Movie Name: Terror Train
Studio: Astral Bellevue Pathe
Release Date(s): October 3, 1980
MPAA Rating: R
A group of freshmen from the Sigma Phi fraternity plan a New Year’s Eve prank on a fellow student. When the stunt goes wrong, tragedy strikes. Four years later, the freshmen are seniors and preparing for their last New Year’s celebration upon a rented train. Unfortunately, a killer has made the way onto the train and is picking them off one by one. As the conductor Carne (Ben Johnson) and one of the perpetrators of the joke named Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) find more and more bodies, the mysterious masked killer could be anyone.
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, Terror Train was met with negative reviews. Despite the criticism, the movie has gained a cult following and Jamie Lee Curtis’ success during this period of her career helped keep the film in the eye of horror fans.
Terror Train is kind of fun in a generic ’70s or ’80s slasher flick. The movie has enough murders and gore to be fun for fans of the genre, and it does try to do a little different plot with a switcheroo near the end and the mystery killer. It isn’t great, but it does make more of an effort than many horror films.
Jamie Lee Curtis continues her reign as scream queen in this movie. With Halloween, Prom Night, and The Fog plus Terror Train, Jamie Lee was a staple around this release. I do have to admire a good screamer because it isn’t as easy as it seems…especially when trying to make it believable. Curtis does a great job here and is backed by a nice supporting appearance by Ben Johnson who seems to be slumming it in this film after appearing in such great films like The Last Picture Show (for which he won an Oscar).
A rather amusing aspect of this film is the appearance of magician David Copperfield playing a magician for the train party. A lot of time is spent on tricks and magic in this movie (plus defining the difference) and it is fitting that the ’80’s biggest named magician would appear. Despite having made the Statue of Liberty disappear, he can’t save this movie from stumbling a number of places and at points becoming dull.
Terror Train is one of those movies that isn’t horrible, but at the same time isn’t great. I think some of the criticism of the film when it was released were a bit harsh, but had some legitimacy. The movie still is fun for horror fans and the twist ending is a bit fun and done decently. I kind of wonder if there was a planned sequel due to the ending, but if there was, it never developed.