In 1980, Canada delivered one of the most mind boggling slasher films of all time. Terror Train, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, threw Halloween, Friday the 13th, Animal House, Runaway Train and stage magic into a body bag, shook it up and dumped out a glorious Frankenstein monstrosity featuring Jamie Lee Curtis and David Copperfield. Forty-two years later, this classic oddity gets a modern yet mostly faithful retelling courtesy director Philippe Gagnon.
The premise is exactly the same: a well-to-do fraternity holds a Halloween bash on a privately chartered train only to have their numbers picked off one-by-one. There’s a mysterious magician, played by Tom Rozon in the finest Gary Numan impersonation ever, and an angry killer bent on revenge for the misdeeds of said fraternity. Costumes exchange and body counts rise as both guests and train employees realize someone is out to get them. The main difference is a twist at the end that borrows heavily from another well-known slasher franchise.
Visually, Gagnon captures the claustrophobia of being on a train, utilizing greens and reds reminiscent of Argento’s distinct visual aesthetic. The greens highlight the murders while the red reveals the impending doom, all caught within the tight train corridors. He stays faithful to the original while taking liberties where there’s a bit of wiggle room.
For the most part, the costumes, magician and kills are intact. The main place where writers Ian Carpenter and Aaron Martin take liberties is the end. Rather than repeat the original, they add a twist that borrows heavily from a well-known slasher franchise. It’s an odd choice, but doesn’t ruin the film because at its core, this is still exploitation slasher fun.
The cast completely sells it, too. Robyn Alomar’s final girl is tough, smart and not willing to back down in the face of adversity. Nadine Bhabha reveals vulnerable inner strength as the train employee caught in the mess. Matias Garrido makes your skin crawl as the sleazy privileged frat bro, while Mary Walsh turns the train conductor up a notch. Then there’s Rozon’s magician, who just entirely steals the show.
We’ve all been disappointed far too many times by a steady stream of uninspired, mediocre remakes. 2022’s Terror Train is not one of them. Between Gagnon’s aesthetic eye, Carpenter’s and Martin’s smart dialog and a fully committed cast, it’s a pretty damn good movie. If the original film is your favorite slasher ever, well, maybe you’ll have some gripes, but otherwise this one’s solid. Give it a chance. After all, as a Tubi Original, the price is right!
Movie Score: 4/5