Terror Train Review: Punch Your Ticket To Boredom [Brooklyn Horror Film Festival]

Remakes like Philippe Gagnon's "Terror Train" will always face comparison complaints based on their existence, which is why I try my best in reviews to treat them as standalone. Critique the movie you're given — like this bargain bin, zero momentum slasher. "Terror Train" is the latest in a string of Tubi originals taking the SYFY route of The Asylum-level productions, filled with shoddy effects and worse performances. "Terror Train" is a deadly whodunit without any terror, proving itself inadequate before tickets are punched and conductors discover passenger corpses.

Writers Ian Carpenter and Aaron Martin take the "frat hazing gone wrong" route when a pledge at [insert generic Greek letters] kisses a corpse (as a prank) and instantly goes insane. Alana (Robyn Alomar) is the sorority sister who lured the eventual psych asylum patient into a bedroom with promises of sex, now stuck with the guilt. Her boyfriend Mo (Corteon Moore) and his best friend Doc (Matias Garrido) hold the same secret, with Doc taking the role of heartless dudebro, angrily threatening anyone who dares spill the beans. All three characters and their other Greek brothers and sisters put the incident behind them and look forward to a Halloween costume party aboard a looping train. They hope for an escape — but an uninvited guest starts murdering partygoers, and all signs point toward revenge.

You've seen movies like "Terror Train" on countless late-night movie stations, filling time when the sleepiest or least sober viewers throw quality out the window. Characters are college stereotypes trimmed from better scripts, and the kills are bloody but forgettably executed. There's a cheese factor that might be trying to recall 1980's original, but the problem is, 80s horror has an authentic period vibe — recreating an era isn't as easy as absurd introductions. "Terror Train" is one of those remakes where you laugh at unintentionally funny moments but struggle to find worth in the most unenthusiastic executions.

Elements seem hacky and forced, like horny class clown Ed (Alexandre Bacon) bringing a lifelike sex doll along or Doc's alpha-assh*le "pranks" (the meanest of spirits) followed by his toxic personality. The script's sense of humor and emphasis on brutality never align, which creates flatlining fraternity drama delivered by overacting hambones. Scenes never feel as claustrophobic as they should aboard a locked-down metal tube, while characters continue being the worst versions of themselves because it'll make the best conflicts. It's a mess of hormones, betrayal, and soapy nonsense, none of which feels natural. As far as the non-slashy aspects of this barely-chugging-along slasher go, it's grinding its gears with a grating metal-on-metal screech.


As for the Halloween horror elements, we're shown generic costumes and middling swords-through-guts gags between dance floor filler. Before boarding, the killer collects a clown costume that becomes his rubbery red-and-white camouflage and sometimes trades for a lizard getup. Victims are stabbed and opened (typically with incisions out of view), which does allow for ample blood spilling, but there's nothing exceptionally energetic about Ronald McMurder's rampage. Comparisons to The Asylum ring true based on how "Terror Train" feels recycled from better parts, always imitating greats like "Friday the 13th" without creative know-how. There's so little to say about the suspense of uncovering who's under the villain's mask, which tells it all — there's not even a cathartic release from watching cheaters, liars, and all-around scumbags meet karma's sharpened blade. It's an oddly nondescript stalk-and-slice flick, barely registering as "formulaic."

The only reason to gamble on "Terror Train" is Tim Rozon's liquor-soaked magician with a "dark" edge. Yes, Mutt Schitt plays a hired entertainer who continually hits on Alana by insulting her sorority affiliation and becomes the obvious red herring. Interrogations end with eye-roll sleight of hand gags, while dudebros get pissed when the older, "suaver" entertainer tries to bag their dates. As a magician plant meant to draw our blame, Rozon has the steely smolder down, and hidden psychopath aura turned way high. Anytime Mr. Magician is on screen, the film earns an entire extra star — unfortunately, this movie isn't solely about a magician stuck on a college party train that he can't escape.

"Terror Train" commits the sin of being forgettable with unfortunate ease. Even for a streamable slasher that costs zero dollars to rent, it fails to earn a recommendation. That's not because it pales in comparison to the Jamie Lee Curtis starring "Terror Train" or because there's no Groucho Marx disguise. Philippe Gagnon's "Terror Train" fails on its own merits, a banal horror imposter that is neither goofy enough to endure nor composed enough to appreciate. No film, remake or original, should hope to meet such a fate.

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 10