Terror Train (1980)

terror-train-1980-everettI’ll be honest, this isn’t a very good movie. Terror Train is labeled a highlight of 80’s horror and stars the very first and ultimate scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s definitely not on par with Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street, but it is considered a classic just the same. I think mostly due to the fact that Jamie Lee is in it. And for that reason, this movie holds a small place in my heart.

I recently found this movie in a bargain bin at a secondhand movie store. I hadn’t seen this movie since my childhood so I thought I would give it another shot. On a side note, I highly suggest perusing your local secondhand movie store. I have found some absolute rare finds at heavily discounted prices in the past. This usually happens when employees don’t know the rarity of what they have… a good thing for people like me!

Anyway, Jamie Lee’s character, Alana, isn’t as innocent as her role in Halloween. Her known role as a high school student with a murderous brother is replaced as an older, wiser college student. She is involved with a grotesque prank gone horribly wrong. And now, three years later, she and her friends board a party train, dressed in costume, ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve. An unknown killer joins the party, in costume of course. How lucky for him/her that it is a costume party! The assailant wears a Groucho Marx mask- which seems particularly creepy and almost pedophile-ish with the bushy eyebrows and mustache.

terror train jaime lee curtisAs expected, people start getting killed off. I will give the movie credit where credit is due though- being on a train, there is nowhere to escape. We have to expect this has something to do with the prank at the beginning of the film, but everyone is so hush-hush about it. We are left with a lot of questions about the prank. The movie is successful with intrigue, giving little teases to the conclusion.

There are the usual and obvious suspects, of course. (Like the guy who set Alana up on the prank or the pretty boy magician.) But any well-trained horror movie watcher knows that these individuals are the ones who end up not being a true threat. Speaking of the magician, I think this is what totally kills the movie. And I don’t mean that in a good way. The magician is hired as entertainment for the party. But there are way too many magic scenes, showing off the magician’s skills. Honestly – way – too – many. About halfway through, I kept thinking, “Is this a horror movie or a magic show?” For the love of God, stop the damn magic!

jamie lee curtis scream queenThe train conductors start suspecting fowl activity on the train, which goes completely unnoticed by the hormone-fueled party-goers. Another note, as any avid horror movie watcher would know, in order to survive a horror movie, you are never to drink alcohol or have sex. That’s a big no-no according to the rules set in the movie Scream. If you notice, Jaime never actually has a drink in her hand the entire film. Now that’s how you survive! But then the body count rises and people start taking notice. It’s about time this train  picks up speed. And finally, what we have all been waiting for- we get to hear Jamie scream. This is the reason she is called the original scream queen. I was immediately brought back to my childhood of watching Halloween, over and over again.

The prank is finally exposed but the movie leaves you hanging until the absolute last minutes of the film. This doesn’t rate high on the scare factor, but it’s an entertaining plot with memorable actors. It did not stick with me when viewing it as a young child, but maybe if you took out the collective half hour of magic tricks and get to the horror, then you could have a grade A cult classic. In any case, I think any horror movie lover should watch this movie at least once.

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Terror Train (1980) on IMDb

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