[Review] TERROR TRAIN (2022, Tubi) Competent, Solid, yet Completely Forgettable

 Back in September, free streaming service TUBI announced that it would be adding exclusive horror films to it’s catalog care of a partnership with Canadian production and distribution company Incendo, with the first release being a remake of the 1980 slasher Terror Train. While the tapestry of Horror fans runs vast enough that there are certainly folks who will place the earlier effort (featuring Jamie Lee Curtis and superstar magician of the day, David Copperfield) amongst their favorites, history generally seems to relegate the film to second tier status in terms of the first wave of slashers that come in the wake of 1978s Halloween.

The new Terror Train, directed by Philippe Gagnon, is currently available on TUBI, and while lacking the hook of star power the original presented, it remains remarkably true to the original. The film begins with a flashback of a group of pre-med students attending a New Years Eve fraternity party. New pledges mingle with old hands, who make it their job to haze the new recruits. Things turn sour for everyone involved when their hazing ritual goes wrong, and a new pledge has to be carted away by ambulance after the trauma of his experience. Now, three years later, the Fraternity is once again celebrating the holiday, this year aboard the titular train.  Unbeknownst to most of the party, the bodies begin to fall before the train has even left the station, but as they pile up, the stricken passengers realize they’re in a fight for survival.

The premise, as presented by the original film and recreated here, is actually quite a good one.  From the callous alpha Doc (Matius Garrido) to the nerdy prankster Ed (Alexandre Bacon), the fraternity presents a spectrum of personality archetypes for the audience to relate with or object to. While the characterizations are, unsurprisingly, generally thin, the foundation is there to keep the audience on board for the ride as the film’s “shrewder than the rest” lead Alana (played ably by Robyn Alomar) struggles to discover why her friends are being killed, and where she fits into the puzzle.  Our magician has returned as entertainment on the ride, but instead of a recognizable giant in the field, we are presented with actor Tim Rozon (Shitt’s Creek), who’s turn as The Magician has a larger than life sense of theatrics to it.  Watching with a friend, my statement was “I can’t tell if he’s a soap opera actor or an actual magician.”  In some regards, the performance may seem out of beat, having had experience around stage magicians, I found it closer to authentic.

Unfortunately, the resounding criticism I have of the film is that while everything generally works, there are no facets in which the 2022 iteration of Terror Train excels.  The practical effects are solid, with a couple of moments that shine gruesome, but are generally lacking a real creative flair.  The same can be said for the cast, and the soundtrack, and even the sense of suspense and dread as the various red herrings and twists play out in the third act.  It seems almost as if the film has assembled a strong team that was capable of memorable things, but restricted them to only reach a certain ceiling without letting them truly fly.  

Outside of Slasher fanatics or younger horror fans that might stumble onto the film as TUBI viewers, it’s difficult to imagine that this film will have enough going for it to rise above in this cluttered content environment.  I would not be disappointed to see the lead Robyn Alomar in future genre films, but the magic of Jamie Lee Curtis’s rise as the first true scream queen is already absent from the formula.  Beyond this, the fact that the film chose to so closely follow in the path laid by the original, without pushing any boundaries to make this iteration stand out, Terror Train feels less like a cult classic or a hidden gem, and more of a forgettable, if otherwise completely competent, addition to the growing list of slasher films and horror remakes. 

  • Terror Train (2022), Shawn Parks
Shawn Parks