Saturday, October 1, 2016

Horror Watch: Night Train to Terror (1985)

so, not even the poster copy writer watched this movie past the two minute mark


Sometimes you stumble onto greatness.  Or, you know, stumble onto... something.

TCM Underground is the late-shift at Turner Classic Movies, given a two-movie window starting at 2:00 AM Eastern on Saturday nights.  I don't watch it all that often, but have been known to check it out from time to time.

Last week, after wrapping up Vampyros Lesbos, I was flipping channels and was curious about the title and then the description of Night Train to Terror (1985).  Something about "God and Satan play chess with the lives of mortals while on a train."  I mean - that's going to be worth investigating no matter what.

Add in some surprise casting including Cameron Mitchell, Richard Moll and John Phillip Law, and you're in for a treat!


In a format that's largely disappeared, Night Train to Terror follows the path anthology films such as Twilight Zone or Creepshow, containing three shorter films stitched together with a framing device.  In this case, that device is a train plowing through the night carrying God in the form of an old white man with a beard (I tend to think God looks more like James Earl Jones circa 1987) and Satan, as a rascally weird-looking white dude (I tend to think Satan looks more like Hot Stuff).  And a porter, who is supposed to be somnambulic and creepy, but seems kinda bored.  On that same train are, for reasons we can't begin to fathom, a terrible 80's band performing in an empty car while young people dance around them, looking vaguely "punk" in the way "punks" were often portrayed on network TV in the 1980's - which means lots of day-glo and a parents-wilting sneer.

Riding on a train that wasn't bound for glory, that's for sure


The individual films aren't great, don't make a lot of sense, and aren't scary, really.  They lack the sort of moral lessons you sort of expect out of a horror movie where God and Satan are battling over your soul, but the movie knows its limitations for the most part and tries to do what it can where it can - occasionally letting its grasp over extend its reach (including a stop-motion/ live-action scene that looks like a cross cut between live action and a Rankin-Bass production).  Also: gratuitous nudity and sloppy violence.

Woof.  Maybe I'll try Shintoism.

One movie was about John Phillip Law being turned into a brainwashed murderer/ sex-slave to a psycho ward run by psychos.  It's not clear what they were up to, but the body parts strewn about tells me it was not a bake sale.  The second movie was actually the best set-up - a guy "rescues" a porn star and then her vengeful ex sets them up to have to partake in a "Death Club" with crazy people who basically play Russian Roulette with a series of contraptions.  The third movie was... I dunno.  Something about Richard Moll as a sort of Christopher Hitchens-type Atheist gadfly, Satan Worshippers, a demon, and Cameron Mitchell as a cop.

All in all, I would thoroughly recommend Night Train To Terror.  It's that kind of mess of a film, but has the feel of folks saying "hey!  How hard could it be to make a horror movie?  What can we put in this thing?"  "My nephew has a band!"  "BRILLIANT!" "I can get Bull from Night Court."  "EVEN BETTER!"  "I want it to be about a psycho psycho ward!" "I want it to be about a death club!" "I want it to be about demon worshippers!" "Hey - IT CAN BE ALL THESE THINGS!"

Maybe a terrible way to roll into my Halloween movies, but there you have it.

2 comments:

Paul Toohey said...

Where were you when I was speaking the praises of this movie 2 years ago? http://placeslost.blogspot.com/2014/10/31-days-of-horror-2014-day-8-night.html

The song is amazeballs.

The story is they just took a couple horrible horror movies and an unfinished one and globbed it all together.

I'm going to listen to that song a few more times.

Ryan Steans said...

I think I actually remember that post. Yeah, that all adds up. One of those films didn't actually have an ending. The porter just says what happened.

Man, hats off to us both for whatever reason watching this Night Train(wreck).