Monday, December 4, 2017

Film Review: Terror Train (1980)

Terror Train (Review)
United States/Canada/1980
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"You've seen nearly everything in this movie in a different slasher. If you don't mind that, then this is a good experience."

Years after a prank-gone-wrong, a masked killer targets a group of college students during a New Year's Eve costume party aboard a moving train...

Terror Train begins with a New Year's Eve party involving a pre-med fraternity. Although reluctant, Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) is pulled into a prank against the shy and timid Kenny Hampson. The prank leads to explosive meltdown. Three years later, the group boards a train for a New Year's Eve costume party—and they're completely unaware of the uninvited guest who snuck aboard. One-by-one, they're picked off by a masked killer. Has Doc Manley, the ringleader of the prank, gone crazy and started killing everyone? Is the mysterious magician slaughtering the students? Or has Kenny returned for vengeance? It's more predictable than I make it sound, but it is still an effective mystery. It leads to a strong climax and an interesting ending.

Terror Train is a good slasher movie. It's not as violent as others in the genre, such as Intruder and My Bloody Valentine, but it does feature some violent deaths. Terror Train isn't all about the gore, though. It focuses more on suspense—and it pays off. The third act is very suspenseful and exciting, leading to a great chase scene. The mystery elements are a little more predictable—you'll likely know the killer from the beginning—but it still kept me engaged. There were times where I genuinely thought: what if it's him instead? I also really liked the setting. I suppose its biggest issue is that it doesn't do much to differentiate itself. You've seen nearly everything in this movie in a different slasher. If you don't mind that, then this is a good experience. However, if you've recently been drained by a slasher marathon, you might not like it as much.

The acting was all-around good. Jamie Lee Curtis delivers another solid performance as the leading lady of a slasher—she's a true Scream Queen. The supporting cast was also strong. The film was shot well and the music was okay—good, but not iconic. The film was written by T. Y. Drake and directed by Roger Spottiswoode. This writer-director pair created a more than coherent slasher. It checks off everything for the genre while delivering a suspenseful experience. Aside from its setting, though, it doesn't do much to differentiate itself. It's lacking in personality.

Overall, Terror Train is a good movie. If you're looking for a suspenseful slasher—one that relies more on tension instead of gore—than this is for you. However, it really isn't that original. It's not the worst flaw in the world, but it certainly stops it from standing out in a crowd of hundreds of slashers.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

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