Saturday, 16 June 2012



By late 1980, Jamie Lee Curtis had already starred in Halloween and Prom Night so it's odd to see her merrily signing up for yet another teen slasher movie, especially one that's as low-impact and charmless as this one. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the basic idea - a masked maniac kills the teens responsible for a grotesque prank that went hideously awry - but over the years we've seen so many regurgitations of that central plot that watching this early example no longer conjures up whatever power and effect it might have achieved 30 years ago.

Three years ago, a group of medical students pulled a sadistic practical joke on the class dweeb involving a dead body, but the poor kid was traumatised and carted off to an asylum. Now, the final year graduates get together for one huge farewell party of sex, booze, drugs, fancy dress and conjuring tricks on the Terror Train - a private railway hired especially for the occasion. But then people start getting killed off and, with everyone in costumes and masks, who knows who the killer is? In the middle of it all is David Copperfield and his glamorous assistant doing a series of illusions and card tricks which you'd have thought was a pretty strange choice of entertainment for a bunch of horny, boozy medical students.

Terror Train is a very minor slasher movie: for most of the time it's pretty dull stuff and visually very dark, though that may partly be due to the picture quality of the DVD (and the UK release is a 4:3 version). None of the characters - not even Curtis', oddly enough - are particularly likeable and it's difficult to rack up any sympathy for them, especially given the nature of their cruel prank. There's not much in the way of gore and the only real surprise in the movie is the big reveal of the killer's identity which is genuinely unexpected. But it's not really enough to save the film which ends, as these things invariably do, with the unstoppable maniac chasing the final girl all over the place before being spectacularly killed off. Even back in 1980 we'd seen this before, and thirty years on we've seen so many variations on the idea that it simply doesn't work any more.


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