- Movie Rating -

Terror Train (1980)

| October 3, 1980

I feel like I’ve been watching this movie all year.  Every third movie I’ve seen has been a repeat of this same set-up: a group of young people are closed up in a particular space, blissfully unaware that they are in the presence of a mad dog killer who will pick them off one by one.  Thus far in 1980, this has been the set-up for The Fog, Friday the 13th, The Boogeyman, Christmas Evil, Don’t Go in the House, Don’t Answer the Phone, He Knows You’re Alone, Cries in the Night, Maniac, Prom Night and To All a Good Night.  I’ve seen ALL of these movies.  What have you done with your Friday nights?

Early in Terror Train, I was convinced that I’d seen the movie before.  Something about this movie reminded me of Prom Night.  Oh yeah, it’s got Jamie Lee Curtis again, who has managed to star in a series of these films that degrade each time to makes one.  First was the superior Halloween, then the unspectacular follow-ups The Fog and Prom Night.  Trailing behind is Terror Train which finds her as part of a costume ball onboard a moving train.  It is no more or less entertaining than any other slasher movie released in 1980 largely because it runs the genre playbook to the letter.

Let’s see:
• A group of attractive young people.
• They are without supervision.
• They’re horny.
• They’re in a confined space.
• There’s a killer with an agenda.
• The killer stalks the group one by one.
• There’s a Final Girl to face down the killer.

The story rips-off Prom Night to the point of parody.  Some years ago on a college campus a group of sadistic students played a prank on a dork named Kenny Hampson (Derek McKinnon) in which they trick the kid into believing that he is about to get laid.  The prospective sexual partner turns out to be a dead body that has been stolen from a University Medical School.

The event is so traumatizing that he ends up in a psychiatric hospital.  Now, hold on.  Let’s stop there.  Let us place that idea into a realistic context.  What might happen here?  What might the University do to a group of students who pulled a prank like this?  What might be the legal procedure?  How would it affect these people years later?  These are question that kept rolling through my mind while the movie ran down the familiar (and safe) slasher movie requirements.  It’s an intriguing set-up, and the filmmakers know it.  Why else would it digress to moments of real-life illusionist David Copperfield working his magic?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized