Lionsgate // 2008 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 20th, 2009
Next stop: Hell.
Torture-horror goes mobile.
Thora Birch (American Beauty) stars as an underachieving member of a college wrestling team that's touring Eastern Europe, even though everyone knows Eastern Europe is full of homicidal psychopaths. After she and her teammates sneak out of their dorm to party and return late, they miss their train and are forced to hop on another operated by a seemingly altruistic woman.
It all goes out the window, when the first of their party is captured, strapped to an operating table, and hacked to bits by a hulking Eurotrash guy. Looks like the operators of the train have a gruesome side job that entails stabbing, cutting, eye gouging, and intestinal removal.
More torture-porn. By now, you should be used to the formula and, aside from a few twists (the train setting, the motivations of the bad guys), Train doesn't do anything terribly inventive with the admittedly simple concept of "make obnoxious twenty-somethings howl in pain." The torture-happy plot eventually transitions into more of a survival/terror outing -- which is appreciated -- but, if I told you I was on the edge of my seat at anytime, I'd be lying.
How many times are we supposed to watch the good guys, desperate to escape their evil captors, temporarily disable them with a shot to the head or an axe to the sternum only to run away and not finish the job. Come on, surely these people have seen these kinds of movies before and know that the crazy dude will be back in a few minutes to let fly with more violence. I know that's a hack criticism of a horror movie -- it's mandated in some EU treaty that horror movies must be stocked with complete idiots -- but isn't that where torture movies score most of their tension, asking the question "What do normal people do in these horrifying situations?" Nothing pulls me out of a movie more than dumb characters making dumber choices.
That and the inevitable sequence when a small, 100-poubnd girl suddenly turns into an invincible superhuman who can beat a giant, scary killer in a fistfight. Again, it's a prerequisite for the genre, and I appreciate the comeuppance delivered to the villains -- always the high point in these films -- but it's just another element that dismantles the suspension of disbelief.
Enough griping. If this is your bag, I'm confident you'll enjoy Train. The torture scenes are suitably disturbing and graphic (the opening title card features a flaying, for crying out loud) and the killer's motivations are interesting. The gore effects are also top-notch and the big, flaming finale is well-staged.
Lionsgate's DVD is up to, er, snuff, starting with the effective 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, a 5.1 surround mix, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
I'm about out of gas with the genre and its ludicrous conventions, but aficionados should find value with Train.
I'd like to get off at the next stop, please.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R