Fright Fest Review #6: Terror Train (1980)

Even Michael Myers couldn’t train her for this!

Subgenre:  Slasher

Summary:  A group of students holding a party on a train finds themselves being picked off by a vengeful former classmate.

Review:  Imagine how many deaths horror movie characters could prevent simply by abstaining from pranking others, or at least choosing practical jokes less likely to be fatal and/or induce insanity.  I fail to see how, say, leaving a flaming bag of dog shit on someone’s doorstep or loosening the cap on a salt shaker could spark the creation of a serial killer.

Alas, the frat-boy protagonists of Terror Train fail to learn from others’ mistakes, and in the opening scene, decide to prank the resident weirdo by tricking him into making out with a dead body.  Boy, they sure showed him!  Unsurprisingly, said weirdo is sent to a mental hospital soon thereafter.  Cut to three years later, where the students (now in med school) are having a New Year’s Eve costume party on a train.  You can probably guess where it goes from here.

Terror Train really isn’t much more than a gimmicky slasher, but at least the gimmicks are fun.  The setting keeps the characters and action nicely confined, and the killer donning each of his latest victims’ costumes is a clever touch.  There’s also an appearance by a young David Copperfield, whose magician character repeatedly evokes GOB Bluth, right down to his insistence on calling his tricks “illusions.”  The movie loses some steam in its third act, but regains its footing in time for a satisfying Jaime Lee vs. Killer showdown, as well as an agreeably batshit twist ending.

The Verdict:  Terror Train may not be a classic of the genre, but most horror fans should find something to like here.  I give it six nescient necrophiles out of ten.

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