Terror TrainTerror Train
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner
Review by Brian M. Sammons

In a very short amount of time Scream Factory has rocketed up to become one of my favorite Blu-ray releasing companies. Last month they put out excellent editions of Halloween 2 & 3. This month they’re giving us The Funhouse and this movie, Terror Train, which was conceived as Halloween on a choo choo. With that as a starting point, the movie naturally has to star scream queen extraordinaire, Jamie Lee Curtis. But is this a ride worth taking, or is this a case of the little train that couldn’t? Well grab your ticket and hop aboard, we’ve on an express train to hell.

This flick starts off in true classic slasher style, with a group of college students playing a mean spirited prank on your typical nerdy kid. After that goes south in a jiffy, we’re told that Kenny, the nerd in question, was sent to an insane asylum. Jump ahead a couple of years and all the college kids are about to graduate, so they plan a masquerade party on a late night running train for their big farewell. Little do they know that Kenny is back and looking for some bloody revenge.

There are a few things that make this movie stand out from all the other slasher flicks out there. First it is well written with a neat little whodunit element added to it. Yes, even knowing that the killer is Kenny from the start does nothing to diminish the ‘who is the killer’ part of the flick. Because of Kenny’s penchant for switching costumes with those he bumps off, it adds not only mystery but suspense to an otherwise standard stalk and slash. The unique location also brings quite a bit to the movie, not only taking the action out of the usual college campus, the summer camps, or the suburban neighborhoods, but it provides an inescapable climax. After all, where can you run to escape a killer on a train once you run out of train cars? Last but not least, Jamie Lee Curtis does her usual solid job of being the good girl, looking scared, and screaming loud enough to shatter glass.

However, there are also a few things that keep this movie from really becoming one of the classics of slasher cinema. And by that I mean the rather weak kills. Not only is this movie largely bloodless, but the kills just lack style and creativity. The murders in a slasher flick are like the jokes in a comedy; if they’re lackluster then they just bring everything down. Now the rest of the movie is strong enough to keep things going rather well, but the weak kills are sort of a bummer.

So how is the new Blu-ray? Well when I first put it in and hit play, I hate to say that I literally said aloud “oh no.” That’s because once the movie started the picture was full of grain, pops, cracks and scratches and it certainly didn’t look HD. In fact it looked exactly like my old DVD copy. It was definitely not up to the high standards set by Scream Factory’s Halloween 2 & 3 Blu-rays. But then once the prolog sequence was over, the part where the prank was played on Kenny, the picture improved drastically. No, it suddenly wasn’t completely amazing looking, but it was noticeably improved and a far sight better looking than my old DVD. Now I don’t know why this was, maybe it was a weird stylistic choice to give the background part of the movie a weathered look? If it was, I don’t really get it.

As for the extras on the new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, it has a number of neat ones on it, more so than any other release of this movie to date. However it is still lacking a few key features that would have truly made it a great disc. For example, it has no commentary track and that’s a real shame. Surely they could have found someone willing to talking about this movie if they really wanted to. Also it has no making of or retrospective featurettes. What it does have is four interviews with various people who helped make this movie, but even they are sort of a letdown as none of them are with any of the actors or the director of the movie. There’s a twelve minute conversation with producer Daniel Grodnik that’s probably the best of the bunch, a thirteen minute discussion with production executive (whatever that means) Don Carmody, an eleven minute interview with production designer Glenn Bydwell, and last but not least (well OK, it is least in terms of length), an eight minute talk with composer John Mills-Cockell. All of these interviews were informative, but the total lack of any cast involvement and the silence of the director is sort of an elephant in the room when it comes to these special features. A TV spot and the typical still gallery bring the extras on this disc to a close.

Of the four recent Blu-ray releases from Scream Factory, this is probably the weakest one. But hey, you know what they say about pizza and sex, right? This is still a very fine release of a more than very fine fright flick. It is also, without a doubt, the best version of Terror Train available in any format. While I think there could have been more or better goodies on this disk, I can still highly recommend this one to any classic slasher fan out there.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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