Maybe no one really asked for a remake to 1980’s seminal Jamie Lee Curtis post-Halloween horror classic, Terror Train, but it has arrived anyway just in time for spooky season courtesy of Tubi! Yes, the streamer infamous for its sheer breadth of horror titles and various other free streaming options now has a notable horror remake under its belt! To say that my expectations were low would probably be an understatement, yet to my surprise, Terror Train is a pretty fun slasher. I found myself on this movie’s wavelength as it progressed with similar story beats to the original, honed in on the horrible trauma that bullying can cause. This is not horror to be taken seriously—for easy-watching entertainment that snugly fits its slasher mold, Terror Train is a bloody blast.
Just like the 1980 iteration, this Terror Train opens with a memorable prank that goes awry. Kenny (Noah Parker), the victim of obvious frat-initiation hazing, is left mentally incompetent, wheeled off in what amounts to a strait jacket accompanied by numerous shocked onlookers. Alana (Robyn Alomar), this film’s de facto scream queen, wants to tell the truth about the part they played in Kenny’s trauma, but douchey curly-haired jock Doc (Matias Garrido) channels his best Ryan Phillipe in I Know What You Did Last Summer impression in his insistence that they never reveal what truly happened.
Flashing forward a bit, and we meet a random assortment of characters that are about to board a train, destined for an epically huge frat party. Mo (Corteon Moore), Alana’s boyfriend, and Mitchy, Alana’s blonde bestie, seem to be the least-terrible people among the lengthy group of potential suspects. It doesn’t even take long for the carnage to begin, either. Before boarding, a clown-costumed teen is promptly dispatched in bloody fashion. That’s right, just like in the original Terror Train, the killer nabs the costume of their first victim, and hops on for the ride.
Through the course of the movie, there are a plethora of potential murderers and red herrings galore. David Letterman doesn’t show up, but this Terror Train does still have a mysterious magician (Tim Rozon) who views the kids as self-obsessed privileged assholes. Filled with frat boys, playing pranks is folded effortlessly into the plot so that when bodies start to be discovered, it doesn’t send people into a tailspin. Shifting the action from New Year’s Eve to Halloween instead also allows for a different kind of atmosphere, as well as more costume opportunities that are sadly not taken advantage of nearly enough.
One aspect that let me down here is that in the original, the killer possesses the subsequent costumes of each person he slaughters. That makes for a sort of roulette wheel of costuming, and constantly changes the creepiness. Here, that only happens maybe once; primarily, the assailant sticks to that creepy clown garb seen in all the advertisements. That was definitely a missed opportunity considering the sheer amount of wardrobe changes undergone in the previous iteration. The gore effects are also not the greatest—I noticed a bit of CGI blood here and there, but a couple of the kills are memorably kitschy.
The main thing to remember when sitting down to watch a remake of Terror Train is that it will obviously not touch the original. The movie’s sense of fun is what saves it. With a script by Ian Carpenter and Aaron Martin, the team behind excellent series Slasher, we follow the typical tropes one would expect. However, they are executed in an entertaining and often subversive way. How can one not at least have the slightest bit of catharsis at watching awful people finally get their comeuppance? A brief chase scene had my blood pumping, and a final killer reveal that is equal parts ridiculous cringe meets nostalgic homage is sure to cap off the movie with glee. How much more can one really expect from a Tubi remake of a four-decades-old slasher movie?
Terror Train screened at 2022’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, and comes directly to Tubi for free on Friday, October 21st.