FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 6, 2008

goin' off the rails...

Good news, friends- I'm not crazy! Not completely crazy, anyway. Allow me to explain...

Night Train to Terror (1985) is an anthology film, and we all know how much I love an anthology film. Night Train to Terror is also part of my mega-cool cheapo 50-pack, Drive-In Classics. Therefore, I did not expect Night Train to Terror to be good, but I did expect it to at least make sense. Just a little. A wee little bit. Just one wee little bit. And all my 63 years on this earth have I ever, ever, EVER, EVARRR seen a film that makes less sense than Night Train to Terror. It makes none. NONE. NOOONNNNNE. While watching it, I thought that (forgive me if you find this offensive) it must have been made by retarded people. As the disjointedness went far beyond that found in your average inept filmmaking, that seemed to be the only logical explanation for what I was seeing.

See, I thought perhaps I'd eaten too much pepper-style Tofurky today or something and that's why the movie was incomprehensible to me; mayhaps the Tofurky gave me brain bloat or something and I wasn't firing on all cylinders. Then I looked up Night Train to Terror on imdb when I set about reviewing the damn thing and I learned a startling fact: the footage for the three segments of Night Train was culled from three feature-length films, one of which was unfinished to begin with. I'd imagine compressing a 90 minute movie into a 20 minute story would be a difficult task for even the most skilled filmmaker; character development and plot intricacies would be the first on the chopping block. But when you've got a crap film to begin with...

Omigod, I love pepper-style Tofurky. It's SO GOOD.

The short of it is, Night Train to Terror is absolutely one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life. Of course, this doesn't mean I won't recommend it, because I will; my recommendation, however, also comes with several staunch warnings. Don't watch it alone (not because it's scary, obvs, but because it's one of those flicks best suffered with friends). It would best be accompanied with a fine beer, wine, malted, or whatever it is that puts you in the mood; perhaps you can theme out and imbibe some Night Train bum wine as you watch- rot your brain and your gut simultaneously! Lastly, holy crap- this movie goes on way too long and really wears out its welcome. It's so atrocious, however, that you may find a little suffering is time well spent.

So Mr. God and Mr. Satan (seriously) are on a train (no, this isn't a bad joke set up...or is it?) discussing the fates of various people over a glowing white table. The window behind them becomes a magic screen where they can watch the antics of said people as they try to figure out who gets which souls. It all makes perfect sense so far.

The only other passengers on the train, it seems, '80s band/dance troupe who seem to be trapped in a perpetual song loop and neverending music video. Night Train to Terror has the most unexpected opening 2 minutes of any movie I've ever seen; the film just launches into the worst video that ever aired on MTV circa '85 with no explanation whatsoever. In fact, the closest thing we get to an explanation regarding their existence comes 80 minutes later, when one of the dancers says "Wow, it's too bad our bus broke down!" Where were they going? Who the fuck are they? No matter! All I know for sure is, their song will get stuck in your head. Aggressively. I boxed my ears for 37 minutes after the movie ended, and I still couldn't get it out.

Case #1: Harry Billings

Harry (John Phillip Law, who's way too cool to be in this caca) is a mild-mannered salesman by day but at night he dives headlong into "cars, women, and booze". On his wedding night, he inexplicably drives off a bridge, killing his new bride. Harry, however, wakes up strapped to a gurney in a padded cell.

The doctors...umm...hypnotize him so he'll hit the town, dosing young women with eeeevil Alka-Seltzer and dragging them back to the hospital where...umm...they get naked and a sweaty, behaired Richard Moll of television's Night Court molests them in a "tune in Tokyo" fashion.

That was the best I could figure out, anyway, until a narrator chimed in 20 minutes later and let me know that the hospital was in the "kidnap young women, kill young women, and sell their body parts to medical colleges" business. Then I saw Richard Moll of television's Night Court's head collection and it all made perfect sense went on for five more minutes.

Harry decides he no longer wants to be a hypnotized accomplice, so he fights his way out of the hospital...I think. Actually, the segment just ends with no real resolution or explanation. Perhaps if I saw the feature from which it's taken, Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars (1992), I'd find out what happens. Then again, that film was never completed! Then again again, I'd kind of rather kill myself than sit through any more of it so that scenario seems unlikely regardless. I will say this sequence almost made the pain and confusion worth it:

Also, there are quite a few bare boobs on display, so if looking at any old pair is your bag, then "The Case of Harry Billings" might be the segment you've been waiting for all your life.

Back to the choo choo for a dance video interlude! Wow, it's the same song we heard earlier!

Case #2: Gretta Connors

I'm just going to explain this the best that I can.

Young Gretta Connors is a musician who supports her piano playing by selling popcorn at the local carnival. George comes along and sweeps Gretta off her feet by stuffing money down her shirt. They move in together; Gretta says she wants to be a movie star, so George gets her working in the porno business. Glen, a pre-med frat boy, sees one of her films and falls in love. He decides he must have her and seeks Gretta out at one of her recitals. Gretta performs at an old upright piano wearing a blazer and underwear while country music plays.

Gretta and Glen fall in love, proving once and for all that stalking is not creepy whatsoever. George is not happy about this. In an effort to get rid of Glen, he invites the young pair to a meeting of The Death Club, where a disparate group of people stage elaborate Russian Roulette sessions. By "elaborate", I mean...they use a talking electrocution computer, a wrecking ball, and a giant claymation mutant bee in their bids to...I don't know, live on the edge or something.

THRILL! to the claymation bee hovering over the fake hand with the swollen thumb!

WONDER! why George doesn't think of an easier way to split up the couple!

Again, the segment just ends. Glen manages to escape the wrecking ball bullet, the bee bullet, and the talking electrocution computer bullet, but there's absolutely no resolution. Hmm. Maybe if I spend 85 minutes watching The Death Wish Club (1983) I'll find out what happens!

Choo choo music break! This time, the singer breakdances to the same song yet again. Yes, he does The Worm. Duh.

Case #3: Claire Hansen

One plot thread of this segment almost makes sense: an elderly Holocaust survivor sees a young man on television and is convinced that the man is one of his Nazi tormentors. He consults a police detective (Cameron Mitchell, who appears in at least 85% of the films found in these cheapo 50-packs) who insists that it can't be the same man- the dude on TV looks like a 20-year-old, not a 70-year-old. Further investigation leaves the Jewish fella dead and the detective on the trail of the young man, who is actually some sort of demon.

That's all do-able, right? Right. Enter Claire Hansen, exit the modicum of logic we've garnered thus far.

Claire Hansen is a successful surgeon; she's pulled out of surgery one day when the body of a "white Caucasian" arrives in the morgue. Yes, apparently she's a surgeon and a coroner. The "white Caucasian" is the Jewish fella, natch, and this draws Claire into the mystery of the Nazi demon dude. The mystery also pulls in her husband, a Nobel Prize-winning author (a bewigged Richard Moll of television's Night Court yet again). I can't really tell you HOW or WHY they're pulled in, beyond the fact that Richard Moll of television's Night Court is an atheist and Claire is a devout Catholic who has been given "special powers" to battle Satan and his emissaries. That's the best I can do for you- this segment is, perhaps, the most ridiculous (which is REALLY saying something)- so I'll just let the screencaps take over. The segment goes on to feature lightning bolts, explosions, a surprising amount of gore, and ample claymation- and I don't just mean claymation monsters. I mean claymation of the people in the film!

I love the seam in the sky of the beach scene.

Back on the choo choo, our '80s-flavored friends are still playing the same fucking song, still trapped in the same fog-laden music video.

The train then...turns into a model train, although I don't think it's actually supposed to BE a model train. Regardless, it explodes.

God decides to bless the musicians...THE SONG STARTS OVER AGAIN...and the train choo choos off INTO OUTER SPACE.


I know what you're thinking: "I must see Night Train to Terror, no matter the cost!" If I came across this review and saw the space train, the claymation, and OH GOD THAT BEE, I'd be thinking the same thing. I'm not going to tell you NOT to see it- on some level, this wretched fuck up of a film is enjoyable. I will say, however, that 90 minutes of wretched fuck up is a very long time, so your tolerance will be tested big time. Going into Night Train knowing it's a confusing, disjointed mess certainly gives you an advantage I did not have, however.

Godspeed, my friends...or is that Mr. Godspeed?


Unknown said...

I've bought 50 packs like this.
Then after like the second one, I realized why the movies, with such interesting names, are included in a set that's only like $10.

Sometimes, the movies even make me not want to watch horror movies anymore. That scares me more than the movies.

Anyway, I was wondering how you take your screenshots. I've been trying to find something that works in Windows Media Player, and I've searched all over the place to get rid of that black screen thing that happens when you have the hardware acceleration on, but nothing is working.

Kmork said...

'I know what you're thinking: "I must see Night Train to Terror, no matter the cost!" If I came across this review and saw the space train, the claymation, and OH GOD THAT BEE, I'd be thinking the same thing.'

The scene with the claymation cop (or some guy with a gun) getting squashed by the demon sealed the deal.

Koompa said...

Hey, Stacie. Long time reader, first time comment-er. Awesome review, I like how you gave us the highlights so we don't have to sit through the minutes of crap. Some of my favorites:

Any time someone's head gets knocked off (not cut off) by a household object followed by a spirt of blood makes my inner child squeal with glee. It's almost as good as heads exploding for no dicernable reason.

The claymation figure getting stomped by the claymation demon looks like something out of Mr. Bill's own personal hell.

Deep down, every man want's to play with a woman's boobs like they're radio knobs.

BTW: I'm pretty sure the band's bus didn't break down. It crashed and they all died. So the train is like the train to the afterlife and Mr. God and Mr. Satan are actually hosts of a popular show on VH1 Classic and they're like judging the video and stuff blows up and stuff...

Anonymous said...

I've been throwing Night Train to Terror parties for years. Never fails.

And good luck just trying to show a living room full of people just the first few minutes. Because they won't let you turn it off and you'll all end up watching the whole thing. On purpose.

I can't love this movie more.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ryne: for screencaps, I use a freeware program called DVD Capture. You'll have to Google that, as I don't remember where I found it. I'm on Mac, though, so I don't know if you'll have any luck with it.

Koompa: I like your thinking, and a Carnival of Souls type twist would have worked here (a bit, anyway). The only problem is, the band didn't die until the train exploded at the end!

Actually, the only problem is that they didn't stay dead- they got up and started that infernal song again.

Jason Adams said...

I got as far as "mayhaps the Tofurky" and had to come and comment.


I have missed you so much, Stacie.

Now back to reading the rest!

spazmo said...

ryne~VLC Media Player plays damn near every format (including DVDs), is free, and has a handy "snapshot" function.

Despite all your warnings and caveats Stacie, I am now itching and burning to see this cinematic masterpiece/abortion.

Then again, maybe I'm just super-stoked to be alive right now - I came this close to hitting a deer this afternoon. The damned thing was HUGE, too; like some kind of prehistoric Deerasaur.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Soto said...

Stacie (Hope I spelled it right this time),
Me being me, I HAVE to see this movie now. Any further damage to my brain I will blame you though.

FatalPierce said...

When I watched this it was enough to drive me to put the 50 pack away for a while. So boggled was my mind that I didn't even think about or have the energy to look it up on IMDB.

Had I attempted to think about this movie enough to write up a warning about it my head would have explode. Stacie, you took a dangerous risk for the people. How much do we pay you again? Whatever it is consider it doubled!

Rhubarb said...

Claymation? Steam trains in space? Are you sure this isn't the sequel to that creepy Mark Twain film?

I now have to see this film. I have to see every film that features steam trains in space. There is no choice.

Anonymous said...


Ryne I'm not positive it works with movies but there's a program called FRAPS ( for capturing live screenshot 'movies'. Normally used for video games but should work for any video.

I have no words for how fucking awesome a movie this looks to be! You get TWO movies with Bull in them?!? That's just missing a scene from Metalstorm (maybe when the train takes off for space it'll land in his web) for the trifecta of terrible! But look on the bright side, you got to see someone do the worm and die for it. :D

Laure Eve said...

Oh. My. God.

This might be the best film i've ever wanted to see.

Just to clarify, i think Street Fighter is really very entertaining, so you understand how low i go. And i can guzzle wine through the boring bits. It'll be put up as a film night proposition with some carefully selected friends. Because of you! See how the word is spreading like a flaky rash!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goddess, this review makes me wanna watch all four films together, only question is to watch Night Train to Terror first or the other three (if I can find Marilyn Alive and Behind Bars) first so as to better decipher Mr. God's & Mr. Satan's interpretations...

rob! said...

wow, this makes me wanna see this movie!

that one photo of Greta playing the piano looks like Jenny Lewis, sans pants.

not that i'm complaining.

Unknown said...

Hi there

I hadn't watched this movie in a really long time -- I first read about it in an early issue of Psychotronic Magazine 15+ years ago and obviously it's one of those films once you hear a synopsis of that you're like "I have to see that!" I was happy that your blog reunited me with it, this weekend, with a group of 6 or 7 people and a lot of booze. Man that thing delivers. Thanks for summoning this back into my world, I'm a better person now. And so are my friends.

The one thing you left out in your otherwise incredibly detailed synopsis is that the final mini-film ends with REAL OPEN HEART SURGERY cut into it. Talk about bananas, man oh man...

Stacie Ponder said...

Holy crapping crap, that surgery was REAL? No wonder I found myself thinking that the effects looked so good! Good and gross.

I can't believe how many people are familiar with this movie. Where have I been for the last 20 years??

Pokemon postmon said...

Okay, so I was wondering if you'd got around to reviewing 'Tokyo Gore Police' and this is what came up in my search! I mention this as I watched the first hour of this movie the other night on some z-list channel. I even turned to my wife and said during the first segment that this looks like a movie that ran outta budget half way through and they just editted together what fil they had. What an eductaed guess that turned out to be!! I'm disappointed that I didn't see the claymation finale now so I'll be keeping my eyes open for a rerun!

highwayknees said...

Oh man Stacie! We have a theater in L.A. called Cinefamily that has wonderful programs of masterpieces like this on weekends. They have titled this type of film genre HFS, (Holy F**KING SHIT!!)

And they are a joy to behold in a packed house full of film geeks yukkin'it up!

ANYWAY-they actually showed this one night on a triple bill with other horror anthologies like CREEPSHOW.

And I see I made the grave mistake now of not getting my fanny over there tout de suit! DAMN!

(Mainly for that deathless music video! haha. Those fashions are killin' my ass! har!)

Hasimir Fenring said...

"I know what you're thinking: 'I must see Night Train to Terror, no matter the cost!'"

By God, you read my mind, right down to "no matter the cost!". If you pictured me raising my hand and clenching it dramatically into a fist upon uttering this phrase, then damn it take the spy camera out of my room. It's creeping me out.

You had me at John Philip Law, but Richard Moll, too? If only they'd gotten Joe Don Baker, this would be the best movie evar!