Thursday, August 15, 2013

Terror Train (1980) Review:

From the late 1970's to the early 1980's Jamie Lee Curtis was the most popular horror genre heroine to ever hit theaters. With her unique yell and brave actions, audiences couldn't get enough of the legendary "Scream Queen". Apparently, Terror Train (1980) is the product of a producer named Daniel Grodnik after having a dream of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) taking place on a train and the result is quite obvious too. And although it is a unique idea, the end result is less entertaining than one would think. The flaw, like many other films is located in the writing department.

Jamie Lee Curtis & David Copperfield
The character arcs are the same like many slasher films. Some time in the past, a less popular kid among others is humiliated or neglected in some fashion and ends up losing his mind and starts to kill people. And it just so happens Jamie Lee Curtis is right in the middle of it. But here's where things are different if one wants to compare it to Halloween (1978). First, the villain here has a cliched back-story. John Carpenter didn't want Michael Myers to have a back-story - making him unrelateable to the audience. Here, the audience can relate, but the explanation used for his spontaneous killing spree is way overused.

Plus it doesn't help that it seems like there were too many characters to name in this movie. Of course, they are just fodder for the killer, but half of them aren't given any depth to begin with. For example, before the train gets underway, the conductor has a conversation with a lady who seems to be the stationmaster. They seem to have some kind of relationship but it's never looked at again. What's the point of bringing it up then? I did like the finale to the film because it did have a surprising climax but then right after that, it cuts directly to the ending credits. None of the loose ends are tied up, almost like everyone was hunky dory and the writer T.Y. Drake decided he didn't need to write anymore. It was just too abrupt.

For direction, I can't say Roger Spottiswoode did a bad job since this was his first debut at a theatrical film, but I also can't say he did a great job. It was just fair - nothing out of the ordinary. The actors who were on screen the most did a fair job as well. The best was obviously Jamie Lee Curtis and second best was David Copperfield (a magician) playing a magician. And if it wasn’t Curtis kicking and screaming, it would be Copperfield showing off all his neat tricks. As for the villain played by Derek McKinnon, he wasn't bad either and he definitely didn't look straight in the head, which helped make his character look just as weird.

The killer.....yeah....just weird
Weird is actually the way I will describe the killer. Michael Myers is creepy but this guy is just weird. Here's why: he is injured so many ways in this picture just like Michael Myers would be in Halloween (1978), yet they are too different characters. Myers is a hulking 6-foot giant. The killer in this movie looks about 5 foot 5 inches and isn't bulky. He's a thin guy. So tell me how several injuries can keep this guy going? Plus it's also more acceptable for Myers because no one knows if he was human or not. But the killer here is, so why is he practically unkillable? The writing Mr. Drake, the writing!

The music provided John Mills-cockell wasn't great either. I mean, it had all the elements to sound like it belonged to a horror film but it never felt scary. There were no tunes that gave me goosebumps or made me cringe. So how can I say it was effective if it didn't affect me? Sorry, no credit here either. Good thing he hasn't scored many other films. It's not to say this movie wasn't watchable though. If you like slasher films, take a look see because you may end up liking it, but if you want a villain that'll make you quiver even after the film has ended, I can't guarantee that this picture will do that.

Jamie Lee Curtis and real life magician David Copperfield are the best characters and the plot is an obvious mix of ideas but it's still unique. But what makes it average is the weird villain and mediocre writing.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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