Train (2008)

Directed By: Gideon Raff
Written By: Gideon Raff
Starring: Thora Birch
  Gideon Emery
  Kavan Reece
  Derek Magyar

Train is a film of two halves. The first half is interesting, gripping, intense, creepy and brutal. The second half gets lost in its own blood and guts, sloppily executing a lengthy, confusing finale that quickly becomes frustrating. Despite being enjoyable throughout, Train is a significantly damaged vehicle.

Train begins with a man being peeled alive on a table. This grotesque little sequence tells us what to expect – mild confusion and some nasty, explicit gore. Then we’re launched into a wrestling match in Eastern Europe, where an American college team are competing against the locals. After the match, four of the squad go to a local rave / brothel and subsequently miss their train to Odessa. Luckily another train has arrived at the station that is willing to take them. Unluckily for them, once onboard they realise it’s full of weird, spooky travellers and some seriously perverse staff. And then people start going missing…

The initial hour of Train is tremendously creepy, foreboding, and painfully explicit when the Neanderthal-like surgical torture begins. Not for the squeamish, it vividly depicts the gut-ripping violence with cold and calculated calm. Once the action really begins, when the Americans realise that something is dangerously wrong with the people on the train, the pace sadly slips and slips until the film derails entirely. There is so much bafflingly wrong with the latter half and it’s finale that it becomes frustrating and disappointing.

Since American Beauty, Thora Birch has had a variety of roles, from the excellent (Ghost World) to the sincerely God-awful (Dungeons & Dragons), but in Train she barely even has a character, just saying lines like they’re meaningless and bumbling around blindly, without grit, determination or any discernable personality.

Birch’s Alex does, however, win the “Most Useless B*tch of the Decade” award with her ability to literally do nothing right and let everyone die while she runs away and hides. A lot. It’s a frustrating watch, and mildly angering, until she finally decides to pull her finger out of her selfish anus and do something about the murdering European scumbags, albeit far too late and with absolutely no enthusiasm. In truth, all the characters in Train are particularly weak and act like complete buffoons, discarding weapons and splitting up for no good reason.

What began as a remake of Terror Train and then woefully changed track, Gideon Raff’s Train got seriously lost somewhere in its logic-free plagiarizing of Hostel and Paradise Lost. There are too many questions raised that are never answered, and the reason for the murder train’s existence is as equally ridiculous as it is unoriginal, feeling convoluted at best. For a train so well lit, modern and clean (it has a casino and a restaurant!), the “surgery” section is an oddly squalid, dingy shit-hole and one of the many creative decisions that are incongruous and completely bereft of logic.

The final act is also so witlessly bizarre it jolts horribly with what preceded it, sadly just confusing rather than intriguing. It is slow, paceless and seemingly directionless. It makes little to no sense.

Train is enjoyably sick. For gore-hounds that are oblivious to originality or plot or character, this is a bit of a treat. For those who want more from their horror, they will be very disappointed. Train is mostly humourless throughout, entirely baffling when the plot is properly considered, and gratingly dialogue-less for the final half an hour. Even at 91 minutes it feels overly long.

Serious, gruesome, creepy and confusing, Train does a decent job of setting itself up, but a terrible job of delivering. It is a reasonably enjoyable, gory, meandering horror film which will certainly entertain but never fully satisfy.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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