Itís New Yearís Eve. College Senior Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis) and a group of her friends are aboard a train for the masquerade party to end all masquerade parties. The conductor (Ben Johnson), a gregarious gentleman who looks upon these kids with fatherly concern, is there, so is a mysterious magician (David Copperfield) who almost canít help but catch the young womanís eye. Also aboard is a mysterious killer intent on making Alana and her friends pay, saving her for last as they dispatch the rest of the group one by bloody one.
I will not try to make the case that 1980ís Terror Train is some sort of horror classic. As slasher films go, itís pretty by the numbers and doesnít do all that much out of the ordinary. T.Y. Drakeís screenplay doesnít exactly try to hide its intentions, and while the identity of the killer (or, at least, who they are masquerading as) is something of a question mark throughout the way things progress death by death isnít too surprising.
Yet the movie works, director Roger Spottiswoode (Shoot to Kill) Ė making his debut behind the camera Ė handling this overly familiar scenario (even for 1980) with remarkable confidence. He doesnít pull punches, doesnít try to muddle up the proceedings with extraneous fluff, sticking to the central premise with nary a misstep. It also helps that Drake has crafted relatively intriguing characters that, while not quite three-dimensional, are far more complex than the usual B-movie fodder.
Itís fun stuff, building to a relatively satisfying conclusion that left the genre fan happily content. The casting is also spot-on, Curtis doing her patented damsel in distress thing nicely while veteran Johnson add just the right amount of heft to give things a bit of added weight. Future Die Hard sleaze Hart Bochner also has an important part to play, while the addition of Copperfield was a rather inspired touch that works for the film and the character heís playing rather splendidly.
I will say that there is a central stereotype that part of me was more than a little unhappy with (even if it is a product of the filmís day and age), and Iím not lying when I say the script itself is rudimentary and by the numbers. Yet by and large this is a heck of a lot of fun, and itís easy to see why John Landis gleefully stole from it for some of the climactic bits of Trading Places (which, incidentally, also starred Jamie Lee Curtis). Spottiswoode would go on to helm far more engaging efforts, sure, but few of them were nearly as consistently fun as Terror Train, the three decades-old slasher flick a gorily satisfying locomotive ride Iíll happily climb aboard again sometime soon.
Terror Train is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and comes with optional English SDH subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Destination Death (12:08) Ė A solid interview with producer Daniel Grodnik where he talks about what it took on his part to get the film off of the ground and into production.
∑ Riding the Rails (13:26) Ė A more exhaustive interview piece with executive producer Don Carmody; brief but satisfying.
∑ All Aboard! (11:00) Ė Great interview with production designer Glenn Bydwell mostly centering on the train and the difficulties shooting upon it entailed.
∑ Music for Murder (8:10) Ė Satisfying if not particularly stellar interview with veteran composer John Mills-Cockell.
∑ TV Spot (0:30)
∑ Original Theatrical Trailer (2:28)
∑ Still Gallery (4:40)
Like a lot of Shout! Factory releases (which now appears to be the case for films released under their Scream! Factory label), Terror Train contains a solid selection of extras that should make fans of the movie and genre enthusiasts more than happy. Also like a lot of the labelís titles, this one also comes with Reversible Cover Art showcasing the filmís original poster. A DVD version of the movie is also included with this release.
This Terror Train Blu-ray is another homerun for the folks at Shout! Factory (via their new label Scream! Factory). The movie itself is a solid slasher yarn filled with enough twists and inventive turns to make up for its obvious shortcomings, and for genre fans itís a disc worth giving a look to.