If 1980’s “Terror Train” is considered a slasher film classic by horror afficionados Philippe Gagnon’s 2022 “Terror Train,” likely, will not.
Written by Ian Carpenter and Aaron Martin, the new version of “Terror Train” takes the original film’s plot and drains the fun and creativeness out of it.
After its screening during the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, the film finds itself premiering exclusively on Tubi—that should tell you something about its prospects.
“Terror Train” follows twentysomething student Alana (Robyn Alomar) and a group of college seniors as they board a train headed for a Halloween party. Joining them on the train is a masked killer who offs them one by one.
Not exactly an arena of cinematic originality, but one could have fun with the set up. Unfortunately, the director is so anemic in his directing that it ultimately makes the viewer long for a cheesy creature feature mash-up on Syfy.
Alana takes part in a fraternity prank in which a young pledge named Kenny (Noah Parker) is tricked into getting cozy with a real corpse, a practical joke that causes the guy to go insane.
Three years later, the fraternity holds a Halloween party aboard the titular train involving a cast of uninteresting characters that will have you rooting for the killer.
Among the partygoers are Alana’s boyfriend Mo (Corteon Moore), her annoying best friend Mitchy (Emma Elle Paterson) and Mitchy’s boyfriend Doc (Matias Garrido), who is the one who came up with the idea for the tasteless prank.
In the 1980 film Doc was played with a sense of fun by Hart Bochner. Garrido is so embarrassingly bad and first-degree that it’s impossible to imagine anyone wanting to be around him.
Ben Johnson’s always-watchable presence is sorely missed as Conductor Carne. The character is now played, underwhelmingly, by Mary Walsh, with the once-important character getting sidelined in favor of the unnecessary inclusion of her new assistant Sadie (Nadine Bhabha).
Finally, the party holds a magic session. Once played by David Copperfield (to give 1980 audiences a pop culture thrill), Tim Rozon takes on the role of the magician here and apparently doesn’t realize if his character is to be either a McGuffin, comic relief or a full-on suspect. Either way, the screenplay fumbles the character, which is too bad. Rozon can act and gives the film’s best performance.
Gagnon doesn’t have a firm grip on the material, but how he makes the kill scenes more visceral than the original, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, is noteworthy. After all, modern genre audiences aren’t there for deftly-crafted relationships. They want good kills, and the FX team doesn’t disappoint. This “Terror Train” is more brutal than its predecessor.
The script makes a blunder in removing the original film’s Agatha Christie- Alfred Hitchcock style. Judith Rascoe and T. Y. Drake’s screenplay kept viewers interested and have the film a playful tone. This remake is not exciting, nor does it try to add its own flair and make itself into something unique.
The director also fails in the film’s look. While the original was shot by the late John Alcott (“A Clockwork Orange,” “Barry Lyndon,” “The Shining”), cinematographer Daniel Villeneuve isn’t given much to work with. Gagnon makes sure the train and the terrain around it is rendered in low quality CGI, so the entire picture has a flat look to it, draining any tension from the visuals.
The filmmakers try for a surprise with the final reveal, but if one has watched any horror films (especially the 1980 original), you won’t be fooled.
If you are a fan of Spottiswoode’s film, this version will not play well. If you are an armchair follower of the slasher genre, know that this covers no new ground and dunked a few chances at originality.
If you’re new to the horror genre this is not the film to recruit you.
2022’s “Terror Train” just doesn’t register.