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TERROR TRAIN (director: Roger Spottiswoode; screenwriter: T.Y. Drake; cinematographer: John Alcott; editor: Anne Henderson; music: John Mills Cockwell/Larry Cohen; cast: Ben Johnson (Carne), Jaime Lee Curtis (Alana), Hart Bochner (Doc Manley), David Copperfield (Magician), Derek McKinnon (Kenny Hampson), Sandee Currie (Mitchy), Timothy Webber (Mo); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Harold Greenberg; 20th Century Fox/Key Home Video; 1980-Canada)
“Holds the tension in a bone-chilling manner.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roger Spottiswoode stylishly directs a pointless revenge horror flick about an obnoxious frat house holding their last cannabis, beer-guzzling, sex romp of a college bash before graduation, as they hire a steam train to have a masquerade party in. It succeeds in exploiting the violence of this student party gone amok. It follows the box office hit Halloween, which also featured the scream queen Jaime Lee Curtis.

The thin plot revolves around an incident that happened when these seniors were freshmen and a group of med students played a sick joke on nerdy Kenny Hampton (McKinnon) at a New Year’s Party in which a girl lures him into bed, but instead of her he’s in bed with a corpse taken from the morgue. Kenny goes insane from this incident and is placed in a mental institution. Three years later the same group charters a train for a cross-country Canadian trip to celebrate their graduation. But the revengeful uninvited Kenny sneaks aboard in an unrecognizable costume and starts killing off those responsible for the prank, and then takes over their disguise.

Jaime Lee Curtis is a self-centered chick, but the only one of the callous group with some humanity and a guilt-conscience. Since she’s the only one left standing after the attacks, it’s up to her to use her wits to overcome the lunatic killer. Male help comes for this ‘chick-in-distress’ film from an elderly paternal conductor Carne (Ben Johnson). Magician David Copperfield has a turn as a geek amateur magician with an eye for a pretty co-ed, but in a character role that is not developed. Hart Bochner plays the insensitive and nasty ringleader.

This slasher film is better than many of its kind, but leaves a lot to be desired–for one, too many fake scares. Yet it holds the tension in a bone-chilling manner, as it shoots for one shock scene after another. Stanley Kubrick’s regular cinematographer John Alcott provides the film with a classier look than it deserves, as the haunting train ride makes its way through the snowbound Canadian countryside.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”