Terror Train (1980)

directed by roger spottiswoode
astral bellevue pathé ltd

Much, much better than it has any right to be, this often forgotten gem features terror, on a train. Said titular vehicle is carrying a New Year’s Eve party of medical students, some with a shady tragedy in their past. Also David Copperfield, the magician. And also a terrific character actor performance by Ben Johnson in his role as the train’s engineer; and also Jamie Lee Curtis in her fifth scream queen role; and also a fairly transparent exposition for the identity of the evil perpetrator, albeit with plenty of questions and suspicion for everyone. Basically, this is a classic ’80s-type slasher without any of the cliché … okay, without most of it. A good one.

why did i watch this movie?

You don’t really think I would pass up a flick called “Terror Train,” right? The presence of early career Jamie Lee Curtis in the cast helped, as that’s a reliable indicator of a certain je ne sais quoi. The inclusion of David Copperfield, the magician, cemented it for me, though. “THIS I gotta see,” I realized.

should you watch this movie?

A slasher pic released as the 1980s dawned with its manifold promises … ah, to once more stand at the threshold of such burgeoning opportunities for human endeavor.

highlight and low point

Really, the filmmakers do a pretty good job with the confined territory available, and the presence of an illusionist is a clever touch, as it presents multiple layers of uncertainty. The downside is a touch of redundancy in a few scenes.

Rating from outer space: a-

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