Friday, January 2, 2015

Phantoms of the Year: Terror Train

Welcome one and all to Day 5 of Phantoms of the Year and let's end this week on... yet another revenge film for something physically or mentally scarring so we must wait 1-15 years to get revenge on those that wronged us blah blah blah. Kind of the standard vehicle for most slasher movies don't you think? Well with that, we at least have a capable director Roger Spottiswoode (Shoot to Kill, Turner & Hooch, Air America, Tommorow Never Dies and Ripley Under Ground) at the helm. This is Terror Train.

Laurie's vacation from Haddonfield goes as planned.

Three years ago, shenanigans were held by 6 college students on a prank that may have backfired causing a student miss his graduation because he had to be shacked up in the wacko basket... I mean the sanitarium of movie cliches. After graduation happens the kids get together for one last hurrah which is a costume party on-board a train. Sounds fun? Everyone will be there of course. Why, there's David Copperfield, Laurie from Halloween, Vanity and even Ellis from Die Hard! Looks like this tubular party is swinging into high gear with this gang until unbeknownst to the party goers a crasher has joined and he/she is on a mission of revenge.

The death scenes are elaborate and no two are alike as they point to other people giving the effect that it is someone in the party that is doing this. Now I know you are all thinking this sounds vaguely similar to that stink bomb of a flick Steel Trap and you would be right with a few moderate exceptions. One, the characters of this movie speak like actual human beings. Two, they have background, regrets, hopes and dreams. Three, um... not German?? Four, our killer seems intelligent and crafty on a vehicle rather than a building that was lined with traps, false walls and crappy mood music.

Ohmigod, the killer is... Groucho Marx??

Interestingly enough, character actor Ben Johnson (Have Gun, Will Travel, The Monroes, Hang 'Em High, Chisum, The Wild Bunch, The Last Picture Show and The Getaway) almost fills Donald Pleasence's Doctor Loomis role of Halloween on this movie is the train's conductor and gosh is aided by Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, The Fog, Terror Train, Prom Night, Blue Steel, True Lies, Halloween: H20 and NCIS) as they try and find the lunatic before it is too late.

We have very brief nudity, story focus and a mystery to be solved. Well okay, not much of a mystery that the Scoobies couldn't solve it under 20 minutes but a mystery nevertheless.

With a standard 35mm Spherical, the train is shot giving this very claustrophobic effect, coupled with the fact you cannot simply just leave the premises as it is moving at a very fast clip. What blew me away was Oscar award winning cinematographer John Alcott (2001: A Space Odyssey, Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining) was the man behind the lens giving the film scope (pun intended) and bringing a sense of movie magic to the film. From a great mood brought to use by the musical score gives it a nice creepy element to the chase sequences as well.

Of course there is the factor of Jamie Lee Curtis commonly the good girl was even in on the prank three years prior. The rest may not have brought her in on it and it shocked her as well but why would she still be friends with these people that abused a guy that was different? Kinda lessens her good girl street cred there. Don't worry folks, I am sure there is a remake, re-imagining or blatant rip-off in the wings that of course will have hip young kids, a kick ass metal soundtrack and some of that 3-D you kids love so much.

Remember kids, never give John Wayne bourbon and beans around a campfire.  Phew!