Three years after a nasty prank goes horribly wrong, a group of medical students hold a New Year's fancy dress party on board a moving train.
Terror Train is easily one of the most beautifully shot slasher films of the early 1980s. The lighting and photography design by John Alcott (Barry Lyndon, Clockwork Orange, The Shining)is meticulous at capturing the cold Canadian winter, claustrophobic carriage interiors and party lights. The use of a complex system of ordinary household bulbs and dimmers was incredibly ambitious for a slasher film shot in a mere 25 days.
Debuting director Roger Spottiswoode was not comfortable with the slasher genre and his film reflects this by being more focused on the production design than horror. Nearly every death is off camera, whilst David Copperfield's magic act and veteran actor Ben Johnson get a lot of screen time. However, Terror Train is still one of the best from the era. The way the killer adopts the costumes of his victims is very effective. He looks especially creepy in the Groucho mask. The final chase through the train carriages is really classy and the atmosphere is great. Personally, I prefer it to the other 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis slasher, Prom Night. The supporting cast is pretty good too, with Art "it's a Rolex" Bochner on great sleazebag form, Sandee Currie likable as Jamie's best friend and even David Copperfield being fairly effective as a possible suspect. Interestingly Terror Train owes nearly as much to Agatha Christie as it does to Halloween.
Terror Train isn't strong on kills, but it looks beautiful and is very evocative.
There are at least three versions of Terror Train on disc.
Anchor Bay's is very grainy and in full screen.
Shout Factory's version is also at least a little on the grainy side for Blu Ray , but comes with extras.
The 20th Century Fox's DVD is a double sided disk with no extras besides the trailer, but features both a full screen version on one side and the widescreen on the other. the presentation is fairly clean and it's also the cheapest version.