Terror Train

TERROR TRAIN. 1980

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



This dated & mediocre film is the kind of colorful widescreen fare that In Ye Olden Days delighted carloads of teenagers at drive-in movies. It features a young Jamie Lee Curtis following up on her horror queen status after Halloween. It has surprisingly good cinematography for a film otherwise so lame.

The story itself isn't much. Some college students play a hazing prank on a fellow student that lands the sissy bastard in the nuthouse. This opening sequence is so laughably bad & stupidly acted that it's a hoot; it adds up to a great scene for arch campiness. The film never has a second scene that achieves laugh-worthy badness, but is mostly thereafter ordinary badness.

Some while after the hazing incident, the same students have booked passage on a steam train in order to have a moving New Years costume party on tracks, which right off the bat doesn't seem very likely, as how many college bashes have you ever heard of on privately booked trains. It seems more like a Halloween party than a New Year's party, probably on purpose since it stars Jamie.

So we have the partying & costuming & dancing kids making out or watching some cliche magic tricks by the party's hired entertainer, played by David Copperfield in a goofy performance that makes the viewer suppose he hadn't yet finished learning his craft as stage magician. Bad as Copperfield is, the film gets slightly less boring whenever the camera points at him.

Much of little consequence is happening from train-car to train-car, where the vengeful stalking madman is busily killing his perceived enemies one by one, switching into their costumes as he goes along, including the ultimate costume which reveals why a complete sissy was cast in the role to begin with.

The sissy psychopath is played by Derek McKinnon, who presents his character from start to finish as a complete spazzo mincing twirling faggot, despite that the character was not strongly written to be explicitely gay, though there is a bit of dialogue hinting of a homosexual relationship between Kenny (Derek) & Doc (Hart Bochner) the ringleader of Kenny's tormenters.

Playing the psycho as a super-sissy adds a moderately offensive limp-wrist campiness to the show, so that this rank failure can't be faulted for lack of peculiarness. I must admit I've wondered if the sissified performance was the actor's personal mode of behavior off as well as on screen, & further wondered if the reason he has no further film career to speak of was because this was the AIDS death-sentence era (& the director later made a paeon to the AIDS epidemic, the cablefilm And the Band Played On).

Despite a mounting bodycount, the slaughter sequences are not at all imaginative, & it's very ho-hum. Ultimately the only thing this has going for it is Jamie's youthful presence. No one else can act even a little, but Jamie does all right.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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