By David Dent
One of a number of films made to cash in on the unexpected box office success of Halloween a couple of years previously, Terror Train was one of two slasher films in 1980 to have secured Its inspiration’s star, Jamie Lee Curtis – the other being the rather pedestrian Prom Night.
No such problems here. Following the pattern of Halloween and its many imitators, Terror Train offers the obligatory prologue, a frat house cherry losing prank at a New Year’s Eve party which goes wrong.
Geeky Kenny is invited upstairs to get down and dirty with fellow student Alana (Curtis), but while Alana mouths the come ons offstage, Kenny is driven bonkers when he realises that his sleeping partner is actually a corpse stolen from the morgue. Medical students, huh?
Three years later those same students have graduated, and what better way to celebrate than by taking the whole year on a specially commissioned vintage train ride, on the anniversary of Kenny’s ignominy. Look out!
Once on the train, with faint echoes of Murder on the Orient Express wafting around, a killer is offing the class one by one. Fun is to be had in that this is a fancy-dress bash, so the murderer can pass among the students unnoticed, picking them off one by one.
Very big in the 1980s superstar magician David Copperfield turns up, drags the movie down with extended footage of his sparkling sleight of hand (ahem) then mercifully joins the body count.
Terror Train is a largely bloodless affair, but very efficiently delivered, making the most of the train’s closed confines. John Landis was surely taking notes, as the section of his 1983 movie Trading Places, also starring Ms Curtis, features a scene on a train which could have been an outtake from this film.
And without giving the game away, any fans of Sleepaway Camp (1983) will get a kick out of the twist ending, even if it makes no logistical sense.
Happy New Year!