Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Night Train Murders

Two young girls traveling back home on a late night train are terrorized, tortured, raped and SPOILERS IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN A HORROR MOVIE murdered by two hoodlums and some weird bourgeois woman who gets off on danger that the creeps picked up on the way. When they reach their final destination, the killers are taken in by a kindly couple, who SPOILERS IF YOU NEVER SAW LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT turn out to be the parents of one of the girls they killed. It's only a matter of time before their secret is discovered and retribution will be dished out in spades.

Aldo Lado directed two giallos I have a certain amount of affection for: Short Night of Glass Dolls and Who Saw Her Die? Neither film is a classic by any means, but both are reasonably entertaining, off-center, and have the proper trashy-to-classy ratio I look for in these sorts of films. So I had some hope for Night Train Murders, and was sad to find that it was boring and embarrassing.

The main problem may be that it takes itself too seriously. That mindset could have been a virtue, and I can respect that, given the luridness of the premise, Lado genuinely seems to make an effort not to linger on the awful things that happen, or make it too graphic, or show much nudity, etc. At the end of the day, however, this is still just another exploitation film, no matter how hard it presses its hands against its ears and goes "lalalalala I am not an exploitation film lalalalalala."

Lado is not Sam Peckipah. He does not have the talent to make a bold statement about the nature of violence, as he intended. Instead, he made a sleazy exploitation film that is slow, tedious and does not even deliver the requisite trash. Lado's idea of showing us that he takes the material seriously is to frequently cut back from the action to a dinner party one of the girl's parents are hosting, as the guests have a silly, on-the-nose discussion about violence and its social roots.

It is well past the half way point before the real conflict finally arises, when the girls are attacked by the thugs, and by that point we the audience have long since tuned out. The film is such a shameless ripoff of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, right down to the civilized parents wreaking violent revenge, that it is nigh impossible to care about the story on any level. Craven's film, flawed though it may be, has a certain scuzzy honesty about it, and is still shocking enough to wallop even today's jaded audiences. Night Train Murders does even have the integrity to sink to the level of trash.

Grade: D

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