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Film / Terror Train

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By the end of the line, several people will have their tickets punched.

Would you like to board a train which celebrates New Year's Eve all through the night while it is reaching its destination? It has plenty of cool costumes, food, mind-altering substances and loose women! You could say it is the very definition of Cool Train!

Not interested, eh? You might be interested in the fact that it also has David Copperfield performing magic acts.

Now that you're onboard, you should also know that there's also a disgruntled killer, who was a victim of a nasty prank three years ago among the guests. Have fun!

And that's how the plot goes for this 1980 Slasher Movie directed by Roger Spottiswoodenote  and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson and the aforementioned David Copperfield.

Terror Train will be stopping in:

  • Alliterative Title: Terror Train
  • Asshole Victim: Out of the killer's targets, Doc is worst since he insists on pulling pranks which leave others hurt. His case isn't helped when he locks out Alana from his cabin when he thinks that the killer is near.
  • Big Bad: Kenny Hampson is the killer.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Doc finds Mo dead, he starts screaming for help, but is ignored due to his practical joker nature.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The blow-up doll one frat member brings aboard is later used by Alana as a Sleeping Dummy bait for the killer.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Stage magician's female assistant isn't much in focus, because she really is Kenny Hampson in disguise.
  • Closed Circle: The train. And since it's winter, its passengers cannot just leave it and walk to safety.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • Out of the five costumes shown in the German poster for the film, the killer wears only three of them.
    • Most posters show the Groucho Marx costume. In the film proper, this costume is only used when the killer boards the train and is ditched by the time the film reaches the 25-minute mark.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: The killer Kenny has come on board the train disguised as the Magician's Lovely Assistant.
  • Crying Wolf: Due to the frat's reputation for pranks, this happens twice: first when Ed looks for help after being skewered with a magician's sword and is brushed off as yet another prank; and second when Doc carries a dying Mo while screaming for help, and nobody believes him due to his reputation.
  • Dead Hat Shot: Shovels' death is indicated by his bloody hat.
  • Deadly Prank: The Prank Date in the opening, which sets up the future killer for sex... with a dismembered corpse.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Most of what Alana does could qualify. After learning the killer is only after two people on the train, she storms out to confront him (separating from the other target, who has locked himself in a room for safety) loudly proclaiming that "He'll kill everyone on the train!!!" All 50+ people.
  • Disguised in Drag: Kenny Hampson disguises himself as the magician's assistant. His actor was actually a professional drag performer.
  • Dirty Coward: Doc locks Alana out of a train compartment to save himself. It backfires when it turns out that the killer is in the compartment, and decapitates him.
  • Disney Villain Death: The killer is struck from the train with a shovel, and he drops into the icy river below.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Because the killer keeps changing costumes, anyone could be him.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Barring the prologue, the action takes place over a single night.
  • Final Girl: Kenny leaves Alana for last, since it was she who lured him into the bed with corpse although she didn't know it was a corpse at the time.
  • Flashback Echo: The killer is done in when Alana triggers a flashback in his mind to the traumatic prank, making him disoriented enough to be defeated.
  • Giving Them the Strip: When the killer grabs Doc's ankle, Doc crawls away leaving his boot in the killer's grip.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Opening scene's Prank Date does this to Kenny, though according to Alana he was mentally unstable even before that.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: One new year is ruined by setting up a guy in bed with a corpse, the other by having the said guy returning for revenge.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Magician was stabbed several times inside his sword box.
  • Jerkass: Everyone involved in the prank counts, including Alana.
  • Killed Offscreen: Two of the train's crewmen, one of whom was Shovels since Carne mentions "He must have got 'em both".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: What sets Alana apart from the others who were involved in the prank in that she's the only one who feels guilty, and also because Doc lied to her about what they really had planned.
  • Not What I Signed Up For: Alana has at least some right to be angry at Doc for the prank because apparently he didn't tell her they were using a corpse for the prank. When she looks into the bed and sees it's not a dummy, she's clearly disgusted and horrified.
  • Off with His Head!: The killer attacks Doc from behind, and his severed head is discovered later when his cabin is searched.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The magician does it at one point as a part of his act, which has him disappearing from under a sheet and appearing behind his audience.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: How this entire plot started, when Kenny is tricked into bed with a corpse under the sheets.
  • Pick a Card: Carne does this trick with a co-worker of his, and he states that he uses magic trick to break the ice with customers at his other job as RV-salesman.
  • Pirate Girl: Alana boards the train dressed as a pirate.
  • Red Herring: The Magician is one, since he is clearly interested in Alana and later Doc remembers that Kenny was into magic.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A young man slashes his way through the pranksters who caused his mental breakdown.
  • Shaming the Mob: When the agitated partiers think that the magician is behind the killings and are going to rush his cabin, Carne talks them down.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Class Clown Ed is the first victim, notably since he doesn't even make it onto the train.
  • Shovel Strike: During the climax, the conductor hits Kenny twice a shovel, knocking him out of the car, ehere he falls off a bridge and into the frozen river.
  • Slashed Throat: Doc's girlfriend Mitchy thinks that she is going to have good time with Jack, but learns too late that the killer is disguised as him. She is later discovered with her throat slit, much to her friend Alana's horror.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Alana fools the killer by leaving a blow-up doll under a blanket in the compartment where she is supposed to be resting.
  • Tae Kwon Door: Alana kicks the door of the conductor's cage into the face of the killer when she escapes from the crew car.
  • Thriller on the Express: The film's premise, as the killer attacks partygoers on a train.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The killer's reason for killing is him wanting revenge on the boys who organized a cruel prank who lead him in a psychiatric hospital cause the great shock.