Terror Train (1980)

Writer Daniel Grodnick came up with an idea in 1979 for a horror movie.  He wondered, what if he remade Halloween, but put it on a train?  His wife thought it was a terrible idea, but the story pretty much flowed from his pen.  He found a producer that liked it and, by 1980, it was a reality.

The main advantage it had was that Jamie Lee Curtis was cast in one of the main roles and, at the time, she was on her way to becoming a popular scream queen.  Terror Train was filmed in Canada at the same time as Prom Night, allowing her to work on both movies at once.  It also insured that both movies came out one after the other, again increasing her exposure.  But, just like Prom Night, there is not a whole lot memorable other than her being in it, and this time even she is not that outstanding.

Doc (Hart Bochner) is the head of a fraternity of pre-med students.  He decides to pull a prank on a pledge named Kenny (Derek McKinnon) with the help of Alana (Curtis) and her best friend Mitchy (Sandee Currie).  Convinced he is going to sleep with Alana, he instead finds himself in bed with a corpse the frat stole.  His reaction leads to hospitalization and his withdrawal from the college.

Three years later everyone is getting ready to graduate and Doc has booked a party on chartered steam locomotive.  The conductor Carne (Ben Johnson) braces himself for a night of loud partying, while the young adults enjoy a live band a magician (David Copperfield).  Problem is an uninvited guest has tagged along and appears to want revenge for what happened to Kenny. 

There are some good parts to this, in particular the last 15 to 20 minutes when the killer is revealed and Curtis and Johnson are both given something to do.  The rest of the movie pretty much drags.  We don't know enough about any of the characters - even Alana - to feel for them when they are in danger or getting killed, and it takes a long time for things to ramp up.  Instead, a long stretch of the film is Copperfield doing his tricks and the band Crime playing some knockoff new wave tunes.  Roger Spottiswoode, in his first turn as a director, does a good job behind the camera, but the story itself has a hard time maintaining enough focus to keep an interest in what is going on. 

Despite Grodnick wanting Halloween on a train we instead get a rote, lifeless slasher with a cast that is too good for the film.  They try their best to bring some life to it, and somewhat succeed at the end, but this is one of the few times when I will complain about a long setup.  The reason it has a following at all is because the audience leaves remembering the little good there was and not the time wasted getting to it. 

Terror Train (1980)
Time: 97 minutes
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner, Sandee Currie, David Copperfield, Derek McKinnon
Director: Roger Spottiswoode



  1. I have to say even that poster isn't great. You'd think they'd want to put Jamie Lee on it.


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