Thursday, October 20, 2022

Terror Train (2022), on Tubi

More people were killed in Roger Spottiswoode’s 1980 train-bound slasher movie than during Runaway Train, Silver Streak, or Murder on the Orient Express (but probably not Train to Busan). It was supposed to be a party train, but a mystery man in a Halloween mask crashed it hard. There will be another killer party in Philippe Gagnon’s remake of Terror Train, which premieres tomorrow on Tubi (following its screening at this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival).

Alana reluctantly agreed to participate in a really mean hazing prank, but she had no idea “Doc,” the fraternity president, would use a real cadaver. The shock sent the poor-pledge victim to the mental ward. She was appalled, but he blackmailed her to keep silent. Awkwardly, her boyfriend Mo remained in the frat, so there she is, rubbing shoulders with Doc at the first party hosted by more sensitive successor.

You can kind of understand why she accepted the invitation, since it will be a costume party, with a hip, “edgy” magician performing. Unfortunately, there will be an uninvited guest, wielding a sharp knife. This time, our killer passes unnoticed wearing an evil clown disguise, instead of the original’s Groucho Marx mask (which a lot of Millennials presumably wouldn’t recognize). Soon, the psychopath is carving up partiers, but everyone is too busy drinking or watching the entertainment to notice.

Screenwriters Ian Carpenter and Aaron Martin ditched the original’s shocking twist, which comes as no surprise, if you remember what happened. Arguably, the remake might also be somewhat gorier. However, in many other respects, it remains surprisingly faithful to the 1980 film. Most importantly, the enigmatic magician still plays an important role keeping viewers off balance. To this day, it remains David Copperfield’s only true dramatic role, but he was amazingly weird and he had real deal magic chops.

Tim Rozon is shockingly great assuming his role and his cape. Once again, his unnamed magician character really elevates the remake above standard slasher fare. Of course, he is flamboyantly over-the-top when chewing the scenery and performing his illusions. That is the whole point.

However, the new film lacks the stabilizing presence of veteran western character actor Ben Johnson, who played Carne, the old porter. His grizzled maturity nicely complimented Jamie Lee Curtis as the naïve, guilt-wracked heroine. Instead, the new Alana largely relies on a porter with little personality, much closer to her own age, instead of her older laissez-faire supervisor, the newly gender-swapped Carne.

Robyn Alomar is a decent coed-in-distress and her bitterly hostile chemistry with Matias Garrido’s jerkweed Doc is pretty amusing to watch. Gagnon’s
Terror Train is not ironic or self-referential in the Scream tradition, but it is energetic and admittedly campy, mostly in ways horror audiences can appreciate. Recommended for fans of the original and other throwback slashers, Terror Train starts streaming tomorrow (10/21) on Tubi.