Train (2009)

TrainReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Thora Birch, Derek Magyar, Kavan Reece, Gloria Votsis, Todd Jensen, Koyna Ruseva, Vladimir Vladimirov

Written & Directed by Gideon Raff

Train was originally announced as a remake of the 1981 Jamie Lee Curtis slasher flick Terror Train. Dropping “terror” from the title makes perfect sense; the movie has about as much in common with the original as it does with the very concept of terror, which is to say nothing.

Train is a vile film. It’s also frequently dull and insultingly dumb to boot. The horror genre often gets a bad wrap and movies like this are why it gets that bad wrap. This even gives torture porn a bad wrap. With the Saw films or Hostel or this past summer’s The Collector or even notorious gorefests like Cannibal Holocaust you can at least somewhere within them find some level of intrigue or suspense or foreboding, characters you care about or villains you fear, at the very least some sense of macabre fun or artistic merit that at least attempts to justify the repulsive imagery. Writer-director Gideon Raff (The Killing Floor) seemed to be so more interested in outdoing Saw and Hostel in the gruesome department that he completely forgot about making a halfway decent movie to make those gruesome moments relevant as anything more than mean-spirited sadism for sadism’s sake. I’m no prude when it comes to gore. I can appreciate a good bloody kill. But all this execrable movie is is a pointless exercise in seeing characters you’re given no reason to care about rendered helpless and getting eviscerated while screaming or crying.

Members of a college wrestling team are competing in Eastern Europe. We’re supposed to believe Thora Birch is a struggling amateur wrestler – yeah right. Her more successful boyfriend is the captain of the team. Another guy on the team is just there to get chopped up and the other girl is only there to provide some rape meat. The personality of their coach leads me to believe the actor was under the mistaken impression he’d been cast as Neidermeyer in a remake of Animal House. The team gets aboard the wrong train believing it will take them to their next meet somewhere in Russia. Faster than you can say “Hostel meets Turistas on a train” it turns out the train they are on is home to a ruthless band of organ stealers and they have been chosen to become unwilling donors.

Every Russian character in the entire movie with one exception is portrayed as either outright evil or just unfriendly to Americans. The primary nogoodnicks are comprised of the Ilsa-esque lady doctor, the disaffected train conductor, an odious pair of Tweedledum and Tweedledee Russian inbred types serving as henchmen, and this mute brute of a butcher does the organ removals with all the grace of Leatherface performing delicate surgery. Only the train conductor comes across as a plausible human being, numbingly disgusted by what he is involved in but still willing to suppress those feelings for the cash involved.

Organs cannot be harvested from a corpse so they have to keep their donor pateints alive until they’re completely finished with them. There is no logical reason as to why these organ stealers don’t keep them sedated other than then we wouldn’t get to hear them scream bloody murder or sob uncontrollably as they get carved up. Need a heart? Just take a buzzsaw and eviscerate a guy as he screams and his arms flail about; then proceed to rip his rib cage completely open and pluck the heart out with your bare hand. Removing organs for transplantation is a delicate operation that requires sanitary environments – not here. Why wait for the medical facility at the end of the line when you can perform complicated transplantation procedures aboard a rickety speeding locomotive.

Even suspension of disbelief cannot make you believe one can receive an eye transplant and already have their bandages off in only a few short hours. But then not doing so would have denied us the cheap scene when Thora Birch recognizes a friend’s eyes looking back at her.

I was also unaware that medicine has developed penile transplant technology either, because heaven forbid a movie that revels in sadism like this not get a chance to castrate a wide awake guy begging for mercy while hanging from hooks. I am sure that if such a procedure had been invented the removing of the penis to be transplanted would require amputation a bit more delicate than lopping it off in a single blow with a big knife as if one were cutting off a sausage link in a hurry.

The non-Thora Birch female wrestler is given away to Russian soldiers as a bribe to keep them mum about the goings-on aboard the train. This made me wonder why the filmmakers held back when it came to rape. I’m not saying I wanted to watch this girl get violently gang raped by a group of men; I’m just wondering why the filmmakers decided showing us any of this would have been going too far. Thora Birch narrowly escapes getting raped by one of the “Tweedle” henchmen; the other I think was seen in the background humping what might have been the other girl before she got given away to be sexually assaulted to death. If your whole movie has nothing to offer but cruelty and barbarism disguised as entertainment then why hold back when it comes time for the women in the cast to be sodomized by cretins? This is a movie where two guys bash another guy’s face to a bloody pulp with brass knuckles and then tag team piss in his open facial wounds, a movie where a guy strung up with spikes through his wrists still thrashes about a little too much so they slice his back open with a knife and break his spine with a hammer and chisel; why is showing us violent rape the line they wouldn’t cross?

I found nothing at all entertaining about Train and it kind of makes me wonder about the people that would enjoy a film as abhorrent as this. We’re past mere gorehound territory here and into the worst aspects of torture porn. Give props to the people in the make-up effects department because they have done their job creating realistic looking gore. They are the only people involved in the making of Train that deserve any credit.

When Thora Birch finally does turn the tables on these scumbags during the even duller third act (much of which plays like a prolonged game of “Hide & Go Seek”) none of what she does feels sufficiently tit-for-tat compared to the suffering she and her friends went through. It’s also ludicrous seeing her use an amateur wrestling technique to thwart a brutish powerhouse four times her size. The ultimate lesson of Train as displayed by the final scene is – I kid you not – that enduring this torture porn hell has finally made Birch’s character into a skilled amateur wrestler.

1 out of 5

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  • The Lurker In The Shadows

    Have to agree pretty much 100% with this review. I’d pretty much expected a modern “Terror Train” (without even knowing it was supposedly a remake), and not this grubby, unpleasant piece of rubbish. It looked like the makers wanted to throw as much horrible crap as possible at the screen, with pissing and vomiting thrown in in case they thought there wasn’t enough blood.

    I like Thora Birch a lot, so hopefully she won’t find her career side-tracked into these kinds of films.

    Incidentally, while the review says, “the other I think was seen in the background humping what might have been the other girl before she got given away to be sexually assaulted to death”, I think the guy was actually having sex with the opened up torso of one of the male victims, who we saw dragging through the shot. Not entirely sure, though, and I won’t be rewatching to find out.

  • aphexbr

    I never cared all that much for the original Terror Train, so a remake didn’t bother me. I was then fine with the fact that this wasn’t a remake after all, since that made me think they might be concentrating on original ideas.

    Then I saw the trailer and gave up on it. “Hostel on a train” was what it screamed out to me, and I found Hostel pretty worthless (annoying idiots for 1 hour followed by 5 minutes of gore and stupid chase). Nice to see a trailer that accurately portrayed its source for once, so I knew not to bother…

  • theGoldenSimatar

    I was kinda looking forward to this one when it was first announced. It seemed like a great setup for some tight suspense paid off with some blood and viscera. However this review and others have given me some serious doubts if even renting it is worth the $4.

  • DavidFullam

    Some of it may have to do with her Dad/manager. He is supposedly a real asshole/control freak who caused a ruckus more than once in her work.

  • hegemon13

    Yeah, I only made it about 25 minutes into this one before I gave up. Among the “protagonists,” there were two characters: male and female. They just cloned those two for the other bodies. They were all unfathomably stupid. SPOILERS AHEAD! (Not that it matters.) For example, how about we accept an invitation to a party from an opponent who hates us an has just threatened us? That will go well. Or, how about we “hitchhike” on an ancient, falling-apart train? Because, after all, every employee at an international train station is so monolingual that they will just ignore you if you speak English, even when you repeatedly shout the name of your destination. Oh yeah, and when two slimy, dirty guys with about four teeth between them demand your passport to “protect” it right after grabbing your ass, you should of course hand it over without argument. END SPOILERS. And that’s only a third of the way into the movie. Total crapfest. Avoid!

  • The Unknown Murderer

    Thora’s career has seriously tanked. What happened? She choose too many terrible roles in a row?

    • Rorschach

      Ehhh….she hasn’t hit Tara Reid or Lindsay Lohan levels yet. There’s still a chance she might end up in a decent movie.