Terror Train

SEPTEMBER 23, 2007


How much of an asshole is Terror Train director Roger Spottiswoode? He’s “embarrassed” by this movie, despite a. the fact that it’s one of the classier of the period, and b. he fucking made Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot and Turner & Hooch. “Terror Train? Why would I want to discuss that? Come, let me tell you about the time Stallone and I came up with the scene where Estelle Getty cleaned his gun.” Fuck you, Roger Spottiswoode. If it wasn’t for Michael Caton-Jones you’d be responsible for the worst Brosnan Bond movie too.

Like I said, this one’s pretty stylish for the period. While everyone else was simply trying to top one another in terms of gore and body count, Terror Train has maybe 7 deaths (all but two are entirely off-screen) and the only blood we see is on corpses or Jamie Lee’s wounds. It’s not exactly Halloween, but there is a great deal of emphasis on suspense and yes, character development to make up for the relative lack of carnage. And many points are earned for killing off the annoying jokester character (which just every slasher has) in the first 10 minutes. Thanks movie! Plus, the twist is clever without being completely ludicrous or betraying the rest of the film. It doesn’t say much for David Copperfield’s hiring process, but otherwise it’s pretty solid and reasonable.

The only real lapse in logic (besides giving Jamie Lee that awful haircut, especially when the prologue has her looking far better with different hair) comes near the end. The killer is downed, and Jamie Lee runs into a little cage that’s in the middle of a train car for no reason. After being terrorized for a while, she stabs the killer, who stumbles back a bit. At this point, she breaks open the cage door and runs to the next car. BUT, the door to the car was bolted AND locked by the killer, which is why she ran into the cage in the first place, as she wouldn’t have time to open it even though he was on the other side of the car. Yet now she seemingly gets it open with him right behind her. They avoid explaining this by simply cutting to her entering the next car entirely. Kind of cheap. Maybe that’s why Spottiswoode refuses to talk. I’m onto you, Roger!

The asshole character (there’s one of these in every slasher too) is played by Hart Bochner. Bochner is of course, forever known as Ellis from the first Die Hard, but he also played the film professor in Urban Legend 2. In that film, he turned out to be the killer, who was killing everyone who worked on what he thought was a particularly good student film so he could pass it off as his own. This of course is the most idiotic motive for a killer in horror movie history, but it paid off: it gives me the OK for whatever I come up with for motives for the killers in my cartoon. “That is totally idiotic.” someone might say after reading an episode (which features things like a guy wiping out an entire town in order to prove there’s a plot-hole in the When A Stranger Calls remake). “Well, in Urban Legend 2, the killer just wanted to pretend to be the director of a pretentious student film. And that movie was supposed to be serious. This is a cartoon” will be my response. Thanks, Hart!

Also, what’s with Jamie Lee’s ability to smoke pot and SURVIVE her slasher movies? She’s the poster child for the films that developed the “rules”, and she doesn’t even follow them? What kind of bullshit is that?

This one is being remade of course, but I guess it’s a horror movie on a train and shares no other similarities. Fine by me. Otherwise we run the risk of having Criss Angel pop up in the film.

>I should note that I HAVE seen this one before, when I was like 15 (anyone who grew up in the VHS era and didn't check this one out due to the creepy ORIGINAL cover art is some sort of Roger Spottiswoode level asshole). I had forgotten all but the twist. Since it's been a while, I should remind readers that I do make exceptions for the "one I've never seen" rule if it's been so long that I can't really remember it.

What say you?


  1. Out of all the post-Halloween slasher films in the early eighties, this has always been one of my faves. However, I don't know if that's saying much since I'm pretty much stuck comparing it to dreck like "Final Exam," "The Burning," and "Graduation Day." But still, great twist at the end and some geniunely scary moments that still make me a little skittish today. This is one I show a lot to people that don't watch many horror movies except the obvious ones.

  2. That prank from the beginning of the movie would have scarred me for life if it was pulled on me. Just saw this for the first time over Netflix. I liked it much more than others who rated it and it taught me to take those ratings with a grain of salt.

  3. The focus was on character development and suspense. I'd say it was more successful with the former as I don't recall feeling on the edge of my seat or anything. I really did like the characters, though. Especially the conductor. The dude they got to play the killer was appropriately creepy and did make a believable woman (from far away), although not a very pretty one. Copperfield hadn't quite reached the Claudia Schiffer standards at that point in his career, I guess.

    Also, I think I see another big lapse in logic. Maybe I'm a bit daft, but I don't understand why he needed to kill the Gracho Marx guy to get on the train. Since he was the magician's assistant, he already had a way onto the train, as well as a great disguise. What am I missing?

  4. Well A he wanted to get back at everyone involved with the incident, but B I assume that his "cover" (that he was the joker guy) might be blown if the real joker guy was still up and about, so he had to take him out first.

  5. No. I didn't express my question very well. He doesn't need to be the joker guy at all because he had a much more elaborate cover planned as the assistant. He should have been able to get on the terror train as the assistant...


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