15th Oct2012

‘Terror Train’ Blu-ray Review (Scream Factory)

by Nathan Smith

Stars: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner, David Copperfield, Vanity | Written by T.Y. Drake | Directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Terror-Train

I love the slasher film craze more so than any other sub-genre. Yes, they’re a little repetitve for the most part but they’re always fun to watch. I guess the big formula with most of them, is A) Insert traumatic event. B) Find a location, secluded or otherwise. C) Cast teenagers and have them doff their tops and D) Have them get killed in a variety of manners. Also, the more dated the production, the better. Terror Train follows all of these steps and more. It’s one of the more upstanding and inventive of the slasher films to come out of the early 80′s. The biggest reason why it stands out to me, is that while Jamie Lee Curtis is the star of the film and easily the most recognizable of the roles. However, they subvert expectations by having legendary actor Ben Johnson, as the train conductor, be the first of the passengers on the voyage of doom to notice something shady is afoot.

Terror Train, was a Canadian production and was the debut film of director Roger Spottiswoode. It’s a tight, taut film that moves along quickly. There isn’t much suspense at to who the killer could ultimately be although the red herrings placed about through the film give you an ample guessing game. Although, a second viewing is absolutely beneficial to eagle-eye viewers who see the killer lingering in quite plain sight. It’s also a testament to the film’s innate eighties-ness that they have David Copperfield as a magician who may or may not have a sinister past.

The Blu-Ray is clear and tidies up a picture from over 30 years ago, and makes it pop like brand-new. They’ve also conveniently included a DVD which is the uncut version complete with all the bonus features intact unlike the previous release of Halloween II, which was the television version, albiet edited. We start off with a featurette called, “Destination Death,” with executive producer Daniel Grodnik. He discusses his career leading up to Terror Train. He mostly worked with genre/grindhouse pictures prior to Terror Train, which was his third film. He admits he was a big fan of the films, Silver Streak, and Halloween, and wondered about mashing the two ideas up. He even originally called it ”Terrible Train,” but wasn’t a fan of the alliteration. The film was shot in Montreal. He discusses the original plot which was about an escaped mental patient climbing onto the train during a power outage. He also tells that he was thrust out of his producer credit because he wasn’t Canadian. He also admits that producer Sandy Howard wanted a magician in the film, and they added a Canadian magician named David Copperfield. The difficulty of shooting on an actual train starts off the interview with legendary genre producer Don Carmody called, “Riding The Rails.” He stuck to horror because of rigid religious backgrounds in Canada. He discusses very briefly his start of working on films for Sandy Howard and the process of pulling the production together. He got the train from Vermont and had to move it to Montreal, and deal with housing the train, which they used an old steam foundry for all shooting purposes. He discusses director of photography John Alcott, who shot the film with a darker tone. He also talks about the melange of different accents from French-Canadian to proper British folks to bizarre-ish cockney fellows. He also discusses Ben Johnson’s amusement with making a horror film but nevertheless a professional. Carmody is definitely a storyteller for sure.

There are also featurettes with production designer, Glenn Bydwell and an interview with composer John Mills-Cockell. Rounding out the Blu-Ray, there’s a TV spot and a still gallery as well as the pre-requisite theatrical trailer.

Scream Factory continues to cater to fans of horror films past, present and future. They continue to find films that aren’t ones that are most popular, but ones that fans clamor for. I’ve seen Terror Train over and over again, and to see it out on Blu-Ray for completists, is truly a day for rejoicing. I know I did.

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