Terror Train is a commercially successful example of the slasher genre but, like many of its brethren, it's a middling piece of work. T.Y. Drake's script is built on a clever conceit -- a killer who can take on any number of guises by stealing the costumes of his victims during a costume party -- but it falls down seriously in other areas. For one thing, the script's nominal heroes are a bunch of spoiled brats who do little to earn the viewer's sympathy and the plot never builds a real sense of urgency once it gets going. Roger Spottiswoode's direction gives the film an atmospheric style, thanks in large part to the excellent photography by John Alcott, but he allows the pacing to drag frequently and never brings a real sense of tension to the story. Jamie Lee Curtis turns in a strong, emotionally-committed performance but doesn't really get to show off her abilities until she faces off with the killer near the end. The climax is a fairly effective piece of work and boasts some haunting final imagery but it's too little, too late. As a result, Terror Train is too mediocre a piece of work to raise interest from anyone but the genre's most devoted fans.
by Donald Guarisco review