this group of mean people.
A group of seniors plan there last college party before the leave pre-med and head off to medical school. It is a costume theme party. Naturally the costumes will work well in hiding the killer and the theme, a steam train excursion puts the group in an isolated location far from outside help. But why is there a killer you ask? Well this particular group of seniors played a very nasty trick on Kenny (
  This film is not so great as far a pacing or creativity in kills, It trudges along with the characters trading places in the train cars enough to hide where the killer is and what costume he is wearing. Early in the film he kills Ed (Howard Busgang) with a sword, but where Ed is a jokester everyone thinks he is kidding. So the killer starts by wearing Ed's Groucho Marx outfit and mask. once on the train it is a bit of a slog. We have a bunch of scenes with David Copperfield being pissy about having to do the performance. His assistant trying to please him is around through the film. When Kenny, now the Groucho killer hooks up with Mitchy (Sandee Currie) we get teased into thinking she is next but No Jackson comes by and suddenly the killer has a higher priority.. The killing starts but it also sputters. The film is ways back and forth when it comes to getting down to killing. Eventually though the six are hunted down one at a time. Jackson (Anthony Sherwood) killed in a bathroom face through a mirror. Mitchy seduces who she thinks is Jackson and is choked out in a sleeping birth. Mo (Timothy Webber) is poisoned and dies next to the prankster Doc (Hart Bochner). He in turn dies thinking the hand on his shoulder is Mitchy trying to console him but instead is beheaded by the killer.
  While the kills are slow and mostly shot off screen, the drama is not and it is all about  Alana and the train Conductor Carne (Ben Johnson) trying to keep everyone left on the train safe. At one point we learn from a yearbook that Kenny was really into magic. The idea that the magician is the killer gets in there heads and they work the crowd trying to isolate him in a locked session of the train. Several attempts are made against Alana as this drama unfolds and she narrowly like the final girl she is just gets away a bit bloodied but alive. When finally cornered and having to confront the killer, we get a twist that I won't reveal here. It is pretty good though and the final battle between Kenny and Alana although short is final.  The acting was fine for the most part, Ben Johnson was great as the conductor. I think the execution of the train and the on the nose writing were the bigger problems.
  My closing thoughts on this film is that it is sort of a not so well executed slasher. I don't hate it but I doubt I will revisit it anytime soon. I just found it too clunky with the on the nose revenge plot and a twist that was not that big, it all just fell flat for me. You can't like everything so I guess this is one of those. Certainly you could be driven as a complete-ist to want to see every slasher ever make and this is probably not the worst of them so have at it if that is you. No recommendation from me.

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