I think I had initially heard about Terror Train through another movie that had mentioned it. But, I definitely remember seeing it on the video store shelves. I remember thinking that it looked stupid. How could a movie be scary if the killer is dressed like Gene Shalit? This one was different though.
A killer stalks a fraternity that is responsible for playing a pretty mean prank a few years earlier. The frat happens to be throwing a huge New Years Eve costume party on board a train for the evening. The killer stalks from car to car killing people and taking their costume. It takes an old dark house approach when they discover that the train they are on has no radio or communication for help.
The movie was surprisingly great. I loved it. The killer isn’t horrible, that ugly Gene Shalit mask was actually one of Groucho Marx. But it still came off goofy as hell. This is another Jamie Lee Curtis’ Scream Queen feature that does really well. I liked her better in this than in The Fog. I felt that she really got to explore Alana Maxwell more. But it’s nothing like Laurie Strode. David Copperfield stars in this too. It happens to be his one and only film or television acting credit.
The lighting and ambiance are really amazing. It's creepy and eerie. And as stupid as it may sound, the train is actually a pretty neat setting. They leased an actual Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive and according to Wikipedia, it is still in operation today*.
I loved the pace. Terror Train is perfect for marathons. It’s a great feature with a scary killer and a lot of drunk teens. Some of the characters actions are pretty lame and parts of the movie come off a bit hokey. However, this still will be too much for the little ones.
Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis and Hart Bochner
Astral Bellevue Pathé and 20th Century Fox
October 3, 1980
Did ya know:
Jamie Lee Curtis shot this film back to back with the similarly themed slasher film Prom Night (1980) in late 1979. Both films were shot in Canada; Prom Night (1980) in Toronto and Terror Train (1980) in Montreal.