September 1, 2013

Train (2008)

Directed by Gideon Raff. Starring Thora Birch ("Alex"), Gideon Emery ("Willy"), Kavan Reece ("Sheldon"), and Derek Magyar ("Todd"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Lionsgate)
Running time: 01:34:15
Country: USA

Were you ever so convinced to have not seen a movie that you'd be willing to bet your life on it, only to watch said movie and realize you've totally seen it? This has only happened to me once in my life, and that film would be TRAIN. This is a pointless anecdote, but, really, what does that say about a film? My memory sucks, but it's not that shitty. How bad could TRAIN be for me to have no recollection whatsoever of watching it; not only that, but also having no recollection of the circumstances in which I watched it. The gruesome opening moments of the film and a good majority of the HOSTEL-like first act seemed so familiar, but the second half of the movie did not. Perhaps I watched it a few years ago and never finished it? Fuck if I know.

My first thought when watching this film - aside from being surprised by the amount of gore in the first couple of minutes - was: "Why can't Thora Birch be as cute in every movie as she was in GHOST WORLD?" For reals.

As I alluded to, TRAIN is similar to HOSTEL in some ways. In fact, TRAIN is like HOSTEL... on a train. If that makes any sense. A group of American amateur wrestlers travel to Eastern Europe for a competition. The opening minutes of the film indicate some serious danger up ahead for the protagonists, but that kinda goes without saying at this point considering it's a horror movie set in Eastern Europe. Anyone who's seen enough horror movies knows that nothing good ever comes of Americans abroad, especially if they set foot in Central or Eastern Europe. Such is the case for the group of characters here, who somehow wind up on a rickety train full of shady people and are immediately forced to surrender their passports. Without getting into too much details, an Ilsa-like character oversees brutal acts of torture and barbaric surgical procedures on the very train that the protagonists are on, and it becomes clear sooner than later than them ending up on that particular locomotive is no coincidence.

Initially I found it to be an interesting choice for the lead characters here to be amateur wrestlers. Usually, when it comes to these sorts of Tourist Horror movies, the protagonists are just on vacation or something, but in this case the characters are competitors in a sport. But still... amateur wrestling? Thora Birch a mat wrestler? Yes and yes. Not that this bothered me or anything, but I thought it was unusual. As the movie progressed, I hoped for, at the very least, some sort of pay-off with the wrestling background of the characters. To my surprise, there is indeed a pay-off.

Again, as I made mention of earlier, the film shows you quite a bit in the opening minutes and sets the stage for something truly dark and gruesome. I was surprised to see a money shot so early in the movie, but I took it as a good sign. The good news is that there are moments of extreme gore throughout TRAIN. I mean, it's not on the level of A SERBIAN FILM or anything, but some of the gory set-pieces in TRAIN rival some of the nastier moments in the HOSTEL films, which is no surprise considering how much Eli Roth's films obviously inspired this one. The bad news is that the only thing TRAIN has going for it is the gore, aside from maybe the decent cinematography and some good outdoor scenes and locations.

It goes without saying that the "Final Girl" is Thora Birch's character, and she does have a bad-ass moment or two towards the end of the film, but her performance was a bit strange; she's surprisingly calm throughout and doesn't sell the peril that she finds herself in very well. Frankly, she just seemed kind of annoyed rather than terrified. Overall, I found this to be a very middle-of-the-road film, but far from unwatchably bad. For the most part, TRAIN is a pretty uninspired film with dull characters and a fairly predictable plot. If you watch this for the violence, you'll more than likely be pleased, but I'm sure you'll be left wanting to just watch the HOSTEL movies, or other films of the sort, since they're arguably a bit more entertaining and satisfying as a whole. If the HOSTEL films do absolutely nothing for you, it's safe to say that you probably won't enjoy this one.

Score: 5.5

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