Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Night Train Murders Review
It seems like my netflix que has been pushing a lot of Italian horror movies my way. I guess "The Church" and this film don't really account for a whole lot. This is the second of many Italian horror films that I've been rediscovering lately, and it proves to be interesting. While some might argue that this is not a true horror film, citing a lot of different reasons, I would beg to differ. I mean, any film that was placed on the UK's "video nasty" list in the 80's and subsequently banned, has to be more than just your run of the mill action/thriller, right? This movie goes in the "revenge" film pile alongside "They Call Her One Eye" and "The Last House on the Left" just to name a few. The movie has also been called The New House on The Left, Second House on The Left, Don't Ride on Late Night Trains, Last Stop on the Night Train, Late Night Trains, Last House Part II and Xmas Massacre. Yeah, this film has gone through many a vhs crossover, but today, we are reviewing the U.S Dvd release of L'Ultimo Treno Della Notte...The Night Train Murders, directed by Aldo Lado.
The movie takes a long time to set up. It is only around 46 minutes into the film before the set up starts to bloom, but to people that aren't used to longer set ups from Italian Horror Cinema this is a life time. If you are looking for a fast, no nonsense horror film, this is not for you. The set up takes a majority of the first half of the film, playing on emotion and violence, to set up a harsher set of sequences later on in the film.
This film was made in 1975, but the editing and overall style has a great overall noir quality to it. The film has a great sense of color and style, pushing the boundaries of what can be considered art by putting blue lights, red lights, and other colored bulbs on the lens of the camera. These color changes evoke emotional responses from the characters and are usually broken by voyueristic outsiders looking in on the sexualization in the movies. As you step back a little from the overtly sexual commentary that is going on in the film you begin to see why Italian horror and violence was ahead of its time. For 1975, this film has a lot of detail, and does things that most film makers wouldn't use in the U.S horror scene for at least twenty years after.
The story follows two young women going on a train ride to Italy to visit their parents. Along the way they meat a group of people that quickly befriend them, and prove to be a little too free in their sexuality. As the film progresses, these people coerce them to embark on a sexual exploration that really blurs the line of what horror and exploitation cinema really is about.
At this point, one might ask the simple question of "why?". I asked that many times during the sexploitation of the film. At no time do the girls run away, even though they seem to have the capacity to do so. They seem to be asking for it, which is a terrible idea, but they seem to do so, willingly! I know you're suppose to feel bad for these girls, but they seem to go along with a lot more than you would expect, especially since they are in the midst of psychopaths, one wielding a small knife and threatening them.
The confusion continues in this film as a passerby is asked to join and watch, then to start kissing one of the young ladies. This strange sort of narrative continues to baffle me, as the film really starts to resemble a porno movie rather than a horror and/or revenge film. This set up takes about an hour to get in, and at this point the average viewer has either turned it off, written this film off as a softcore porno film, or just a sexploitation romp rather than a horror film. All points are right, because it seems to be pushing the buttons on all three, but while most adult films are meant to provoke sexual arousal, this film seems to stop short of that. Once again, this is baffling to the average viewer.
Then things get into full blown chaos, as the rest of the movie unfolds into your standard parents getting revenge thing. There's not much to say about this, the bad guys don't stand a chance...let's just end there.
Is Night Train Murders Scary?: No. The themes introduced in this film are scary. However, the film seems to take a straight dramatic and sexploitation approach to story telling. Sure there are moments where you might be scared, but the presentation is a lot better than just a slasher film from the same era.
Let's talk scary, I mean that's what we do right? The scariest thing about this film is how helpless we really are. Even in the information age that we live in, we are helpless. Think about long distance travel. If you are in an airplane, you don't have a lot of access to communication and if you get trapped in a bathroom with a pervert, you're done for. Ok, a bit extreme right? Let's consider the train. When's the last time you took a train ride? You might notice that your phone might not work well, and if you've ever been on a long distance train, you know that there are a lot of private quarters that allow too much privacy. I say "too much" because I've seen some drug use go down in these private quarters, and while I would always leave and read my stephen King novels, many find these locations a breeding ground fro drugs, sex, and dare I say violence? It's possible. So stay vigilant if you're traveling.
Foreign travel especially. Much like the movie "Hostel", foreign travel can create havoc. This film is an example of that. Sure, the girls that are victimized in this film are NOT American, but they are traveling in a foreign country and the rules might be a little different. The scariest thing about the film is how there is no protection for the women that are assaulted. The scariest moment in the film is definitely a part where a knife is introduced to genitalia...yep...this movie gets horrific.
The Night Train Murders is widely available on dvd. The movie is a little tame at the end, but there are some moments that are more graphic than anything "unrated" this day. The best part about this film is how great the quality of editing, film and color. Take a trip back to the mid 70's and see how much film makers are now using the Italian horror and exploitation style as something new. I'm calling you out Tarantino! Check out The Night Train Murders, it's not half bad, and though it takes up a long time to set up, it's got a lot of substance to it. If you allow it to play through. I understand if you don't it's a little boring in spots. Sorry for the misspellings and random stuff in this review, I had to squeeze in this film during 9 other writing projects. I'm trying to make a few cents with my "English" degree that I earned and now have to pay back. I know it doesn't show, but then again, this is a blog not The Seattle Times or whatever syndicated paper pays you to watch movies and write about them.
As a little bonus, and I do mean little, here is the UK dvd cover art. I actually like the "uncensored" cover that is floating around out there, but this is a little bonus.
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