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Friday, May 11, 2018

Train (2008) Horror Tourist Trap

Train (2008) - Eli Roth in 2005 came out with the first Hostel film and followed it in 2007 with Hostel part II, in those films Roth capitalizes on the unknown corners of a newly liberated eastern Europe to stoke our fears about travel to those lands. In the films young tourists staying in a hostels are enticed to find a party but are instead captured by sadistic locals and sold into a torture murder ring who wealthy clients get off on harming other humans. Roth although a bit mean spirited in his approach touched on the hidden fear we have of 'the other'. His use graphic torture scenes to and nihilistic attitude did strike a chord in the horror community and those films were well received. I bring this up to connect to the subject of today's subject Train. Coming out after Roth's trend setter it works really hard to imitate his work. It takes the eastern Europe setting and visceral graphic violence contains it on a train instead of an abandon industrial factory. Unlike Hostel or the sequel it stereotypes the American wrestlers as a group of ignorant foreigners who may not need the viewers empathy. The bad guys are far worse though, horrible villains and lowly scum whose characters definition is simplistic and cartoon. Plot points are exposed way too early in the film taking much of the mystery out of the film. Some of the lines are so cliche that they make the film stale. Other than that it was great.
  Thora Birch) she at least has the slightest of story arc, and learns a new wrestling move. I think in the end the horrific experience she has teachers her to reach for that little extra you need to survive a torture train as well as in the wrestling circle. She is joined by teammates Sheldon (Kavan Reese), Todd (Derek Magyar), and Claire (Gloria Votsis), as well as assistant coach Willy (Gideon Emery) and Coach Harris (Todd Jensen).
The opening credits give away the theme right away as we see a big guy cutting up a body in a less than sanitary environment. where we see that parts are saved we know either this is a human butchery or that someone else is in need of a human liver. We quickly move past that to defining our victims, uh I mean characters. It's an American wrestling team on an international tour in eastern Europe. There is nothing really defining here we get introduced to personalities and the main character Alex (
  When the wrestlers and Willy sneak out to go to a local party they miss the train to the next leg of the tour. Coach is angrily waiting for them at the hotel the next morning. There is this moment where as they are searching the dark streets for this party where they pass a steam engine sitting in the dark and Alex pauses to look at it. This foreshadowing by Writer / Director Gideon Raff was just a bit too on the nose. His writing gets better though but not in this film, he wrote extensively in the room for the great series Homeland so this early work was a step towards better things.
  Stranded and frustrated with the lack of anyone in a foreign country being able to speak his language the Coach plays the ugly American shouting what he wants at the train station attendant. He is "rescued" by Dr. Velislava (Koyna Ruseva) who tells him that you purchase your tickets on the train not in the station. She suspiciously directs them to her train that happens to be heading to their destination. I say suspiciously because it was like she was directed to act that way. As the creepy as shit helper load them into the train you see they are also told to treat the Americans as mush as objects as possible. Be slimy and creepy and then take their passports. Ugh. Unless this is a very clever satire that I just did not get, it is a poorly executed series of cliches that fail to create any kind of suspense or originality. the added insult where we see the passports thrown into a fire  was so on the nose it stings.
  What follows is a long series of kills and close calls as we unravel the non mystery of this train and why foreign tourists are abducted and killed. The particularly annoying one is Todd who when playing Truth or Dare, takes the dare and has to run the length of the train in his underwear. He reaches the dark dirty part of the train that we the audience have already seen and know this is the cutting room where the parts are harvested in the least sanitary conditions possible. I know that is stupid but really not what we need to talk about. Todd gets there and is creeped out and just says the absolute most cliche things anyone could say.  He hears a sound and says "Guys, this isn't funny." then "Look I don't want any trouble" then "Is anyone out there?" These three lines encapsulate everything wrong with the film. It is like it is trying not to be original.
  After several of the Americans are taken comes the unraveling of the mystery for the rest of the characters. As they search for the others they are thwarted by the not so nice Conductor Vasyl (Valentin Ganev) Played like a game of cat and mouse except these American mice are slowly finding that the entire train is full of cats, and it is too late for them. Once it is revealed that the train crew is taking the passengers organs, again in a way that is so dirty visceral and unsanitary that it is unbelievable and really takes the viewer right out of the movie. Logic dictates that this is not how organ transplants are done so you just have to call bullshit. I know they are going for what was so successful by Eli Roth but boy they really did not nail it. The cruelty that is shown does not make sense and you can't outRoth Roth. They do try though with some rather mean pieces. Like cutting Sheldon's balls off and the nasty bit where they give injured Claire to a group of soldiers who stopped the train. They try to make it poignant by having Alex watch her friend carried away screaming by the five soldiers knowing she is going to be raped and killed. Really it was the writer wanting to be as mean to the character as possible again though there are others that do this better.
  Eventually with the mystery unraveled the film turns into a survival film and when the train reaches a destination the film goes on even longer and it should really end. Alex is our final girl and tries to help any of the still surviving companions she runs into but really all she does is get them killed. I don't know what else to say, the ending with the big Russian cutter guy is inevitable and her using that cool move her boyfriend taught her in the beginning of the film was totally appropriate, set up and paid off. Overall the acting is not bad but some of the lines they have to say and how they chose to act was off putting.  I know I seem to be too critical but I still watch these films with an open mind. Still this film leaves you wishing it was just better.

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