[Brooklyn Horror Review] TERROR TRAIN (2022)

[Brooklyn Horror Review] TERROR TRAIN (2022)
TERROR TRAIN l Brooklyn Horror Film Festival
Scream. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hellraiser. This year alone has seen several iconic horror franchises get the reboot or so-called “legacy sequel” treatment. Halloween Ends, the apparent conclusion to David Gordon Green’s modern trilogy has been out for less than a week and has been subjected to an incredibly divisive response from critics and fans. Amidst these reinterpretations of game-changing classics comes one that’s a bit more unexpected: a remake of Roger Spottiswoode’s TERROR TRAIN.

In today’s reboot-obsessed climate, there’s something to be said for taking one of the lesser-known slasher entries and giving it a modern update. Proven successful by 2009’s My Bloody Valentine, at least in terms of profit margins, who’s to say a reimagining of a 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis cult favorite couldn’t produce similar results?

For one thing, this remake is a Tubi exclusive. The beloved free streaming service continues to grow its library of original content and director Philippe Gagnon’s take on TERROR TRAIN (2022) seems to be their tentpole release for this year’s Halloween season.

So where do we start? Perhaps the nicest thing that can be said is that this will feel familiar in many ways to fans of the original. There are story beats and even shots in this remake that seem to parallel Spottiswoode’s film. Some of the kills are also taken from the 80s version.

We begin with a frat party, where a group of friends prank one of the pledges by luring him into a room with the promise of a sexual encounter with the film’s lead, Alana (Robyn Alomar). What the pledge, Kenny (Noah Parker), doesn’t know is that the students have placed a woman’s corpse from the university’s med school in the bed instead. This incident ends with Kenny being sent off in an ambulance, irreversibly traumatized. Alana regrets the prank, but one of the frat students, Doc (Matias Garrido), threatens to throw her under the bus if she tells anyone.

Fast forward three years and the same fraternity and sorority members are about to embark on a Halloween costume party aboard a train (a departure from the original’s New Year’s Eve setting). Even before the train departs, blood is already spilled and a killer dons a clown costume and boards with the rest of the passengers. Thus kicking off a night of murder, unrivaled horniness, and “edgy” magic tricks.

If you’re a fan of the original, it’s likely that you’ll be won over by what’s been described so far. This is certainly a slasher that embraces its goofier side and it sure does ham it up at every turn. The magician character from the original is also featured here and, my god, actor Tim Rozon’s performance had my audience in stitches with every word he utters.

That said, what we’re left with is a throwback that is admittedly entertaining in its trashiness, but ultimately a step back from the 80s version. The scenes that are lifted from that film aren’t done in an especially inventive or interesting way here. The parts that have been changed don’t really add anything meaningful to the foundation, perhaps aside from revising an ending that some may view today as problematic. At times, you can tell that TERROR TRAIN (2022) is attempting to comment on the toxicity that can thrive in fraternities, but it never fully commits. On one hand, Doc is certainly painted as a typical frat bro, as he calls out “cancel culture” and feminism. On the other hand, one scene has Alana defending her frat and sorority friends to the magician, confusing the message this may have been aiming for.

This all wouldn’t be a problem if TERROR TRAIN (2022) brought anything truly noteworthy to the table. Presentation-wise, this feels like an ever-so-slightly-more adult version of a movie made for The CW. It opts for a glossier sheen rather than the original’s hazy, more foreboding aesthetic. The script, written by the creative forces behind the TV series Slasher shows their reverence for the genre, for better or worse. For much of the film, some genre fans will feel right at home, as it certainly pays homage to the slashers of yesteryear. But when it gets to the final act, any shred of suspense vanishes when character work and writing veer off into hilarious territory, be it intentional or unintentional (the killer actually yells “No one can stop me now!” and the entire theater collectively lost their minds).

And let’s be honest: genre fans are more than likely accustomed to cheese, so I imagine this could play favorably with the right crowd. I even overheard a few audience members praise it as “camp” as the end credits were rolling. Still, it’s a shame that what we got feels more like a cheap novelty rather than a worthy update to one of the underrated slashers of the 80s.

TERROR TRAIN (2022) had its world premiere at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival on October 15th, 2022.

Tom Milligan
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