Terror Train (1980) Halloween Advent

Rating 18
Length 1h35
Release 4.11.2019 (Blu-ray release)
Director Roger Spottiswoode
About During a hazing, a fraternity of pre-med students has a particularly sinister prank in store for one their more timid pledges (Derek MacKinnon). With the help of a coed, Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis), they pull off the prank so well that the pledge needs to be institutionalized as a result. After several years pass and people forget the incident, those involved with the prank are ready to celebrate their graduation by having a costume party on a train, but they haven’t escaped their past yet.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Trailer:

Trick

  • I have a massive issue with the handling of the trans character. It is a problem that many films have and it feeds into the issue that trans people have in society today. This is not the first film to portray someone who is a trans woman as someone who is not only deviant, but psychologically compromised.
    Over the last year, gender critical activists have used this Hollywood archetype of the trans woman as an excuse for their hate.
    While I give the film credit for hiring a known transvestite for the role, it doesn’t change the fact that the portrayal, and use of the character as a plot device, as grossly problematic.
  • The transition from one New Year’s Eve to another lacks a little context; the viewer certainly does need more than the ‘three years later’ credit. The audience already know going in that the killer is going to be Kenny so making a mystery of it is really pointless. Instead, it would have been better to hear what happened to him.
  • Other than Doc, and the blurb, it wasn’t overly clear that these students are pre-med. Maybe its that I watch too many medical shows, but these people weren’t really characterised as people involved in medicine.

Treat

  • Hart Bocher, who most will know as Die Hard’s smarm Ellis, gets a doucebag expansion in this film. This role was clearly made for Bocher and its wonderful to see this man get more screen time.
  • The fact that we don’t see the first attack is amazing. Even the audience think that Ed is messing about, given that he’s just been near the magician’s equipment.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis gives us a much stronger character than Laurie in Terror Train. She challenges the behaviour of people around her. I also like how much remorse she shows towards Kenny.
  • I love that its set on New Year’s Eve rather than Halloween. I also love the concept of the killer taking on the outfit of the person previously killed. Yes, we know what the killer will turn up wearing next, but the characters in the film don’t and it really adds to the suspense.

Final Thoughts

A film with flaws, but enjoyable all the same.

Airplane! (1980)

Rating PG
Length 1h 28
Release 29.8.1980
Director Jim Abrahams, David & Jerry Zucker
About Ted Striker, a former pilot who has a fear of flying, finds himself burdened with the responsibility of landing a plane safely when most of the crew and passengers fall sick due to food poisoning.


The Good

  • Unlike the spoofs of film genres in the post- Scary Movie era, this relies on good faith prods at other films. By the time Scary Movie had long past its sell by date, it became tasteless and almost painfull. This, on the other hand, has aged well and runs like a fully formed plot with nods to disaster movies like Towering Inferno and Poseidon Adventure. The point being, you do not have to watch all the disaster movies to enjoy this film.
  • Leslie Nielson is the perfect for the role of Dr Rumack. I must admit, I know him from the Naked Gun movies so I assumed this was his wheelhouse. I’d known of his “playing it straight” in 1956’s Forbidden Planet, however I thought that was the exception and not this comedy role. I was surprised how late into the proceedings he actually arrived (I I had totally misremembered him being the stare) and it was only upon reading up on the casting and production that I discovered there had been reservations about casting him. Well, that just made it all the more impressive for me.
  • I loved Otto; the Auto Pilot. It was a little nonsensicle but it made for one most excellent sight gag. Oh, and he even got his own credit on IMDB. Genius.

The Bad

  • Much like with many films of the age, there are some jokes that do not sit as well as they once did. Nothing that would make me disuade people from watching it, but it certainly made me cringe.
  • I did not like the charcter of Ted Hays. I cannot put my finger on what it is, but he irked me. I did, however, find comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone in my feelings.

The Ugly

  • As much as I chuckled and I found it likable. I am rather disappointed that I didn’t laugh more than I did. However, in the film’s defence, I do struggle with a comedy when watching alone.

Final Thoughts

I’m not rushing to watch this again, but I’d certain see it at somewhere like the Prince Charles on a Friday Night; I think it is a film you need to see under the right conditions. Seriously.

The Fog (1980)

Rating: 15/A
Length: 1h 29
Release: 6.11.1980
Dir: John Carpenter
About:Folks get ready to celebrate the centenary of Antonio Bay. But, many had suffered due to crimes that founded this town. Now, they rise from the sea, under the cover of the fog, to claim retribution.


The Good

  • The strength of this film is the atmosphere that’s cultivated with the opening campfire ghost story and built upon throughout the film.
  • I love the character of Stevie. She’d won me over in her first scene when she informs her caller “I’m never lonely”. At no point is she a damsel and I like that. She is a strong character who helps us learn more about the fog and its plans for the town.
  • I love the ending. While ‘old hat’ and not something I would accept from a film today, it was an excellent ‘gotcha’ and makes for an absolute resolution to the narrative.
  • Some of the effects work really well. Namely the plank of wood seeping water scene. I can imagine working with water is difficult at the best of times, but what they achieve there is chilling and entertaining.

The Bad

  • There’s a massive disconnect between the characters. There’s three distinct groups that have no connection with each other until the final act. The town, for me, it too small for this plot element to work. I also wish they’d made the connection between Kathy Williams and one of the men on the ship. I have no emotional attachment to their relationship so her loss has no weight.

The Ugly

  • Jamie-Lee’s Elizabeth feels shoe-horned in just to give her a role. That’s not to say she doesn’t do a good job with what she’s given. It’s just that there are hints to her character being more than she appears, but it ends up going nowhere. Had she have been in the town for a while and leaving as the film starts, I may have bought into her relationship with Nick a little more.
    I don’t buy into her following Nick around the way she does after one shag. I don’t get the build up of mystery for it to lead nowhere.
  • For a small town, I don’t buy into people not knowing each other. Nick is a decedent of the founders and Stevie is an established disc jockey in town. How is that they don’t know each other, even in passing?!
  • The more we see of the ghosts, the less impact they have. In one the final scenes, we really do get too close a look at one of them and it undoes a lot of the tension built.

Final Thoughts

Brilliant premise, with a great leading lady in Adrienne Barbeau, however, the final product feels very disconnected and as a viewer, I struggled to invest in anyone in the town.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

Rating: 12a/A
Length: 1hr 43
Release: 19.2.1981
Director: Jimmy T Murakami & Roger Corman (Uncredited)
About: Akir is a peaceful planet that is attacked by Sador and his army of mutants. Shad, a young Akira farmer hires a group of mercenaries to protect his planet. Will he succeed in his mission?


The Good

  • It actually has some names within the film. Original John-Boy Walton Richard Thomas takes on the ‘Farm boy’ role (Yes, check out Amazon Prime’s description and they liken Thomas’ Shad to Luke Skywalker and Elm Street’s resident sheriff, John Saxon, brings us the destroyer of planets and all-round bad guy, Sador.
  • Man from U.N.C.L.E alumni Robert Vaughn is a decent spot as… well, I’m not quite what he did in the film other than provide a nod to the Magnificent Seven (1960), of which this film is loosely based. I enjoyed his presence, even if I had given up on following the characters at this point.
  • George Peppard is also a hoot to have on board. While he looked familar, I did have to look him up. He’s one quarter of the A-Team. The TV Show, not the film outing that saw Liam Neeson take on the cigar-smoking John ‘Hannibal’ Smith.
  • Had I have watched this with at least half a bottle of wine in me and some drinking game rules to hand, it would have been hilarious. However, I think I’d have irreparable liver damage to go with the giggles.

The Bad

  • When you have a character that is so comparable to Luke Skywalker, you really have to get it right. Unfortunately, Richard Thomas doesn’t work in the role. He comes across more like Wesley Crusher; over keen, too young and floppy haired. He’s a tad annoying and totally in need of seeing a burnt up aunt and uncle to wipe that jolly smile off his face. Even the animated Flick had more charm in the Bug’s Life version of this over-played story.
  • How many characters? Seriously, I felt rather overwhelmed with how many people they brought to help, who didn’t really help and, in some cases, didn’t want to help. From the albino collective who had the TARDIS to the porn warrior and the reptile dude stolen from the Star Trek department, it felt too much and it stopped me getting invested. I mean COME ON, it’s the SEVEN Samurai/ Magnificent SEVEN, not ‘lets invite a rave to our fucking planet’. Specially given that they’re so unbelievably shit.

The Ugly

  • Zed’s Ship! Jesus, you know that bit in every Austin Powers movie when they’re like ‘It looks like a…’ cuts from one location to another ‘…Johnson, did you just see that…’. Yeah, only it looks more like a sex organ abomination. Seriously, you’ve got the top end of a woman’s uterus that leads into a ball sack. Guys, once you see it, you can’t unsee it… and this is where my liver would DIE!
  • While we’re on the subject, the script! Again, if I was drinking for every time a line made me laugh. For example “I can’t take him from the back Nell.”… Yeah, yeah get my mind out the gutter. Believe me, it needs to be in the gutter to come out of this film sane.
  • George Peppard is literally known as Cowboy. They fucking put a Cowboy in SPACE! Yes, its a riff of many of the things this thing is ripping off but it just doesn’t fit. He’d Basically Buck Rogers, without that explanation. He dresses like a cowboy, talks like a cowboy (Hell, he even talks about Custer’s last stand) but I don’t understand why! Oh, he also plays Home of the Range on a fucking harmonica! Its a full fucking house on the Western-bingo card.
  • The TARDIS aliens who share a consciousness have one abducted by the Shit-Thanos and some shit goes does that I really don’t give a fuck about at this point and because they don’t tolerate pain, he dies. Except Sador needs a new arm (again, I don’t know why. I don’t fucking care, I’ve lost the will to live at this point) so he’s given that of the tip-exed alien. The arm goes all Evil Hands on Sador because of ‘shared consciousness’ and the remaining aliens use the connection to try and kill him. Only, they’re so fucking stupid and impatient that they try and do it there and then. Morons!
Tip-exed aliens

Final Thoughts

I don’t fucking know! I feel like… I feel like someone made a computer write a sci-fi script after watching Star Wars, Space Balls, Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon and this was the monstrosity that came out. Its The Room (2003) of the Sci-Fi genre and something I never want to watch again.