[review by JA Kerswell]
If you ever daydreamed about what could have been if a classic era slasher got a sequel then this could be the movie for you. Clearly shot back-to-back with TERROR TRAIN (2022), Phillipe Gagnon's made-for-Tubi direct sequel is somewhat free of the constraints of remaking the 1980 original. He utilises that freedom to make something that both satisfies as a murder mystery slasher movie on a train and, most importantly, ups the fun factor.
|A killer is back aboard in TERROR TRAIN 2.|
After the events of the first film, Alana (Robyn Alomar) is struggling at med school with flashbacks to the murders from a year earlier. Her PTSD is so bad she is on the verge of being kicked out of college. Her therapist tells her that the secret to moving past her trauma is to confront it. Her flatmate Claudia (Nia Roam) agrees and suggests she does that head on by returning to the same train where the murders took place - despite the killer's body never being found. In a nod to the 1980 original, a party has been planned for New Year's Eve aboard the train and is sold to Alana as a 'healing experience'. Although it is somewhat unbelievable that she buys this, it certainly isn't the daftest set up for a slasher movie.
However, it turns out that Alana has been hoodwinked into joining a true crime reunion called the 'Terror Train' organised by Pet (Romy Wellman) and Merry (Tori Barban); two other survivors of the previous massacre who have since become true crime podcasters and social media influencers - who sign off their frequent live feeds with "Stabs and kisses!". Also returning are The Magician (Tim Rozon) and Sadie (Nadine Bhabha) - who has been promoted to conductor of the train. Alana quickly realises her mistake when she is trapped by true crime fans who are eager for her autograph and want her to relive her trauma for their entertainment. Pet says to Alana: "Must be so hard being the most famous Final Girl in existence."
Also on board is a mystery killer, who - like the first film - adopts the masks of previous victims. Soon the passengers start dying one-by-one in increasingly gruesome ways. Alana - who suffers flashbacks to the victims of the previous film - is, at first, unsure whether she is hallucinating the new murder spree. However, she soon realises that either the killer is back from the dead or there is a new psycho aboard the 'Terror Train' ...
|True crime buffs are in for a dose of the real thing in TERROR TRAIN 2.|
TERROR TRAIN (2022) was somewhat hampered, in its first half, by being an almost slavish remake of the 1980 original - with a few nods to modern culture and societal flashpoints thrown in for good measure. But where it succeeded was in confounding expectations in its second half by switching things up - including the identity of the killer. When there wasn't that sense of deja-vu the film came to life with a pleasingly over-the-top gonzo ending. TERROR TRAIN 2 is arguably even more successful. The setting and setup, of course, are essentially the same, but Gagnon has more freedom to play with expectations whilst still delivering a fun, whodunnit slasher movie.
The film explores the true crime phenomenon of recent years and is especially incisive in how it examines how people co-opt others trauma for their own entertainment. In one of the film's best moments, someone accidentally live broadcasts their own death to their followers. It also takes a wry look at how that level of detachment means that many of the true crime fans onboard remain unconvinced the murders haven't been staged for clicks. However, Gagnon knows exactly what kind of movie he's making - and shows an acute understanding of what makes the subgenre tick. Despite its modern trappings, TERROR TRAIN 2 is an entertaining throwback to early 80s slasher popcorn movies. The killer's identity is even given away by a refection in a murder weapon they are using. It's not afraid to revel in its inherent, glorious implausibility - without ridiculing itself. Unlike many modern slashers, which feature unlikeable characters, even the villains here are played with a sense of knowing fun. To balance the more over-the-top elements other characters play it straight - which again is reminiscent of some of the best early 80s slashers. TERROR TRAIN 2 is refreshingly free of self knowing irony and the apparent contempt of their audiences of some other modern horror movies.
TERROR TRAIN 2 isn't perfect. It suffers from the same slightly bland modern TV movie look that stopped the first film from popping visually. And you never do get the feeling they are really on a moving train. However, these are minor quibbles. And, whilst we are daydreaming, I couldn't help wonder what a young Jamie Lee Curtis would have brought to the role of Alana if there had been a TERROR TRAIN II in 1981? However, I will put my neck on the line - or the track - and say I had more fun with this film than I did with any of David Gordon Green's recent Jamie Lee Curtis starring HALLOWEEN trilogy (2018-2022).
female: 5 / male: 3
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