31 Days Of Hell: Terror Train (1980) - Reviewed

The boys and girls of Sigma Phi. Some will live. Some will die” [1]. This is considered part of the Canuxploitation subgenre of exploitation films, which were the result of a tax shelter incentive created by the Canadian and lasted roughly from around 1974 to 1982. The story involves a group of college fraternity students that are having a big costume party on a train, while a killer is on board using their costumes as disguises in order to blend in and eliminate certain partiers.
There are several things that make this one memorable and great; they include the various costumes and masks that the killer wears, performances by Ben Johnson and Jamie Lee Curtis, the appearance and performance of magician David Copperfield, and also knowing that the killer is on board with the fraternity members but not being able to identify him amongst the other train riders.
The masks that were chosen are as creepy and weird as ones that have been used in other successful horror movies and include Groucho Marx, a Lizard, and an old man. The Groucho mask is the best and most unforgettable of the three, but the wonderful thing about the masks is that they become even more terrifying within this type of setting. They wouldn’t really be scary unless the situation involved someone murdering other people.

Johnson and Curtis are both superb in their roles; Johnson as the train conductor and Curtis as the final girl who was intimately involved in the events that took place. Johnson is probably best known for appearing in The Wild Bunch, but also had major roles in Dillinger and The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Curtis by this time had become known as the horror scream queen, appearing in Halloween, The Fog, and Prom Night. The appearance of Copperfield may be what puts this picture over the top, with him performing multiple tricks and being an important part of the story once they are on the train.  By this time he had begun to slowly become noticed, doing television performances on both ABC and a contracted series for CBS.
Would you like some fries with your ketchup?

The deaths in this motion picture are not overly gruesome and there is only one real instance of gore, it does get intense in the end with one particular sequence. The music isn’t as good as Halloween or Friday the 13th, but it is adequate enough for a horror genre. The lighting is very effective and the trains were actually rewired with dimmers to control it in a fast and efficient way and also used medical pen lights to light the actor’s faces [1].

If you haven’t seen this one before, it is a somewhat forgotten gem that would be considered part of the slasher horror subgenre.

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[1] "IMDB," IMDB, 12 5 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081617/?ref_=nv_sr_1. [Accessed 12 5 2016].