Movie poster for 1980 movie Terror Train

Halloween Watchlist: Terror Train (1980)

Synopsis: A group of college friends get their comeuppance three years after a hazing prank went wrong.

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis

Review: Jamie Lee Curtis had already gained her ‘Scream Queen’ title two years before boarding the ‘Terror Train‘ with the release of ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Fog‘ in 1979. The 1980’s saw a slew of slasher horror movies, including ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, one of my personal favourites ‘April Fools Day‘ and the continuation of the ‘Halloween’ franchise. In such esteemed company, how does Terror Train hold up?

Well, I’ll start by saying it follows the well-established formula for slasher movies: a group of students plays a prank on an unsuspecting person who then comes back for gruesome revenge. The prologue sets this all up well and introduces the main characters. Fast forward to New Years Eve and they board a party train, cue assorted murders and the final reveal of murderer.

So, is Terror Train worth boarding? I’d say yes and no. I liked the claustrophobia of the train set because you really felt you couldn’t escape and the fact that the characters were in costumes kept me guessing who the killer was. The lighting and set design were very clever and definitely added to the atmosphere. However, it doesn’t add anything to a bloated genre and I found the sections with David Copperfield somewhat strange and uncomfortable. The usual cadre of characters crops up, from the annoying, self involved friend, the do-gooder, the tramp, the jock it’s a tick box of ‘who to include in a slasher’. Yet, it does have its charms. Jamie Lee Curtis said of her character ‘I play the same kind of character as I did in other films. But Alana – the girl I play – is stronger and more defined’ (From IMDB) and she definitely has more agency than in other movies. One for Lee Curtis fans.

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