[review by JA Kerswell]
TERROR TRAIN (1980) was dismissed by some critics as "Halloween on a train." Philippe Gagnon's Tubi Original remake literally is Halloween on a train. One of the changes between this and Roger Spottiswoode's original is that the murder-filled excursion takes places on All Hallow's Eve rather than New Year's Eve. Otherwise, this remake is pretty much a beat-for-beat retread for much of its running time, albeit without the creepiness and nostalgic charm of the 1980 original. However, it surprises by switching up the ending in a pleasingly gonzo fashion and adding a smidgeon of extra gore. If you don't set your expectations too high there is some entertainment to be had if you can get past its initial xerox tendencies.
|A killer clown is aboard the TERROR TRAIN!|
Viewers familiar the original TERROR TRAIN may get a serious sense of deja-vu watching the first half of this remake. It closely follows the basic premise, with geeky student Kenny (Noah Parker) unwittingly tricked into a horrific fraternity prank with a corpse stolen from medical school by Doc (Matias Garrido). Alana (Robyn Alomar), who thought the prank involved a simple mannequin, is horrified to find she has been tricked into taking part. An unhinged, raving Kenny is literally wheeled off to the asylum. Fast forward to three years later and the fraternity and sorority sisters have hired a private train for a Halloween costume party. But Ed (Alexandre Bacon) - one those involved in the prank three years earlier - is killed with a sword at the station and his clown costume stolen. It eventually becomes clear that a killer is aboard the Terror Train ...
After this the remake continues to not deviate too much from the original, with the killer donning the costume of the person who has just been killed - at least initially. It even follows the exact same pattern and order of killings which doesn't help that sense of deja vu. Sadly, the characters aren't as much fun and are largely facsimiles. Although no Jamie Lee Curtis or Hart Bochner, Alomar and Garrido are pretty good as Alana and Doc - with Garrido especially impressive with his portrayal of suppressed rage and fear. A shout out also has to go to Mary Walsh as Carne, the no shit seen-it-all conductor (in the role originally played by Ben Johnson). Also Tim Rozon doesn't quite have the creepy quirkiness of David Copperfield, but can at least act - and his horror-themed magic tricks don't derail the action like they do in the original.
|Robyn Alomar (as Alana) has some pretty big shoes to fill in the 2022 remake TERROR TRAIN.|
The remake of TERROR TRAIN also has a smidge more nudity than the original and good deal more gore. I mean, it's no TERRIFIER 2 (2022), but it's certainly a good deal wetter than the original. With a much more diverse cast, the remake firmly places itself in modern times with references to social media, 'Me Too' and even has the Doc character lamenting what he refers to as "snowflake frats of today". And it's these modern sensibilities that may explain the decision to change the identity of the killer from the original. However, at its heart it's still a tale of teens filled with equal measures guilt and horniness trapped on a train with a costume swapping psycho hellbent on revenge.
Just like the original, this was a Canadian production, but the 2022 redux sadly lacks the snowy, visual lushness of John Alcott's cinematography. Whilst the technical credits are fine it leans towards the competent blandness of many made-for-streaming movies. Despite a few outside shots of the train hurtling along the tracks you never really feel like the characters are actually on a moving vehicle. Would it really have been too hard just make it sway a little?
However, it's arguably when the remake goes off the rails it's at its most entertaining. I won't spoil the twist, but changing the identity of the killer switches things up nicely and nods to another early 80s slasher classic. The writers Aaron Martin and Ian Carpenter sure know their subgenre lore (which isn't a surprise given they are the duo behind the long running SLASHER TV series (2016-2021)). The rest of the film might have benefited from confounding expectations a little, too. The frankly ludicrous setup by the killer wouldn't feel out-of-place in a more outlandish early 80s slasher movie. There is some serious scenery chewing going on in climactic battle and this change from the familiar certainly roused me a little and gives the remake the shot in the arm it perhaps needs to lift it above the mundane. It even sets the film up for a sequel, which - if this goes great guns for Tubi over the Halloween season - it might just get.
female: 1 / male: 5
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