HALLOWEEN 2K16: A Review of “Night Train to Terror” (1985)

2016-09-27-16_59_59-night-train-to-terror-google-searchI almost didn’t review this one because of how indescribable the plot became at some points. Night Train to Terror is not the type of movie one can just put on in the background or be on their phone or computer and still get the gist of it. The fact that it requires constant attention is unfortunate, because even when you are eyeing up the screen every second, you will still be befuddled. There is a train full of kids and a rock band dancing and singing along to some horrible 80’s music—the type of music (and costumes) which will make you wonder how people actually survived that decade without putting a gun to their head. As the train chugs along, we are shown God and Satan having a conversation in one of the cars, reviewing stories of how people acted in their lives, and deciding who gets to go to heaven and who goes to hell. Three vignettes are then played out, alternating back and forth between them and the two arch-nemeses of  each other discussing what happened.

The first two are nightmares. No, not the stories, but the way they are told. We have a mental hospital which doubles as a front for doctors who harvest body parts and sell them to medical schools around the world. As if that is not disturbing enough, the film goes the extra mile to make sure all victims are captured, driven crazy so they can be admitted as patients, tortured, sometimes raped, and slaughtered violently. Perhaps semi-interesting (though unoriginal), the manner the story is told combined with sloppy editing and even worse special effects leave you wanting to grab the remote and shut this thing off.

The second chapter isn’t any better. While slightly less involved, we get to see a rich husband find out his wife is cheating on him. So he captures the man she is cheating with and straps him down on the floor. He then lies next to him and his wife while a wrecking ball dangles above. In the tradition of The Pit and the Pendulum, it swings back and forth until finally the rope snaps and lands on one of the cheating parties, causing the skull to smash with blood spewing everywhere.

If you manage to make it to the final vignette, you are rewarded by the best one of the trio. A concentration camp victim has been stalking an ex-Nazi from afar. He realizes that he has seen this man in photographs at different points in history…but the man never aged. His friend is a police officer and decides to help him confront the Nazi. It was actually very interesting for the first few minutes, before being side-tracked by additional subplots before this too became a muddled mess. Sure enough, the man is a kind of demon who cannot be stopped, and the finale is so over-the-top and bloody that you can’t help but laugh.

Special effects (a bizarre and laughable combination of robotics, cartoon animation, and stop-motion figures), acting, and writing aside, this project seemed too ambitious even if all the components were actually there. Counting the returns to God and Satan’s ongoing conversation, there are four main stories here. Each one of those then twists and turns, sometimes to the point of making no sense. There are characters who come and go, and the horrible editing really does drive home the point that not even the director knows what the hell is going on here. Any moment of entertainment is quickly washed away when we hear the lines or see the reactions on the actors’ faces. The conversation between God and Satan is somewhat passable. The two actors (Ferdy Mayne and Tony Giogrio) are a bit more restrained than the rest of the cast. But as for the others, sayonara.

Unfortunately, I have found that Night Train to Terror has been put on Blu-Ray and DVD. I was hoping it would have died with the VHS, never to be seen again except by such people who worship these kinds of movies. I’ll give the five directors who made this film (yes, five) a lot of credit for their ambition and effort, but in the end, the product is pretty painful to watch. 3.5 out of 10 stars.

This movie also stars John Phillip Law, Marc Lawrence, and Richard Moll. Directing credits to John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, and Gregg Tallas. 

More posts in my HALLOWEEN 2K16 column can be found here

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