Terror Train (1980)
By: Paul Ryan on May 16, 2011  | 
Beyond Home Entertainment | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 92 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Roger Spottistwoode
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner, Derek McKinnon, David Copperfield
Screenplay: T. Y. Drake
Country: Canada
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The medical students of college frat house Sigma Phi are throwing an all-night costume party aboard a vintage steam train. There's booze, music and a magician on board for their entertainment. But aboard this night train is a murderer, one who kills the students and steals their costumes, keeping his appearance hidden from the others. It's up to the good-hearted Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis, nearing the end of her scream queen phase), intrepid conductor Carne (Oscar winner Ben Johnson) and cocky alpha male Doc (Hart Bochner, subsequently of Die Hard and Supergirl) to stop the killer. But when nearly everyone on board is wearing a mask, that is easier said than done...

Boasting some excellent, atmospheric cinematography by the great John Alcott (Barry Lyndon, The Shining), and some unusual casting, Terror Train tries to add a few new wrinkles into the by-then already crowded slasher genre. The train setting keeps the potential victims confined and threatened, while the costume party angle keeps the killer's presence hidden within the crowd of students. Unfortunately, unless you've not been paying attention in the first five minutes, you won't be straining any brain cells to work out who the killer is. It's strange that T.Y. Drake's script tries to work up some degree of mystery as to the killer's identity, when it's so blatantly obvious so early on, and it renders the film aimless and inert.

Though bordering on typecast at this point in her career, Curtis is as empathetic as always, playing one of the few students with any integrity, while Bochner and Johnson give their parts more texture than the script allows them. There are few familiar faces to be found amongst the cast, including one-time Prince diva Vanity (credited as D.D. Winters), Anthony Sherwood of TV shows Street Hawk and Airwolf. Oddest of all is the casting of famed illusionist David Copperfield (no, really) as a magician who entertains the college kids. He's there mainly for red herring value, but it does give the film some personality.

For slasher fans, there's not much to get excited about in terms of the kills. Yes, they have their share of blood, but there's little imagination in the er, execution. The direction by Roger Spottiswoode (Air America, Tomorrow Never Dies), does its best to conjure some atmosphere, and the performances are all fine, but ultimately, it's a wasted effort.
The print sourced here doesn't appear to have undergone any restoration, with more than a few film artefacts on show, and a bit of a dated, faded look, but it's still perfectly watchable. There's also some minor aliasing to be found, though it's brief. No subtitles are included.
The 2.0 track isn't great, with some dialogue coming through somewhat faint at times. You'll still hear the bulk of the dialogue well enough, though.
Extra Features
All you get is a 4:3 theatrical trailer. Despite being listed on the cover, there are no TV spots to be found. Direct all your complaints to the ACCC.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Better shot and acted than it deserves, Terror Train may have some nostalgia value for fans of eighties slashers, but when it comes down to it, it's pretty tedious, and woefully lacking in suspense. Beyond's DVD (actually a reissue of MRA's release from a few years back, complete with their logo at the start of the disc) gets the job done, though a bit more effort in the audio stakes would have been nice.

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