Terror Train (1980)

Terror Train (1980) movie poster

director Roger Spottiswoode
viewed: 10/31/2016

The prologue sets the story but starts things rather oddly.  Medical students at a party haze freshmen with various pranks.  The worst one sets up a virgin fellow with a body of a corpse, which freaks him out and pushes him over the edge.

Flash forward 3 more years.

The slasher genre was in high swing by 1980, so it’s pretty obvious that when a group of the same college kids, including star Jamie Lee Curtis, board a steam train for their annual holiday fling, you kind of have to expect that the killer is going to turn out to be the guy who was so shell-shocked in the first sequence.  Right?

Well, whoever it is, starts knocking them off, stealing their get-ups (they are all in costume), and yet the movie coyly tries to play out the mystery.  Throw in David Copperfield as hired entertainment for the ride (nobody seems to know who hired the magician!) and the pretty terrific Ben Johnson as a conductor and bet you didn’t recognize beauty D.D. Walters (who was better known in life as Vanity) as one of the gang.

Terror Train doesn’t really seem to get the slasher vibe down but otherwise is a very accomplished production.  It’s well-shot and the characters don’t seem utterly generic.  Well, not all of them anyways.

While the gore factor is low, Copperfield helps up the cheese factor considerably.

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