Horror train films are few and far between, but one inevitably shows up every decade or so. The best one, by far, is 1972's "Horror Express." Then there was the "Halloween" clone "Terror Train" back in the 1980s -- basically "Prom Night" set on board the orient express. Now nearly 30 years later, we get the "Hostel" clone "Train."
For a train horror film to work, you really need a storyline that has a large group of people, forced to spend time with one another in a train, battling some evil. Basically we're talking "Murder on the Orient Express" here. Basic concept: A bunch of people are trapped on a train together going someplace, some evil is unleashed (be it a killer or some supernatural entity) and they have to work with each other to battle what's loose.
The problem with "Train" is that it's storyline really doesn't need the train. In fact, the only reason it involves a train at all is that this film started off as a remake of "Terror Train" before morphing into "Hostel" on wheels.
Twenty years from now, "Train" will simply be remembered as a clone of "Hostel." Taking its cues directly from that film, it shakes up the story line a little by making the evil organization of the film an organ dealership instead of a torture supermarket. But the ideas are basically the same: A group of young Americans party too much while in Europe, they are seduced into spending the night aboard an evil train, and they are then taken down sadistically by bad guys with thick East European accents. The sole survivor needs to connect with his/her killer instincts to survive. Director Gideon Raff simply replaces the hostel with a train.
This film has "American Beauty" starlet Thora Birch in the lead role as the surviving female. She and a portion of her wrestling team miss a train to East Europe. Luckily, her coach finds them a new ride on board a spooky looking express with some real nasty looking characters on board.
Naturally, during the journey, members of their entourage begin disappearing and waking up in cages inside a torture chamber where limbs and body parts are removed by sinister, East European surgeons not interested in applying anaesthetic. They will, however, cut the victim's vocal chords, a la "Dr. Butcher M.D." While the doctors are strictly business when it comes to removing organs from young Americans, their slobbering henchmen are quite sadistic, urinating on victims that they kidnap.
The film basically involves the Americans getting separated on the train. Things finally come to a head when Birch's character investigates the disappearance of her boyfriend and things get confrontational with the conductor (Valentin Ganev, of "The Abandoned"), who promises he'll conduct a full investigation of their missing team mates -- in the morning. By the time the surviving team members get an understanding of what's going on, they're already in cages.
A deeply flawed film, since the whole idea of an organ donor program on a train makes no real sense, "Train" has its moments, but for the most part leaves the viewer not caring about any of the characters and unable to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the movie. Birch delivers a flat performance in the starring role. And ultimately, it's impossible to get over just how awkward and unnecessary the train setting is to the story.