Dir. John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossenberg-Cohen, and Gregg C. Talas
Imagine you are on a train, it’s the dead of night, but it’s not dead quiet.
Instead, there is a group of young people with perms and teased hair, dressed in headbands, leg warmers, and off the shoulder sweaters. You’d swear they were going to the gym.
But then the synth-driven pop rock starts, the kids start dancing, and a young man who undoubtedly was named the best “vocalist” in his high school’s lip sync contest after his pyrotechnic rendition of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” (dance moves included) begins to, er, sing:
Daddy’s in the dining room
Sorting though the news.
Mama’s at the shopping mall
Buying new shoes.
Everybody’s got something to do
Everybody but you.
C’mon and dance with me, dance with me
Dance with me, dance with me
Everybody’s got something to do
Everybody but you.
In a second passenger car, God and the Devil sit at a glowing table and debate free will and temptation, and whether it is better for humanity to live righteous and find eternal salvation, or live in sin and find eternal damnation.It is almost midnight. The train will crash at dawn, killing everyone aboard. To pass the time, and see who is correct in their theological debate, the Big G and Satan look out into the starry night and beyond to watch three tales of terror unfold.
Our first segment tells us of Harry, a man who likes cars, women and booze. He and his new bride have been in a car crash on their wedding night, killing her and finding him laid up in a sanitarium, receiving shock treatment. Harry is then put under hypnosis by the head doctor and sent out into the community to drug women and bring them back to the sanitarium, where they end up nude and strapped to a bed, Harry even goes so far as to slip a drug into the communion wine of the woman next to him at church.
What sordid business is really going on at the sanitarium? And can Harry break the chains of his hypnotic servitude and redeem himself?
Our second segment tells us of Greta, a young musician from a small town who has come to the big city. To support her piano playing, she works at a carnival. After selling popcorn to a man, George, who stuffs dollar bills down her shirt, Greta agrees to go home with him. George ends up getting Greta to “act” in historical pornographic films. One evening, a med student named Glenn sees Greta in a stag film while stopping by his fraternity house for a beer, and he falls in love with her.
Glenn finds Greta at a club, they start to date, and have fun at the carnival—until George sees then there. No one walks out on George.Still holding a strange power over Greta, George decides to exact his revenge by inviting the couple to The Death Club—an evil society run by George and his business partner, The Contessa …
In our third segment, we meet Claire, a highly-respected surgeon, devout Catholic and wife to a Nobel prize wining husband.She is startled awake by a nightmare about Nazis at a party where the orchestra is killed by a especially sinister officer.
Cut to an elderly Jewish man who sees the same sinister officer on TV, looking the same age as he did during wartime, and pledges to kill the Nazi who killed his family years ago. Against his neighbour’s advice, the old man goes to his foe’s apartment, pistol in hand, and is promptly killed.The next day, his corpse ends up on the autopsy table of Claire, who determined he was the victim of blunt force trauma. In addition to his concentration camp tattoo, she notices he has a much more recent marking which he must have received at his time of death: the number 666 burned into his chest.
Meanwhile, Claire’s husband has published a book called “God Is Dead,” and is threatened by a zealot, also bearing a 666 mark, who tells him he is going to Hell.
What follows is a whirlwind of disco and satin baseball jackets, claymation demons squishing claymation humans, and much fuss over a box made of wood from the True Cross into which the heart of the Devil must be placed.
This is a nasty little anthology film packed with sadistic violence, blood and gore, and an astounding amount of female nudity, and at times even boasts decent special effects, including a charming but deadly stop motion Tanzanian winged beetle and an electrocution, Russian roulette-style.
Yes, the acting ranges from merely passable to downright awful. Yes, the film seems rushed, like there was no time for more than two takes per scene. Yes, there is a clunky, voice-over narration at points in each sequence. Yes, we have to hear the same band sing the same song between each story segment (although one time there is slow-motion, white boy break dancing).
But as should be evident from the synopses above, the real joy of NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR is its unpredictable and downright bizarre story segments. It’s truly chaotic. It’s a mess. I am a lover of horror anthology films as it is, but I found NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR to be a delightful surprise. I actually had a smile on my face as I repeated several times, “What the hell is going on here?” and “How could the next segment possibly top this one?”
I even enjoyed the unexpectedly serious debate between God and the Devil.
More than anything, it seems the filmmakers were having a blast paying homage to Amicus and other purveyors of portmanteaus while also trying to make a quick buck, throwing every exploitative element they ever wanted into one anthology film.
It’s no DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, but it’s great fun nonetheless.