OCTOBER 16, 2008
"Was this written before or after Hostel?" - Awesome audience member
And that was the first question of the Q&A for Train tonight at Screamfest, setting the tone nicely for the hilariously awkward 10 minutes that followed. Since the movie was such a dull combo of Hostel and Turistas (superior films in just about every way imaginable), it made the Q&A seem like a blast. Someone else thought Train director Gideon Raff was William Malone (?!) and rambled about how much he enjoyed House On Haunted Hill. And there was a significant lack of enthusiasm when Raff mentioned that Lionsgate had picked up the film (enjoy your 12 screen release in dollar theaters, buddy!).
While certainly better than Keepsake (since it actually had some semblance of a story and better production value), it doesn't change the fact that Train is simply a pointless rehash. I kind of like the irony though; the film began as a remake of Terror Train, but it eventually "became its own thing". Of course, that "thing" is simply making a more violent, "torture porn"y version of Turistas, where our villains are actually taking organs and other body parts in order to improve the lives of others. However, unlike Turistas (which is a very underrated thriller in my opinion; if nothing else, this movie should appeal to those who wanted more Hostel-style gore/death in that film), it doesn't seem like the organ transplant stuff is a genuine plot device that the film was built around; it's just sort of tossed in halfway through and barely acknowledged afterward; as if it was only put in so people wouldn't accuse it of only ripping off Hostel.
I also took issue with a rape scene about halfway through the film. Raff and his crew have zero qualms with showing brutal violence against innocent people, leaving nothing to the imagination. Yet when its time for a rape, he doesn't show anything. That's sort of off putting to me; no, I don't WANT to see rape, but I don't WANT to see a guys chest being torn apart either. How is one thing suitable for "entertainment" but not the other? To me, that's like if Trey Parker and Matt Stone suddenly decided that making fun of a particular race or religion wasn't OK. You gotta go all out or not at all.
And I don't usually have a problem with Thora Birch, but she seemed bored out of her mind throughout the movie. She delivers her lines with about as much emotion as an SNL host, and I never buy her as a wrestler for a second. And since the movie's design makes her pretty much the only "good guy" left after about 55 minutes, it's kind of hard to be engaged by her character's "story" (pfft) when the actress herself doesn't even seem to care if she lives or dies. Gideon Emery is the only actor who seems like he's trying, and his character is the only one that is slightly interesting. Gloria Votsis is nice to look at, but her character is as useless as they come, and also her "death" scene sums up precisely everything that is wrong with the film. See, no one is killed right away, because the organ transplant procedure requires them to be alive I guess. But that doesn't stop one of the "doctors" from ramming a hook through her neck so it comes out her mouth. It's an act that could have easily killed her, so why do that? Why not just drug her (and everyone else) rather than inflict gory violence? Oh, because you need to be EXTREME! or else no one will care about the movie.
Once again, we have a movie that should be set entirely in its titular location (once they get on it anyway), and yet it seems they are off the train for like 20 minutes during the 3rd act. Keep it on the goddamn train! At least when Speed got rid of the bus, they kept the spirit of public transportation going, setting the finale on a subway car. But Thora gets off the train and begins wandering around a big ol' mansion in the middle of the woods, completely destroying one of the movie's few good points (the claustrophic setting).
Like I said the other day, this is the type of movie we simply need to put an end to. Production value, makeup effects, etc - they are all great in this movie, but they service a story (I use the term loosely) that doesn't need to be told (again). It's bad enough that the Saw and Hostel films (moreso the first than the second) are dismissed as brainless violence, but when shit like this comes along, it tarnishes their reputation.
What say you?