Terror Train (1980)

terror train poster 1980 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 6/10

Fun switch near the end, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ben Johnson

Dull parts

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Terror Train

Studio:  Astral Bellevue Pathe

Genre(s):  Horror/Seasonal

Release Date(s):  October 3, 1980

MPAA Rating:  R

terror train killer slasher groucho marx

Don’t tell him that Harpo is your favorite Marx…

The boys of Sigma Pi have played a cruel prank on a pledge named Kenny Hampson (Derek MacKinnon) and Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) finds herself a part of it.  Now three years later, the fraternity is having a coed New Year’s Eve party and the young pledges are about to graduate.  Renting a party train for the night, the group finds themselves trapped with a killer.  As the conductor Carne (Ben Johnson) tries to root out the murderer, Alana and her friends find themselves being hunted by a murderer who could be disguised as anyone.

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, Terror Train is a slasher horror film.  The movie was independently produced and became a cult favorite after the initial theatrical run.

I can recall Terror Train being in regular rotation late nights on UHF channels in the 1980s.  Like any horror movie at the time (and not possessing cable), I would watch parts of it all the time.  Despite some memorable moments, I rarely remember much of the film and don’t know that I saw it unedited for years.

terror train david copperfield

Magic always gets the girls

The goal of the film was essentially to capitalize on the popularity of Halloween by making Halloween on a train.  It recruited then scream-queen Jamie Lee Curtis in a similar (but slightly less sympathetic) role as someone who actually participated in the prank that spurred the killing.  Of course Curtis was the unwitting member of the group, but largely the target of the killer.  The film adds a layer of mystery to the movie by having the identity of the killer in question with a couple of red herrings through the course of the film…but it is pretty standard slasher fare.

Jamie Lee Curtis is at her peak at this time.  She had already done Halloween, The Fog, and Prom Night and was quickly settling in as the reigning horror queen.  The costar Ben Johnson was at the tail end of his career and had mostly fallen to doing low budget films.  Hart Blochner is a weird romantic lead in that he really isn’t the romantic lead and pretty much a jerk (most of the generic white guy cast blends together).  Magician David Copperfield has a starring role in the film as a magician…so it was a real stretch.

terror train ending killer jamie lee curtis

Wait a second….you’re not the conductor

The movie goes for the normal slasher jumps and the reveal of the killer is a bit of a surprise in how it is done (though jaded horror vets won’t probably won’t be).  The movie has a sufficient amount of jumps, scares, and gore so in the world of slashers, it is one of the better ’80s non-Jason, Michael, or Freddy films, but due to the night time train setting, it is pretty dark.

Terror Train is an ok entry in the slasher film series though it doesn’t feel very distinctive.  Jamie Lee Curtis raises the bar past some of the really generic slasher movies that were popping up and the movie has enough bloodshed and jumps that it does succeed in satisfying that horror need…I’m surprise there weren’t twelve Terror Train movies as a result.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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