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Top 10 Terrifying Movie Trains!

A quick show of hands, how many of you have ever traveled by train? It can be a pretty harrowing if not thrilling endeavor, no? Sure it can! Which is why the speeding locomotive has for decades been a fraught cinematic setting. And no, MONEY TRAIN doesn't count!

In fact, opening next week is a cool sounding Korean zombie flick called TRAIN TO BUSAN, which obviously employs the titular track racer as a frenzied feeding ground. As such, we got to thinking about some of the best train-set horror/thrillers around. Wagon trains, subways, rail-cars, transcontinental, bullet-trains, we got it all booked. You down to cop a look? Good, all aboard are our Top 10 Most Terrifying Movie Trains!

#1. THE LADY VANISHES (1938)

Nearly 80 years later and Hitch still reigns supreme! The undisputed majordomo of suspenseful thrillers culls all the delicious ingredients for THE LADY VANISHES, a rollicking murder-mystery disappearing act that still retains its iron-fisted clinch. It's the kind of timeless tale that's not only been outright redone in 2013, granted to far lesser effect, but also clearly cribbed in movies like THE VANISHING, FLIGHT PLAN and no doubt many others. Of course, no one can exact the material tighter and more tautly than Hitchcock: the closed-in claustrophobia, the increasing paranoia, the forward momentum of the train, the sly McGuffins and subtle misdirection...all of it!

#2. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)

I truly believe Sidney Lumet is among the five greatest American film directors who ever lived. His directorial style was to utterly disappear and the let the work, the story dictate the way in which the movie was shot. Photographically, he perfectly mirrored the material. This has never been more evident than in the A-list ensemble adaptation of Agatha Christie's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, a grand conspiratorial sweep if ever there was one. I mean, when you draw equally evil scowls out of James Bond (Connery, top left) and Norman Bates (Perkins, bottom left), you're onto something big. As for the roaring train itself, Lumet too makes it a suspicious character not absolved from the crime scene.

#3. TERROR TRAIN (1980)

I wonder how the LBGT community sees TERROR TRAIN. After-all, not many trans-characters were gracing the mainstream back in 1980. Then again, and this could be a spoiler to some, but said character in TERROR TRAIN turns out to be an axe-wielding maniac! Baby steps though, right? There's also the presence of 80s Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, long rumored to be born a male, if not an outright hermaphrodite. But gender politics aside, TERROR TRAIN still holds up as a wonderfully realized slasher whodunit set on a locomotive during a New Year's Eve costume ball. The setting and masquerades make for a memorable amount of fun.

#4. HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Ah yeah, now we're really getting somewhere! Those who've not frequented the classic 1972 Cushing-Lee vehicle HORROR EXPRESS must do so ASAP, as it's easily one of the most entertaining train thrillers we've ever seen. Add Telly Savalas' waxed dome to the mix and we're given hell of a ride. The story takes us to 1906, where an anthropologist makes a ghastly discovery en route from China to Europe. On board, the presence of a menacing prehistoric beast becomes unleashed, and it's up to the three gents to quash the kill-count as the frozen monster slowly thaws and begins wreaking grisly havoc among the passengers. Two genre titans (Lee and Cushing) in one of their last great flicks!

#5. NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975)

Given the Underground Tube and interconnected metro system throughout Europe, it only makes sense to hop on the unflinchingly grimy NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (aka LAST STOP ON THE NIGHT TRAIN)...a vicious Italian knock-off of Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Underrated director Aldo Lado (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS, WHO SAW HER DIE?) injects a raw, unvarnished energy to a tale of abject thuggery, as a pair of young gals are mordantly terrorized by a trio of hoods on a short trip from Germany to Italy. It's a hard, uncomfortable watch, cut from the cloth of not just LAST HOUSE, but other 60s & 70s exploitation joints like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and a rarely seen movie called THE INCIDENT.

#6. SNOWPIERCER (2013)

Leave it to preeminent South Korean filmmaker Jong Ho-Boon to etch his namesake along the steely canon of terrifying train thrillers, as his colorfully conceived adaptation of SNOWPIERCER is still leaving a trail of plaudits in its wake. Equal parts visceral thriller and trenchant social commentary, perhaps the most impressive facet of SNOWPIERCER is the spectacular set-design, almost videogame like, as every level or partition inside the train has a completely different look and feel, production design and color scheme. What a fresh way of keeping a so-called single set feel vibrant and exciting all the way throughout.

#7. TRANSSIBERIAN (2008)

I've been a Brad Anderson fan since the days of doing off-beat indie rom-coms (see HAPPY ACCIDENTS!) So when my man came along post SESSION 9 to give us a quasi-update of Hitchcock's classic THE LADY VANISHES via TRANSSIBERIAN, with the great Woody Harrelson no less, I was more than delighted to take the trip. And a damn fine one it was, and still is. Ben Kingsley shows out as the Soviet heavy, bringing an unbridled menace only he can, while Anderson tethers his story to an unsolvable mystery involving a shady couple traveling on the same China-to-Moscow route as Woody and his gal pal. The snow-dappled surroundings add to the frosty chills, almost making the outside seem more dangerous than what happens inside.

#8. BEYOND THE DOOR III AKA AMOK TRAIN (1989)

Perhaps the greatest cinematic misnomer of all time, the properly titled AMOK TRAIN has zero to do with its more well known title, BEYOND THE DOOR III. That said, if you're looking for a ultra-entertaining low-budget horror B-movie, accept no alternate itinerary. AMOK TRAIN is the kind of late 80s Euro-trash you simply cannot lap up enough. See, it's about a shy virgin taking a European trip to witness a famed ritual. Thing is, it turns out to be a Satanic ritual that needs virginal blood in order to thrive. It therefore becomes a task to, and rooting interest for, the main character to lose her virginity before the ritual can take place. With scenic Italian-Yugoslavic vistas and the Swedish treasure Bo Svenson onboard, AMOK TRAIN is quite a worthy international trip!

#9. NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)

Ever have a hankering for a head-spinning philosophical debate between God and Satan? Well, if so, NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR is your ticket! This cheesy low-budget mid-80s marvel is actually a three-pronged horror anthology, with the wraparound tale taking place on an ill-fated train. Oscar winning scribe Philip Yordan putd forth an interesting template, as God and Satan trade tales involving three lost souls. We're then transported from the train into the lives of the three people, including a stint in a sanitarium. It's a pretty oddball flick, one given an X-rating for its gnarly violence when first presented before the MPAA.

#10. MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008)

For its high-profile predigree - Clive Barker on the keys and Ryuhei Kitamura on the lens - MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN was a sizeable disappointment overall. That said, there's no denying how grue-soaked and gore-sodden the titular train in the film turned out to be. Seriously, Vinnie Jones lumbering around with a giant meat mallet, slabs of desiccated human flesh dangling about like products at a factory farm? You can almost smell the fetor! To be honest, the first half of the movie isn't so bad, it's only when the whole track derails into an absurd CHUD-like story-line of subterranean cannibals that it crashes and burns. The actual train scenes though? Unforgettable!
Tags: Hollywood

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