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3.9 out of 5 stars
Terror Train
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2012
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
It can be a challenge to review Blu-ray releases on Amazon. Theater reviews, VHS reviews, DVD reviews, digital copies - they often all end up under the same collection of feedback. I tend to rate the films themselves with the initial star rating, and cover the specifics of the medium I am reviewing in the body of the review. So, considered alongside the other films of the slasher genre, Terror Train is easily 4 star film, in my opinion. If you appreciate 1980s horror and understand the mechanics of film making at the time, this is easily one of the better entries of the period. The Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, is, however, a bit disappointing when considered alongside some of their other recent releases. I would probably give the disc three stars. It is worth buying, but if you are trying to decide between this movie and Shout! Factory's recent releases of The Funhouse, Halloween II or Halloween III, Humanoids from the Deep or Piranha, I would place this title at the back of the pack in terms of overall Blu-ray quality considering all factors. It's a good transfer, but not among their best. . .about three stars out of five.

This transfer features a 5.1 HD surround track. Unfortunately, the track is very front-heavy, with little real surround. A few early scenes have some nice ambient low frequency sound of the train in the background. . .but it isn't consistent. Some scenes have better audio than others. The first half of David Copperfield's on-train magic show has both decent audio and video. This leads to my next point: the video, sadly, is also inconsistent. There is a fair amount of damage to the print that has not been cleaned up. Scratches, blotches, hairs, etc., pass through the image throughout the film. They are heaviest during the first half. Strangely, some scenes seem to have significantly less and appear cleaned up, while others have more. The final half hour or so of the movie is particularly good. There are still a few minor marks here and there, but nothing too serious. It is hard to tell what has been touched up and what has been left alone, but I do have the impression some damage must have been removed, especially late in the movie. Shout! Factory's recent horror Blu-rays seem to be all over the place in terms of the amount of restoration. For example, Halloween III is over corrected, but scratches and other visual flaws are largely removed. Halloween II looks great and was clearly given a lot of attention. . .nor was it over-corrected. Yes, the quality of the print has a large impact as well, but that clearly isn't the only factor, given the types of inconsistencies. Terror Train's print damage appears cleaned up the least of the titles I mentioned, but keep in mind this transfer also retains a much closer look to the original cinema quality (including nice grain) than, for example, Shout! Factory's re-release of Halloween III. In addition to the main feature, there are some nice extras, including an interview with the film's music composer and the original trailer, among others.

I recommend this title, though with this disclaimer: I really wish Shout! Factory would make as much effort with all their releases as they did with the stellar Blu-ray re-release of Halloween II. If consistent their releases will sell better overall and the company will create hosts of loyal buyers who appreciate being able to view and hear these classis at a level not even available during their original run.
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61 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2002
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
Lets just start off with a blanket statement that is unequivocal; I typically DESPISE "slasher" films. Oh, I worship every frame of Halloween (1978, which is classic cinema period) and had fun seeing Friday the 13th (1980) for the first time and going BOO! But I don't go to see "dead teenager" movies, don't rent them, and don't care. I didn't even like Red Dragon with Ralph Fiennes as a very worthy screen monster; I don't want to get to know mad killers, I want to see them smacked over the head with a coal shovel and done away with.

I first saw Terror Train quite by chance -- sleepover party at a friends in 1981 at the age of 14 where a bottle got passed around. Everyone else zonked out; I snuck upstairs to watch HBO on his parent's big screen TV set, and what did they happen to show, but Terror Train.

I had never seen a movie like it before. We had whispered to each other in the hallways of our middle school about Jason Vorhees and his mad mother, but I had never seen a film where some maniac runs around with an ax chasing comely college girls before. It was something new and sensational, and as usual my memory of the film proved to be more lurid than what actually turned up in my mailbox after buying the now out of print film from an Amazon.com reseller.

Terror Train follows the proven formula of building up a descent into madness and violence: A young fraternity pledge is subjected to a horrifying initiation stunt and goes bonkers. Cut to three years later and his now graduating pre-med classmates are staging an elaborate New Year's Eve costume party on a chartered excursion train, The completely psychotic former pledge gets on board via an elaborate ruse to murder his way through the principal cast members who set him up. The gimmick is that since everyone is wearing identity concealing costumes he can pretend to be someone else while getting close to his prey. The result are some truly unsettling scenes of mistaken identity and a final denoument that is completely out of left field, unexpected, and refreshingly final in it's closing act. There was no Terror Train 2, nor should there have been.

The film is known mostly these days as a post-Halloween Jamie Lee Curtis screamer fest, and on that level has developed a cult following of such (being out of print also helps make a film a "cult" item; just try bidding for this tape on eBay sometime to see what I mean). Of more interest to film afficianados is the presence of first time director Roger Spottiswoode (a frequent editor of Sam Peckinpah's 1970's movies, and of later Stop! Or My Mom will Shoot! and Tomorrow Never Dies fame) and longtime Stanley Kubrick cameraman John Alcott filming the proceedings with a nice recurring motif of light vs. dark and truly haunting color schemes.

The result is a film that was better than it's genre demanded. Sure, the dialogue and performances are either wooden or hysterical, but the smoothness with which the story unfolds and sweeps those involved in the proceedings up is inspired and follows a path of logic. Screen legend Ben Johnson (probably doing Spottiswoode a favor; they certainly would have met while working with Peckinpah) is on hand to provide a calming authority figure for Jamie Lee to think things out with.

Also on hand is magician David Copperfield, playing a magician who resembles a waxwork figure. His presence in the film serves three roles; he annoys us, kills screen time with his disco music magic shows, and serves as a convenient red herring for the film's climax. And no, I didn't just give the killer's identity away.

Nor will I do so by saying that his name is Kenny, and he is apparently one resourceful little insane waife. Kenny is able to magically transport himself to different parts of the train to commit acts of mayhem while the person he is impersonating is somewhere else. He can apparently materialize inside of locked train compartments, and in one preposterous shot has the ability to crawl around on the outside of the train like a spider. The fact that he is on a mission of revenge and the people who he harms more or less "had it coming to them" makes him seem more like an avenging spirit at times, yet he is clearly a real person.

What the hell is going on here? I suspect that what Spottiswoode and his asscociate scriptwriters did is to actually craft a clever little nightmare of vengance or justice, propably playing in the guilt-ridden mind of Curtis' good girl character who was, of course, suckered into taking part in the prank that scarred Kenny. She also contends that he was sick to begin with in a revelation I didn't catch the first couple times through, and already had killed someone under suspicious circumstances prior to his hazing incident. Curtis is also put through such a visually compelling ordeal at the end that it suggests a nightmare unfolding in the vivid detail we see them in. And like a nightmare, the film comes to an abrupt end when Kenny's body smacks into the ice of a frozen river after being beaned over the brainpan with a shovel. There is no post script, no explanation, only a ridiculous closing theme playing over the credits. Kind of like waking up, and finding yourself right there in the same old bed all along.

I'm probably reading a certain amount of this into the film, but the fact remains that for it's genre, Terror Train was very well made and has some distinguished talent behind it. Notice I have not dwelled on topics like gore and nudity, mostly because they are used with restraint and only at times that make sense in the scope of the story. There is not a truly gratuitous moment in the script, which is also unique of it's kind. And once you get down to it, the fact that it never had a sequel is a sign that maybe they had an idea here that was too good to mess with once the final print was snapped into the can.

Amen for that.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Halloween 2, The Fog) plays a college gal who is tricked into playing a sick joke (involving a cadaver) on a freshman frat pledge. Three years later, all is forgotten, as the fraternity brothers and their girlfriends hop aboard a rented steam train for a big New Year's Eve costume bash. Little do they know, someone has killed one of their pals and taken his place! So, one by one, he fools his victims into getting close enough to kill. Then, he puts on their costume and assumes their identity (It's a neat trick, and is similar in effect to the scene in Halloween where P.J. Soles mistakes Michael for her boyfriend)! Jamie Lee is convincing enough to make up for some of the shabby acting around her. Ben Johnson (Sugarland Express) is solid as the concerned conductor. David Copperfield is only mildly annoying as the magician (what else?). TERROR TRAIN chugs along at an enjoyable pace, never stopping long enough to become tedious. I recommend it to all Jamie Lee Curtis fanatics out there (like me). Well worth owning...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This film can withstand repeated viewings even by the most scrutinizing horror film fanatics. Upon first watching it in the eighties, it left an impression on me. Since then, I dust it off and view it every so often, always finding something different that I didn't notice before. It has lost its gloss over time, but it really exemplifies a period in horror film production that can't be ignored. Of course, Jamie Lee Curtis is there to give it star power. But beyond that, the claustrophobic train and the Hitchcockian themes lend itself to a nice engaging mystery. And the ending is a real surprise. If you are over-saturated with "Halloweens" and "Friday the 13ths", this serves as a nice diversion.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2004
Format: DVD
Terror Train in a classic horror movie. It had many scares. The plot was rather simple. A group of college teens play a prank that involves a dead body on a fellow classmate. key member of the prank was Alana who had no idea that there was a dead body. Neither did Mitchy (Sandee Currie) but Doc (Hart Bochner) Did. Then 3 years later the class is having a New Years Eve party on a train. But no one know that a killer hopped on the train. He starts killing random members of the prank and some had no part in it. He stabs One and steals there costume (Its a Costume party) taking his identity. He stalks Mitchy but gets stopped by A drunk friend of hers. Who he slams the head of in a glass mirror. Then he locks the door of the bathroom he commited the murder in. But the Conducter (Ben Johnson) gets it open. He sees the body and tells others. But when they get back the dead body just appears drunk. Little do they know its the killer. Mitchy takes who she thinks is her friend to a small bunk on the train. But he slits her throat.
Doc is with Alana's boyfriend when he falls dead. He takes the body out of the magician room. No one cares about Docs screams because is a real prankster. Alana's boyfriend dies. Then Alana finds Mitchy. The train is halted and a search is taken place in it. Doc stays on with Alana. She leaves and Doc is beheaded. Alana is taken to her own room to stay. A man stands guard at the door but is killed. Then the killer gets in and starts one of the scariest horror movie chase scenes ina horror film. She is chased through halls, To Conducter Box. She is stuck there as the killer breaks the lights. She stabs him through the wire with a letter holder. She goes to edge of train. Where she pushes him off the train. (or so she thinks). She runs to find the dead Magician(David Copperfield). She runs to another room shows his identity i wont give it away.
As You can tell this one scary movie. Jamie Lee Curtis does great and her acting out shines everybody here. Hart Bochner plays the (...)great here. Sandee Currie was killed to soon. She did great though. she would soon return to the genre in Curtains where she is credited as Sandra Warren. And Ben Johnson plays the conductor. What a great role. He did Great!!!!! Over all Terror Train is prolly the best horror film of the 80s. Its 5 out of 5 stars. 10/10 GREAT MOVIE
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon July 12, 2005
Format: DVD
Before writing a review for "Terror Train," I decided to peruse Jamie Lee Curtis's filmography to test out a theory. I believed that the atrociousness of "Terror Train" likely was the straw that broke the camel's back, thus leading this actress away from her horror film roots and into new territory that she would subsequently mine quite successfully for the next twenty plus years. I think my theory proves correct, at least in part. Before making this movie, Curtis starred in "Halloween," "The Fog," and "Prom Night." After "Terror Train," she made "Halloween II." And that was it as far as horror went until she reprised her role as Laurie Strode in a couple of the latter stage "Halloween" sequels in 1998 and 2002. I compliment her for moving beyond what was obviously posing a grave threat to her burgeoning career, namely her status as a slasher scream queen. If she had kept making horror movies, perhaps starring in a "Terror Train 2" or something similar, we would be reading about her in one of those "Where are they now?" articles. Don't get me wrong; I like Curtis's horror film portrayals in "Halloween" and "The Fog." What I don't like are films like "Terror Train."

A truly unimaginative slasher, "Terror Train" sets up its premise early on. A bunch of college freshmen--Alana Maxwell (Curtis), Doc Manley (Hart Bochner), and a couple of other bland faces I can't place at the moment--play a particularly nasty prank on one Kenny Hampson (Derek McKinnon), a geek whose demeanor and appearance practically begs for abuse. Rightly ascertaining that Kenneth hasn't been with a woman, the members of the fraternity he's pledging to send him up to a room where Maxwell awaits his presence. But there's a catch. Alana has no intention of bedding the gullible Kenny, so she hides behind the door to watch him embrace a cadaver those merry fraternity pranksters copped from the medical school. Hampson predictably freaks out, spinning around and around on the bed getting all wrapped up in a bunch of gauzy curtains. Sure, it's a mean spirited prank, but Kenny flips out in a permanent sort of way and heads for a free vacation at the mental motel. Life goes on for Maxwell, Manley, and the rest of the kids involved in the gag until their senior year. It is then that the group rents a train for one last alcohol-fueled bash before moving on with their lives.

How is it possible to stage a bloody massacre in the narrow confines of a train? It's not easy, so director Roger Spottiswoode and writer T. Y. Drake throw in a contrived scenario in which all of the kids don costumes while partying the night away. Ahhh, a costume party! See, this way the killer can wear a mask and go unnoticed while he kills his prey! How clever! Anyway, people start dropping almost immediately, with one kid dying outside in the snow while his friends board the train. Once inside, the movie moves about as fast as the train. We're treated to interminable stretches of mind numbing boredom as the camera moves from group to group for bouts of yawn inducing dialogue. A magician named Ken (David Copperfield) shows up to provide entertainment and look and act weird, and a train conductor called Carne (Ben Johnson) ambles about offering sage advice to anyone who'll listen for more than a second. Occasionally the movie reminds us we're watching a horror movie with a relatively bloodless kill or two, but the murders come too few and far between to help this train wreck. Lots of screaming and running around sends the signal that the film is coming mercifully to a close. The end.

I'd like to advocate a new policy concerning DVDs right now. For films like "Terror Train," I think Congress ought to pass a federal law requiring a sticker attached to the cover of the DVD case that says, "This movie stinks!" That way I can avoid unpleasant experiences like this one and move on the next load of schlock that much faster. Geez, where to start with the terror that is "Terror Train"? Well, the performances are mediocre, with only Jamie Lee and Ben Johnson turning in anything that smacks of a passing resemblance to acting. David Copperfield, I must say, should never, ever consider appearing in another movie. He's about as lifeless as road kill here, and what's up with that haircut? He looks like he's wearing a motorcycle helmet. But it's not just the performances that sink the film; it's the lack of carnage. What is this, a 'PG' rated film? I saw more blood when I skinned my knee back in the third grade than I did anywhere in this mess. If you're looking for an axe in the head, a machete making a meaty thwacking noise as it enters young flesh, or extended periods of arterial splashing...well, look elsewhere because you won't find it here.

The only extra on the disc is a trailer for the film, and for once I'm not complaining. I wouldn't want to listen to a commentary or see behind the scenes footage. The movie is far too boring to merit such special treatment. I planned on giving "Terror Train" one star, but I'm going to kick it up a notch for one scene that actually does manage to work up a bit of suspense and, dare I say, terror. The part in question involves Jamie Lee hiding in a cage screaming her head off while the killer jumps around outside breaking the light fixtures and generally ranting and raving because he can't reach his prey. One scene doesn't redeem the film, however. I recommend giving this one a wide berth--just watch "Halloween" or "The Fog" again if you want to feed your Jamie Lee Curtis cravings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
If you're a fan of the 80's style of horror, with all its cheesy qualities, then you'll get a kick out of this film. If, on the other hand, you want terrifying action from start to finish and don't have the patience to sit through some mellow moments at the beginning to set up the premise...skip it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2014
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
I was born in the 70s and my little kid years were spent in the late 70s to the early 80s right in the middle of the slasher film craze that Carpenter's classic Halloween kicked off in 1978. During that time Jaime Lee Curtis was given the title of scream queen and every major and independent studio seemed to be churning out as many slasher flicks as possible for a quick profit; including such classics as Prom Night, Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp, Nightmare on Elm Street, Silent Night, Deadly Night and all the many sequels that followed, but the one that stood out more than any for my little kid brain was 1980's Terror Train starring the aforementioned Ms. Curtis. I saw this flick uncut on cable thanks to the perfect storm of irresponsible parenting and easy access to the cable box. Now as an adult I love this flick and marvel at how my imagination ran wild considering how low tech the effects were on this picture, but also the story is not bad.

A group of medical students play a terrible prank on one of the freshmen and the results are far from funny. A few years later their celebrating the new year with a costume party on a train and someone begins picking off each member of the group. They quickly figure out that the kid they played the prank upon is seeking his revenge, but they don't know who he could be on the train.

The transfer of the pic is not bad (then I don't think low tech horror pictures get the same treatment as award-winning movies) and honestly I just enjoy it for the cheesy effects and the twist ending. Plus the acting is good for a slasher flick. Academy Award-Winner Ben Johnson (The Last Picture Show), Hart Bochner (Ellis the coke fiend from Die Hard) and magician David Copperfield co-star in the picture and deliver good performances considering the story.

So, in conclusion, I highly recommend this picture as a fine example of the slasher film/scream queen craze and recommend you watch it with the lights turned out. The only thing truly scary in the movie today is David Copperfield's late 1970's helmet hair, but I do not recommend showing it to a six year old. I believe it would still freak out a small child.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis was so great in this film, I know that she stared in The Fog, Prom Night, Halloween, Halloween 2, And Halloween H20 20:Years later, but then their was only one more horror film I missed that she stared in and it is Terror train and when I saw the trailer for terror train it looked so scary and good, then I bought the movie so I could finally see the film and when I watched it, it was scary and really good, Also poor Jamie because I thought she was gonna get killed by Kenny and her name in this film is Alana Maxwell and also showing the train outside when they film it on the tire track's is really cool because I like train's and it was amazing seeing Halloween on a train which is a great idea from most horror movie's, This film I would give on a scale from 1-10 is a solid 9.5 because everything about it was scary but the only thing I didn't get was the mask's because he first had the mask on this cover of the DVD, but then it changed to an alien creature mask then finally turned into a hunter mask, but everything else was really good for this great horror film, Spoiler alert, but why did Alana kiss Kenny because I know that Kenny wanted the kiss in the beginning of the film but he expects that after everything he did to her friend's and killing them, Last Spoiler alert, thank god that the captain of the train hit Kenny with his shovel twice and then the shovel hit Kenny hard enough so he could get of the train and also fall to his death and then, the movie end's happily because if they killed Jamie's character that would be sad because she's the best, Anyway if your a fan of the scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis you will have to see this film and also her other horror film's which are The Fog, Prom Night, Halloween, Halloween 2, And Halloween H20:20 Years later, This was a great horror movie and Jamie Lee Curtis is a great actress and is great at horror movies and this film will always be a classic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2004
Format: DVD
I was so glad this film was released on DVD! While not the best horror film, it does capture suspense and a slice of early 80s horror that is sorely lacking nowadays. I love the gender-bending twist at the end and once again, Jamie Lee proves she is the Scream Queen to beat them all!
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