When you think of Jamie Lee Curtis and horror, what comes to mind? Obviously, Halloween or maybe, The Fog or if you’re diving deeper, Prom Night. How about Terror Train? From 1980 released the same year as Prom Night and a year before Halloween II?
A bit of a forgotten slasher horror movie, Terror Train was directed by Roger Spottiswoode in his directorial debut. Alongside the legendary scream queen, the movie stars Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner, Derek MacKinnon and David Copperfield.
The movie opens at a New Year’s Eve party at a college fraternity. The new pledge Kenny (MacKinnon) is talked into having sex with sorority sister Alana (Curtis) but when he goes to her bedroom, it turns out to be a prank. A pretty elaborate prank that involves the corpse of a dead woman (stolen from a university medical school). Kenny is distraught by the events and later we find out, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Three years later…
The same group of kids are near graduation and are throwing one last big New Year’s Eve party. A costume party on a moving train! The perfect opportunity for a killer to sneak aboard and start picking off the cast. The bodies are going to pile up while the party rages on. Just who has it in for these kids though?
Slasher 101 set on a train. That is exactly what we have here, even with an obligatory twist. So ‘Halloween’ like is this, our final girl is Curtis’ Alana and we even have the ‘she thinks she is safe but isn’t’ plot point.
If you can ignore this, you’ll find a mostly enjoyable 80’s slasher with a strong cast and an interesting location. The train works and the mystery deepens even when it seems so obvious just who the killer is. This is isn’t Curtis’ best film but it’s still a great performance and her supporting cast are a memorable bunch.
Where it lacks is with pacing. Terror Train can be slow, really slow and you can’t help but feel it needed a bit more editing to keep things snappy. The latter part of the movie, when the trainload of passengers is aware of the killer, has things grind to a near halt. Right when you expect things to be picking up, it slows down and stays slow for way too long. Boredom sets in and ends up harming the death of important characters and the final reveal.
Likewise, while the body count is high enough, you rarely see anything impressively violent. Often, the movie cuts away from the actual death and instead we just see the aftermath. The bloody aftermath but par for the 80’s slasher course. Nothing to get too excited about.
These are flaws but it’s still a seriously solid horror movie. One all slasher fans should see.
The Final Score - 6.5/10