Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Sleeping Car

A down and out former journalist, recently divorced, tries to get back on his feet by moving to a new town, getting a new place, and going back to school. His new apartment is, oddly enough, the sleeping car from an old train, and wouldn't you know it, the car turns out to be haunted by the ghost of "the Mister," the anal-retentive train conductor responsible for a major train crash.

This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but The Sleeping Car is the most affable horror movie I can recall watching in a long time. I know that's not usually a quality you're looking for in a horror movie, but there's a real laid back charm to this one that I appreciated. Since there's barely any real plot (just the usual hokum where the protagonist slowly realizes his place is haunted, the ghost kills a few people, final showdown, etc.), the movie mostly ends up being about the characters sitting around, bullshitting, and enjoying each others company.

An American Werewolf in London
's David Naughton leads the cast, and he brings a similar goofy, wisecracking charisma to The Sleeping Car. (Come to think of it, this might be the only other thing I've ever seen him in). The female lead is Judie Aronson, which probably means nothing to you, but I recognize her as the hottest, most likable girl from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (and she also had a small role in After Midnight). She and Naughton have good chemistry together, despite him being way too old for her (the movie comments on this, at least), and the smartass screenplay is content to devote a lot of screentime to them bantering and trading one liners. His Girl Friday it ain't, but it's still good fun. There are also enjoyably silly roles for Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Conaway.

It's ironic, in most other Nightmare On Elm Street wannabes from this era, you usually tune out during all the dialogue scenes and perk up for the murders and special effects. This time, it's the opposite. It's almost a shame that it has to be a horror movie at all, because most of the special effects are a little on the cheap and unconvincing side. Although, I suppose there is some genuine fun in seeing Jeff Conaway get mutilated and eaten by a fold out couch. The big finale is a little awkwardly staged and feels a tad inconsequential, but honestly the movie built up enough good will at that point that I had fun any way. Don't set the bar too high, and I think fans of this sort of crap can enjoy the charm of something light and likable like The Sleeping Car.

Grade: B-

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