Its time for your weekly/biweekly Movie beatdown! We will talk all things with horror movies and television. We will cover everything from slashers to slayers. Beheadings to bitches…I’ll talk about all of it!
This breakdown is “Terror Train”. Now, the purpose of the beatdown is to dissect these movies, so if you don’t want the movie spoiled…don’t read the content below. This breakdown is like Wikipedia…just with more pee. You have been warned! If you don’t have time to watch the movie and would like a quick synopsis, then keep reading and let me tell you all about this movie from my gay eyes. It’s like a synop-sis!
Terror Train is a 1980 Canadian slasher film directed by Roger Spottiswoode in his directorial debut and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, and Hart Bochner. Set aboard a moving train on New Year’s Eve, the film follows a group of pre-medical school students holding a costume party who are targeted by some killers who steal their costumes after murdering some students to avoid being caught. It features supporting performances from Sandee Currie, Anthony Sherwood, and David Copperfield. Their initial intention was to create “Halloween on a train.”
Without further ado…let’s get to the beatdown!
At a college fraternity’s New Year’s Eve party, a reluctant Alana Maxwell, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, known for “Prom Night” and the cult favorite “Halloween,” movies is coerced into participating in a prank: she lures the shy and awkward and do I mention, slightly dweeby pledge Kenny Hampson into a darkened room on the promise of a sexual liaison.
At a college fraternity’s New Year’s Eve party, a reluctant Alana Maxwell, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, known for “Prom Night” and the cult favorite “Halloween,” movies is coerced into participating in a prank: she lures the shy and awkward and do I mention, slightly dweeby pledge Kenny Hampson into a darkened room on the promise of a sexual liaison. She makes him strip down to his underwear. I do question if he got the panties from Victoria’s Secret. Seriously…I swear I sold a pair of those when I worked in retail in ladies’ intimates! Oh well…work it out, sis! However, some other students have placed a woman’s corpse (stolen from the university medical school during the Christmas vacation) in the bed instead without Alana’s awareness. Kenny is traumatized and begins twirling on top of the bed, dancing and getting tangled in the chiffon gossamer atop of the bed. It is definitely a fantasy that I would love to do if I weren’t disrespectful with fabric. It’s the seamstress in me that wouldn’t disrespect a textile like that…but to each is own. Kenny became so damaged by the prank that he was sent over to a psychiatric hospital.
Three years later, the members of the same fraternities and sororities hold a New Year’s Eve costume party aboard a train. Sounds like a bunch of fun! Why can’t trains be more of a thing? Stupid advancements in technology! Class clown Ed is disguised as Groucho Marx, who I have no freakin’ idea who the hell that is if I could be honest with you all; Prank ringleader Doc Manley is disguised as a monk; Jackson is disguised as an alien lizard; Doc’s girlfriend, Alana’s best friend Mitchy, is disguised as a witch; and Alana’s boyfriend Mo is disguised as a bird. Also along are Carne, the train conductor, and a magician hired to entertain the crowd. The magician is played by none other than magic legend David Copperfield. Who knew he was a horror goon?!
Ed is murdered with a sword through his gut prior to boarding and is left to die and eventually get ran over by the train as it starts to leave. Everybody thought that it was a prank since he spent majority of the boarding time making sexual jokes with his date, which happened to be a blow-up doll. I had a boyfriend just like that. I wonder what happened to him? It’s deflating to even think about whatever happened to him (get it?).
Seriously, his jokes are worse than mine. The killer dresses himself in Ed’s Groucho Marx mask, allowing him to board the train unnoticed. As the train journeys into the wilderness, the killer wanders amongst the students, who believe him to be Ed. Alana and Mitchy have their cheesy heart to heart with reminiscing in their last hoorah before becoming grownups, promising that they will keep in touch…yeah right! We cut to the party in the main compartment of the train where this young woman, whose name is not important. But her costume is an oversized pair of pants hiked up past her chest. WTF? Then we resume to one of my favorite parts of old school horror…music montages. There is a disco ball and a party, where in the corner is the magician and his glamourous assistant observe the patrons. There is a slight red-herring moment with the magician remaining mysterious even after the assistant encourages him to socialize with the crowd.
Then we go into the senior’s cart where the boys all praise each other for their prank they did on Kenny. Alana joins them and overhears the conversation, trying to knock some sense into them and cause some regret for sending somebody to the psychiatric ward. Mitchy shortly after stumbles around intoxicated, and runs into who she thinks is Ed.
The killer follows her towards the bathroom and tries to shove her in to kill her but was interrupted by Jackson. He silently lures Jackson into the sleeper bathroom and murders him by smashing his head into a mirror. Now, that is not what I had in mind when I want to be alone with another man in a bathroom! We go back to the senior’s cart and Alana is smoking a joint with Mo, where she finds out that the prank was his idea, spoiled by Doc. I sensed a lot of sexual tension between Doc and Mo…but that is for you to determine when and if you see it. But I will say that they SCREAM “Brokeback Mountain”! She sees the magician doing small tricks with the crowd of students, warming them up. Alana seemed to be the only one that was really into the tricks. Again, some flirtatious tension between the two. Back off Jamie Lee Curtis! He’s mine!
The magic show starts with the magician doing impressive card tricks on stage, and then some levitation tricks with his glamourous assistant. She looks a bit like Vanna White in her early years…pretty, but not polished. Back in the senior’s cart, Mo is drinking alone feeling defeated by Alana’s disappointment in him for his prank. Doc stops by and encourages him that she will get over it. Mo doesn’t think so. Much to my gay hypothesis stated earlier, Doc responds with, “Well you always have me.” HOMO ALERT! *que the fire sirens*
Cut back to the magic show, where the levitation trick finishes with a disappearing act. The crowd goes wild before an intermission happens! Alana asks Carne about Ed, not noticing that he has been around and starting to express concern, as what a scream queen would do. Mitchy notices Doc and Mo convincing other girls to join them in a private room by using a stupid medical pickup line. “I worked in the emergency gynecologic ward last summer. Doc won an award for best pap smear in the ward.” Who wrote this shit?!
They try to go hookup in the bathroom and was still occupied by the dead Jackson. Carne approaches them and helps with the door once the four leave and finds Jackson’s bloodied body in the bathroom, still donning the lizard costume. Now this is why you don’t go to the bathroom alone! You could die and leave a bloody mess!
He leaves to go find assistance. When Carne returns to the scene with the brake master Charlie, the killer has hidden Jackson’s body and is now posing in the lizard costume; as he appears conscious with the bloody mess cleaned up to perfection, Charlie assures Carne that the partygoer was merely drunk.
Mitchy goes with the killer, whom she believes to be Jackson, to a compartment where she attempts to seduce him. As she closes her eyes, he caresses her with Jackson’s severed hand as it runs up her leg, before murdering her. “You know what they say…cold hands, warm heart.” Side note-I have noticed that there are a TON of unfaithful kids on this damn train! Stupid kids!
Alana and the magician have another sexually tense moment where he impresses her with more tricks. Doc halts their moment and convinces her to find Mo who he claims is sorry for everything, trying to have her walk in on him having a hookup session with one of the other girls. Yes, the stupid girl with the pant costume. Surprisingly, it was easy to take off since it is fascinated with a belt. As Miranda Priestley once said, “Groundbreaking.”
Carne finds Mitchy’s corpse in the compartment with her throat slashed. Alana stumbles upon the scene, and Carne informs her that Mitchy is dead. Alana doesn’t believe him at first, but then is shown her corpse. So much for remaining friends after college! During a magic show held by the magician and his female assistant, Doc finds Mo stabbed to death as he sat collapsed on the outskirts of the crowd, though the partying onlookers assume the scene to be a prank. Doc carries Mo to the back of the train to try and revive him, like any gay lover would do for their best friend. Carne and Charlie stop the train abruptly, causing all the students to overact as they fell to the floor from the force…Another way to drop a beat! They sequester the students in one car; while doing so, two pullman porters find the corpse of Pet, another student.
Suspecting Kenny may be involved, Alana recalls the prank to Doc, and recounts her attempt to visit Kenny at the psychiatric hospital, where she learned that Kenny may have been involved in a murder before the prank. She pieces together all of the people that were murdered were all involved with the prank. Doc, like the moron he is, initially doesn’t believe her. She convinces him that they are in danger and run back into a compartment to hide themselves. Doc shows Alana the yearbook, where Kenny’s page was full of him doing magic tricks. Convinced that Kenny is the magician, she wants to warn the others. Doc warned her that if she does, she is kicked out of the room. Doc subsequently seals himself inside a room in the sleeper car where the killer was hiding the whole time and is murdered.
Shortly after, Alana and Carne find his decapitated body…he deserved it if you ask me. Believing the magician may be Kenny in disguise, Alana notifies Carne, who goes to lock him inside the parlor car; there he finds the magician’s female assistant, but Carne and the porters are unable to find the magician. He convinces her to come with them for safety measures.
Alana is sequestered in a locked compartment for her safety, which the masked killer infiltrates, killing the chief porter with one of the magician’s prop swords before arming himself with an axe. He breaks into the compartment and stabs the pile of blankets assuming that she was sleeping. It was the blow-up doll, concealed as a distraction. Now, who invited her back to the party?! She runs screaming her well known scream that has made her lots of money. Alana is pursued through the train. One of my favorite parts of a slasher…the chase scene! Not too much chasing since they are on a train.
She ends up in the captain’s corridor, locked in with nowhere to go. She gets thrown around the wall and even gets one of her earrings ripped cleanly off her, which is a shame since she was planning on wearing her grandmother’s gold hoop earrings the next day. Sad.
She blinds him with a fire extinguisher and locks herself inside the caged office. She was safe for a moment while she thought of a plan. The killer takes a pipe-like crowbar and crushes all the lightbulbs and then starts prodding in the cage to scare her. As he breaks the lock, Alana finds the old wooden block with a nail to keep your receipts and stabs him in the cheek and runs away.
While in-between cars, she manages to push the killer overboard, unaware that he has managed to hold on below. The crew finds her in shambles and distraught from being attacked…wimp. They let her rest in a stall. After being informed that they were close to their destination, she moseys on back to magicians’ cart, to reminisce on the back of the train. She then gets all nosey and looks around in his stuff. She finds the magician’s dead body contorted in his sword box. Alana runs through the train car and finds Charlie in the baggage car seated with his head resting in his hands. She tells him the magician is dead, and lays her head on the table, when he grabs her by her wrists.
Alana realizes it is Kenny, who is indeed the killer, dressed in Charlie’s uniform. Kenny removes the uniform cap to reveal a blonde wig, and Alana realizes he has been posing in drag as the magician’s female assistant. She was very convincing, but this was before the days of contouring and shimmering highlighter. Comparatively, she looked pretty busted! Perhaps she would be ready to compete in NEXT year’s season of RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Alana apologizes to Kenny about the prank, but he refuses to accept her apology and forces her to kiss him; the kiss causes Kenny to relive his memories from the prank and drives him deeper into insanity, making him flash back to his moments of disrespecting chiffon fabric and twirling uncontrollably in fury. Carne rushes to the scene and beats down Kenny with a shovel, causing him to fall out the open door of the baggage car to his death. His body lands in a nearly frozen river and floats away as the train roars off. The movie ends with the train screeching its horn before resuming to credits and an uncorrelated song.
I absolutely love this movie! It is one of my all-time favorites. I don’t have too many negatives to say about this movie. This is a unique slasher with some predictability, but not too much to keep you in some sort of suspense.
Let’s hand out some awards!
The Haunted Hunk award goes to the magician himself, David Copperfield. He was quite the looker back then, and I don’t mind a little tricks for kicks! Since Doc and Mo are too busy having their own tension…I will be his assistant!
The Killer Slay award-aka best kill- goes to Doc. In the words of the cell block tango in Chicago…He had it coming! I couldn’t wait for his pretentious ass to die. And the fact that he went all crazy before he was killed was an added bonus.
The Basic Beheading award-aka worse kill- will go to Mo. They just showed him collapsed on the floor as if he was drunk and passed out. When they finally aided to his help, they opened up his man blouse and saw that he was cut up. I wanted to see more than what they showed.
Rating- 9.8 out of 10 *********
I think this movie is so underappreciated. It is something that everybody should buy, rent, stream, whatever! I think the only thing I wish would change is just the ending. Kenny got knocked off the train and died from impact and then it just cut to the train horn and then credits. Other than that, I wish there was more chiffon disrespect and more twirling.
And there you have it! Another beatdown complete! I will be posting these recaps as often as I can! I will be at least doing these bi-weekly. You may be lucky enough to get them weekly. It will just depend on the workload with my writing. Next post, we will be celebrating graduation with a bunch of dumbass kids that plays an innocent game that goes wrong with 2017’s “Dead Body”! If you don’t want to be spoiled…do your homework and watch it ahead of time, so that you follow along with my synopsis and understand the humor I attach to horror. If there is anything you would like for me to add in my beatdowns, have movie suggestions, or even have any feedback to give me, go to the “Contact” section of my website and shoot me an email.
Also, my debut novel “Cardinal Rules” is now available for preorder. Links for all available platforms are located in the Books section of the website.
Don’t take my comments or humor too seriously. After all…it’s just HORROR! And horror is sooo gay…right?
Until next time…keep slaying!