M3GAN (2023)


Gerard Johnstone


Allison Williams - Gemma

Violet McGraw - Cady

Amie Donald - M3GAN

Jenna Davis - Voice of M3GAN

Jen Van Epps - Tess

Brian Jordan Alvarez - Cole

Ronny Chieng - David Lin

Lori Dungey - Celia

Jack Cassidy - Brandon

Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/Comedy/Robots/Killer Toys

Running Time - 102 Minutes


A brilliant toy company roboticist uses artificial intelligence to develop M3GAN, a life-like doll programmed to emotionally bond with her newly orphaned niece. But when the doll’s programming works too well, she becomes overprotective of her new friend with terrifying results.


In 1963, The Twilight Zone aired an episode called “Living Doll”, introducing the world to Talking Tina - a doll that would be revealed as some sort of sentient evil being. Due to that episode’s massive popularity, the killer doll subgenre of horror has continued to thrive and please audiences until the modern day. Whether it’s voodoo [TRILOGY OF TERROR, CHILD’S PLAY], magic [MAGIC, PUPPET MASTER] or just the advent of technology [2019’s CHILD’S PLAY remake], dolls continue to frighten audiences despite many of us own one during our childhood as a security blanket of sorts. 

Like I mentioned already, technology has really been the element that keeps this subgenre going. It’s not hard to see why. Many of us rely on technological things to keep us up to date with world events, our friends’ and family’s lives, and just to keep us from being bored with the doldrums of modern life. Especially for Gen Z, technology is a lifeline because they don’t know a life before iPhones, tablets, computers and advanced game consoles to keep them occupied. Adding this kind of technology to a doll that’s meant to be more human than robot is always going to return a narrative that won’t be without its hiccups.

M3GAN, or Model 3 Generative Android, is the killer doll for the Z Generation. It behaves like a human being. It can dance for you. It can sing your favorite TikTok song. It’ll even listen and give you advice to make you a better person. But like with all Artificial Intelligence, it’s only going to want to learn as it evolves itself. And knowledge is power - which can be a bad thing depending on who is gaining it. And because of this, the android becomes more intelligent and clever than the human being who programmed it. And as we’ve seen in other bits of media, chaos and destruction can only follow.

M3GAN is marketed as the film’s villain. But is she really? After all, she’s just doing what she was created to do. Yes, the doll does some really bad things - mainly murder due to having a serious attachment to the young girl she’s paired with. But if she isn’t programmed to stop learning and to not do bad things that can hurt others, is she really the one to blame? After all, M3GAN doesn’t have a conscience or emotions that would imply sympathy and empathy. Only the humans behind this android have that capacity.

In my opinion, the film’s villain is really Allison Williams’ Gemma. I mean, she’s not doing it intentionally. She’s a career oriented woman who is surrounded by technology that she has created as a means to keep her company and make her financially capable of living a great life. Unfortunately, her sister and her sister’s husband were murdered in a car accident, quickly making her the guardian of her niece Cady. Both characters are out of their element here. Gemma has no idea how to raise anyone, hoping to leave that to M3GAN or any other toy to keep Cady occupied while she lives her own professional life. Cady is still mourning the death of her parents and having to adjust to a new life. She only connects with M3GAN because it’s a toy that gives her the attention she needs, which leads to attachment issues by the third act. 

Gemma isn’t a greedy or bad intentioned character. But in a way, she’s just as robotic as M3GAN. She’s mourning her own loss and has issues adjusting to change because these are things she can’t control with the push of a button. It’s her lack of wanting to connect with Cady that leads to the birth of M3GAN, which not only becomes a media sensation and a great bonus for her bank account and reputation as a toy maker, but begins the drama that plays throughout the movie. M3GAN doesn’t have a conscience, but Gemma does. It’s her flaws that become M3GAN’s flaws, watching her good intentions go down the drain. But thankfully it’s humanity that gives both Gemma and Cady a fighting chance against this malicious android. 

It’s obvious M3GAN is about how parents are using technology to babysit their children in order to continue their individual lives, whether that’s professionally or personally. This isn’t something new. Parents have been doing this for decades, ever since the birth of television. We’ve all spent hours a day distracted by television or video games while our parents went to work or were doing chores around the house. But with phones and tablets, we’re now seeing three and four-year-olds looking like zombies, brainwashed by what they’re doing on these tools. They’re not getting that same human interaction and connection us older generations received, more focused on living in a virtual world rather than reality. While technology is great, children deserve to be raised and supported by their parents and/or family in real life rather than learn everything from what they see online. This will probably do more harm than good for future generations in the long run, but only time will tell.

What I’m really trying to say is that M3GAN has a smart script, thanks to MALIGNANT writer Akela Cooper. She could have really turned this film super hokey and cheesy with the whole killer doll deal. But there’s more to M3GAN than just the horror aspect, which allowed me to connect with it more. Being a fan of both these James Wan produced movies, Akela Cooper is proving to be an interesting player in the horror scene. Look forward to what she has up her sleeve next.

The direction from Gerald Johnstone is really good, making M3GAN seem legit creepy and menacing as she evolves throughout the film. While the film can be tense and chilling at times, M3GAN feels mostly lighter than that - almost like a comedy at times that pokes fun at advertisements, social media and how society treats others without thinking first. The colors pop and the most slasher film moments are shot super well, with a lot of build and suspense that gets you ready for whatever M3GAN has in its violent programming. And while this version of M3GAN is PG-13 [I hear there’s an R-rated cut floating around], the death scenes still manage to pack quite a punch. For a film that only cost $12 million to make, M3GAN is shot to look way more expensive than that. 

All the actors rock in this movie. Allison Williams is really great as Gemma, as you understand her character’s flaws and really feel her varied display of emotions throughout the film when bad things start to go down. Williams is a super underrated actress and I hope she continues to shine brighter in future films. Violet McGraw is also great as Cady, acting beyond her years as a sympathetic young character who just wants to feel normal and loved again after a tragedy. McGraw also gets a lot of emotional beats to play with, all of them convincing and justified for her character. And both Amie Donald and Jenna Davis are fantastic as M3GAN. Donald, a young dancer, really captures an android’s movements down. The dancing is strange. The way M3GAN hunts is uncomfortable to watch. And her lack of moving tends to be scarier a lot of the time. Donald is awesome in the role. And Jenna Davis’ cute voice adds a lot to the character as well. Special mention also goes to the supporting actors - in particular Ronny Chieng as Gemma’s boss David and Lori Dungey as neighbor Celia - who bring a lot to their roles and help flesh out the main characters. Just a really great cast for a fun movie.


I never would have guessed that M3GAN would be as fun as it is, considering I thought the trailers made the movie look pretty cheesy and that January is usually Hollywood’s dumping ground for films they have no faith in. But it’s a really good time with a relevant commentary on technology and how some adults use it to babysit their children to the point it could be damaging in terms of a lack of human interaction. It also plays around with the killer toy tropes extremely well, proving that no matter what decade it is, talking and moving dolls will continue to creep us out. The direction by Gerald Johnstone is strong, maintaining a lighthearted tone even with the film’s horrific moments. The film also looks more expensive than its $12 million budget would have you believe. The cast is super solid as well, with Allison Williams and Violet McGraw as the aunt and niece who are the center of M3GAN’s terror. Amie Donald and Jenna Davis also get a lot of love as M3GAN’s body double and voice respectively. If M3GAN is any indication, 2023 might be a fun year for movies if this is how the year is starting.


3 Howls Outta 4

(8 out of 10)


Black Sabbath (1963)


Mario Bava


Boris Karloff - Gorca

Susy Andersen - Sdenka

Mark Damon - Count Vladimir D’Urfe

Michele Mercier - Rosy

Lidia Alfonsi - Mary

Jacqueline Pierreux - Helen Chester

Milly Monti - The Maid

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Anthology

Running Time - 93 Minutes


Three short tales of supernatural horror. In “The Telephone,” a woman is plagued by threatening phone calls. In “The Wurdalak,” a family is preyed upon by vampiric monsters. In “The Drop of Water,” a deceased medium wreaks havoc on the living.


I wanted to review something classic for the first review of the year and I figured it’s been a while since I tackled anything from Italian director Mario Bava. It’s also been forever since I’ve done a review for an anthology movie. So why not just do both and review Mario Bava’s 1963 anthology BLACK SABBATH?

BLACK SABBATH is known for a few things. It’s the only film where Boris Karloff, best known as Universal Studios’ Frankenstein’s Monster, played a vampire. The title of the film is probably better known as the inspiration for one of the greatest heavy metal bands to have ever existed, as long as a song of the same name. BLACK SABBATH also inspired Quentin Tarantino when it came to the narrative structure of a little known 1994 film called PULP FICTION. Who knew a film that many horror audiences don’t really talk about a whole lot about these days would be so influential in pop culture? The real question is - is BLACK SABBATH any good?

BLACK SABBATH is made up of three different horror segments that don’t relate to the other. There’s no real wrap around story besides Boris Karloff acting silly as the film’s host. But each of the stories varies in quality, but all are worth a look.

For this review, I watched the original Italian version [the stories are in a different order in the International dubbed version].

"The Telephone"

Probably the film’s worst segment, "The Telephone" is still a watchable half hour due to the use of strong tension and suspense throughout. The story is pretty much centered on Rosy, who receives threatening phone calls by who she believes is an ex-lover who is supposedly dead. The segment plays out as a short giallo film that contains twists and turns that make you rethink what’s really going on. 

I’m not sure if this is the first horror film that really focused on using a telephone as a scary device to drive a story forward. But I’m sure it influenced other horror films since, like BLACK CHRISTMAS, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and SCREAM to name a few. The segment is also set in a single location, making it feel like a stage play that was shot on film. While Bava brings a ton of suspense and tension throughout, especially as the segment gets nearer to the end where things just fall apart for all the characters involved, there’s nothing really dynamic or memorable compared to the other two stories. Characters aren’t really fleshed out and things happen a bit too easily to keep the narrative flowing. The only real interesting aspect was Rosy and her friend Mary implying some sort of lesbian relationship, which was taken out of the International Versions of BLACK SABBATH.

That being said, the direction does what it needs to do and has the classic tropes of a giallo. And the actors involved do a good job bringing the story to life. But unfortunately, there’s just not enough going on here as a whole to make it stand out from the rest of the segments.

"The Wurdulak"

"The Wurdulak" is an entertaining segment that deals with Slavic vampires that destroy a family from within. It stars Boris Karloff as the patriarch who has been afflicted by this vampiric disease, manipulating and terrorizing his naive family into becoming part of his Wurdulak clan. And despite an Italian dub over his voice, Karloff’s performance carries the story as he looks creepy and sickly in front of his relatives who know he’s a threat but are afraid to do anything about it out of loyalty. His body language and his many close-ups, especially on his yellowish eyes, really carries a level of dread that permeates throughout the segment from start to finish.

The story is memorable due to the fact that it follows a different type of vampire that’s not really used a whole lot on film. While you still have the traditional vampire bite marks on the neck, having to be invited inside a location and the transfer of the disease through feeding on blood, there are different elements at play. There’s an assumption that the curse leaves the body after five days if you don’t feed. Wooden stakes don’t seem necessary to kill a Wurdulak, as any sword or dagger would do - especially if it’s used to decapitate the creature. And the Wurdulak just seems focused on drinking blood without any sort of sexual aspect and hypnotism at play. I think a full feature would have worked for this story, just to understand the differences between a Wurdulak and a common vampire most of us are familiar with.

The only negative aspect happens to be a tacked on love story that plays into the finale of the segment. Vampire stories usually involve romance, but this one comes out of nowhere. Two characters meet and just fall in love with no build at all. I don’t care about this angle or any of the characters, so this subplot didn’t work for me at all.

What does work is that the acting is very good. And Mario Bava’s direction is just wonderful here. It reminds me of a Corman-Poe feature of the 1960s, with incredible cinematography capturing a Gothic landscape that feels like a character all its own. Colors pop and a sense of terror slowly builds, especially when a child is endangered [which creates chaos both visually and storywise]. The use of lighting, shadows and camera angles just create a visually stunning segment. 

"The Drop of Water"

The final segment is "The Drop of Water", a really fun segment that involves a caregiver who steals a ring from a medium who has passed away. Thinking she’s gotten away with her crime, strange things begin happening to her - possibly from beyond the grave. It’s the most supernatural segment of the three, with a use of special effects and visual style that makes it the favorite of the three stories [although I prefer "The Wurdulak"].

Personally, I feel "The Drop of Water" is the creepiest of the three stories. That’s mainly due to the sound design, which is strongly used to convey a level of dread and uneasiness throughout the segment. There’s this constant sound of dripping water that’s heard from beginning to end, creating tension and anxiety.

There’s also the beauty of the visuals. The corpse of the medium is pretty frightening, appearing with a creepy smile when you least expect it. There’s also a great use of lighting, with neon colors becoming prominent as the haunting increases. It’s obvious Dario Argento’s color palette was inspired by this portion of the film.

The acting is quite good in the segment as well. But it’s overshadowed by the cool visuals and strong sound design that raises the fear factor. I wish the segment was longer to focus more on the narrative, as it’s a bit too simple. But it’s a nice conclusion to a fun anthology.


While not the greatest horror anthology out there, Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH is a master class of style in terms of its presentation, even if some of the stories presented aren’t as dynamic as the direction and cinematography. The film looks more beautiful and grows more atmospheric with each segment, capturing tension and genuine creepiness as each story plays out. Boris Karloff manages to steal the spotlight any time he appears, although the rest of the actors do fine in their roles.

None of the segments are terrible, but some are weaker than others. "The Telephone" has a great concept and carries a lot of giallo tropes, but its one location set up doesn’t allow a ton of style visually. "The Wurdulak" has a great story about Slavic vampires that manages to be creepy and shows how fallible human beings are, despite a love story that doesn’t really work since it comes out of nowhere. And "The Drop of Water" has the most stylish and terrifying visuals involving a corpse that enjoys popping up when you least expect it, despite not much of a story due to its shorter runtime. 

Still, BLACK SABBATH is a must see for anyone who enjoys horror anthologies that especially feel like those old EC comics from back in the day. I’m sure children of the grave and iron men will get a kick out of this one.


3 Howls Outta 4

(8 out of 10)


Lunar Cycle - December 2022

Since I don’t have as much time to write longer reviews than I used to, I figured I would just post shorter reviews for horror/cult films that I feel deserve your attention.

Directed By: Robert A. Endelson

Starring: Robert Judd, Catherine Peppers, Lela Small, Yvonne Ross, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Ramon Saunders, William Sanderson, Daniel Faraldo, Peter Yoshida

Genre: Drama/Thriller/Crime

Running Time: 82 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4 (7 out of 10)

Plot: A minister dispenses justice on three convicts who take his family hostage. 


A blaxploitation version of Wes Craven’s 1972 cult classic THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, 1977’s FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE is best known as a Section 1 Video Nasty due to its violence and especially due to the offensive language recited by several characters to each other. Never having seen this film before, you have no idea the anger that was brewing inside of me throughout my watch. There were points where I wanted to turn off the movie because some of the things certain characters were saying made me feel like I needed a shower due to how disgusting it was to hear it. Considering our current social climate though, the behavior of the villains is probably more realistic than I want to believe. For that, the film works better than it should.

Besides the racial slurs throughout, FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE plays out like your typical home invasion exploitation movie. Criminals forcibly enter a home, take the residents hostage, and torture and humiliate them until the victims stand up for themselves and get some sort of revenge. The police are also around, looking pretty dumb until the last few minutes of the film where they actually realize that justice has to be served in maybe a not-so-legal sense. Straw Weisman’s screenplay does what it needs to do, meaning making us want to see the antagonists get it in the worst way.

I also appreciated the subtlety of director Robert A. Endelson’s direction. He could have gotten carried away with certain scenes, like a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or a I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. But besides a young boy getting bashed in the head by a rock and a toddler getting a gun pointed at him or her, the rest of the film shows a bit of restraint. There’s a rape scene but it’s more implied than shown. The more offensive scenes involve the antagonists [a white man, a Latino man and an Asian man] degrading the African-American protagonists by forcing them to dance, sing, or speak as if they’re living in the Jim Crow south. A young boy even gets food thrown at him and spit on at certain points in the film. The bits of style [the boy being bludgeoned and a character getting slapped in the face by a Bible multiple times] create a level of surrealism during a realistic looking film that builds tension while also making you feel angry over how these characters are being treated.

The cast mostly do a good job. In particular - Robert Judd is good as the preacher head of the household who does whatever the villains want to maintain peace and keep his family safe for as long as possible until certain events lead him to fight back. Lela Small as the grandmother has spunk and some good dialogue. Reggie Rock Bythewood is a good child actor who has moments to shine. And Newhart’s William Sanderson as the evil Jessie Lee is so despicable and cruel that you want nothing but bad things to happen to him. Sanderson is known for being a great supporting character actor over the decades. He’s lucky this movie was released 45 years ago because he would be canceled big time if a movie like this ever came out today.

1977’s FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE is a film that definitely earned its Video Nasty branding and probably a film I would never watch again. Despite my feelings, I would still recommend it to anyone who wants to see all the Video Nasties and/or looking for a film similar to THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, or DEATH WISH. It has solid performances. The direction is good, using the film’s low budget well. And while the colorful language in the screenplay will offend many viewers [the reason why it’s a Video Nasty to begin with], the home invasion story does what it needs to do despite a conclusion that probably should have been stronger than it actually is. The villains [especially William Sanderson’s character of the racist Jessie Lee] deserved more than what they got, if I can be honest with you. And there are definitely scenes that will upset you for various reasons. I know I was triggered during my watch. This is a film that’s not for everyone, nor could ever be made again. 

Directed By: Jason Eisener

Starring: Jonathan Torrens, Sarah Dunsworth, Maris Morgan, Jayden Taylor, Mike Cleven

Genre: Horror/Comedy

Running Time: 16 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4 (8 out of 10)

Plot: Treevenge details the experiences and horrifying reality of the lives of Christmas trees. Clearly, for trees, Christmas isn’t the exciting “peace on earth” that is experienced by most. After being hacked down, and shipped away from their homes, they quickly become strung up, screwed into an upright position for all to see, exposed in a humiliation of garish decorations. But this Christmas will be different, this Christmas the trees have had enough, this Christmas the trees will fight back. Treevenge could be a short film about the end of days for Christmas trees, or perhaps, the end of humanity?


Have you ever thought about the plight of Christmas trees during the holiday season after they’ve been forcefully uprooted and decorated against their will to make your homes look festive?

Of course not because you’re too busy about receiving gifts you’ll return within 48 hours!

But writer-director Jason Eisener, who would later direct 2009’s cult hit HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, did. If TREEVENGE doesn’t make you second guess the angry thoughts those fir trees may have against you that could eventually ruin your holiday, then you deserve a lump of coal in your stocking!

Seriously though, this 16-minute Christmas horror short film is bonkers and surprisingly a fun time throughout. You won’t get character development or much of a story besides the actual plot idea itself. But TREEVENGE goes all out in making this movie one you’ll never forget anytime soon. It has over-the-top hammy acting. It has subtitles that let us in on what the trees are saying and thinking throughout their struggles. Eisener provides visual energy that just grows towards the insane ending of the movie. And some of the kills are just hilariously wicked. There’s one in particular involving a baby’s head, the bottom of a Christmas tree, and… yikes!

TREEVENGE will be an annual holiday horror watch from now on, as it’s the first Christmas film this year that actually got me into the spirit of the holiday. 


Directed By: Joe Begos

Starring: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jonah Ray, Dora Madison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Abraham Benrubi, Jeremy Gardner

Genre: Horror/Slasher

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Score: 2.5 Howls Outta 4 (6 out of 10)

Plot: It’s Christmas Eve and Tori just wants to get drunk and party, but when a robotic Santa Clause at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, she’s forced into a battle for survival.


If you combine the 1984 films THE TERMINATOR and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, you get 2022’s CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS - a slasher film that takes the killer Santa concept and infuses it with 21st century technology. 

Director Joe Begos’ best moments are when the killer Santa robot [a former military weapon that’s being recalled from stores due to some dangerous malfunctioning] decides to activate and murder anyone it sees. The violence and gore is the film’s true selling point, as CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS does not hold back on the various ways the victims die. Head stomps, different axe attacks, shotguns making heads explode, human bodies being split open easily - fans of gore will appreciate the awesome practical effects put in by the effects team, which are shot very well by Begos.

Begos also infuses the film with a great Christmas aesthetic. The locale looks cold and wintry, with snow falling and on the ground while holiday decorations light up many of the film’s scenes. Begos loves his neon colors, especially the color red, which gives the movie a foreign feel that I appreciated. And I’m not sure if the film was shot with 16mm film, but it looks great to have that grain on a slasher movie like this.

The synthwave score and the metal songs that play throughout the film also rock.

The movie’s downfall is unfortunately it’s screenplay, which probably houses the most times the word “fuck” has been said in the span of 90 minutes onscreen. Surprised that Rob Zombie didn’t write the script, the use of the word was cute for a few minutes until it just annoyed me. In fact, a lot of the dialogue was pretty bad, as all the characters sounded the same to me - loudmouth, angry and horny characters with no real development or depth to make us know who they were besides their obvious archetypes. The only time I really enjoyed the dialogue was when the two main characters were having pop culture debates and conversations because that’s what I do with my friends. Although anyone who thinks FREDDY’S DEAD is the best NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie probably deserves to be the target of a killer robot Santa Claus. 

It’s a shame the script was terrible because I thought the cast had nice chemistry that could have been brought out more under better writers. In particular, Riley Dandy and Sam Delich were good as the two leads - especially Dandy who made for a tough, badass Final Girl during the film’s tense and action-filled second half. I thought character actor Abraham Benrubi did a great job as the film’s villainous Santa. Not sure if it was still him under the robotic effects near the end of the film, but he did nice work making the character seem threatening and unstoppable. And it’s always nice to see Jeff Daniel Phillips pop up, especially for a movie where he can say the word “fuck” multiple times. He’s had years of practice perfecting it.

Considering the hype, I was a bit let down by CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS. Lame script aside, I thought the rest of the ingredients were there to make this worth a watch for the holiday season. It has a killer Santa, awesome practical gore, good lead performances, a sweet score and metal music, and great visuals that capture the holiday in the film’s title. I don’t think it’s a movie I’ll watch every year, but it’s better than watching Hallmark. More blood and less attractive people romantically getting together over hot cocoa fills my holiday spirit every time.

Directed By: Steve Rudzinski

Starring: Steve Rudzinski, Aleen Isley, Marci Leigh, Autumn Ivy, Garrett Hunter, Scott Lewis, Bill Murphy

Genre: Horror/Comedy/Romance

Running Time: 50 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4 (6 out of 10)

Plot: Wally has won a vacation to sunny Amityville! While there he has met a woman: a GHOST woman! Can the spirit of Christmas bring these two opposites together?


More of a cash-grab than an actual installment in the AMITYVILLE HORROR series, AMITYVILLE CHRISTMAS VACATION is less a horror movie and more of a romantic comedy involving a clueless and dim-witted police officer and a ghost who end up falling in love. There’s nothing remotely scary about this movie and the events don’t even take place inside the famous house, but next door. The make-up and CGI effects look super cheap and director-star Steve Rudzinski films the whole thing like a quick student film that will be uploaded on YouTube for free for his friends and family to see. Visually and story-wise, there’s nothing all that special and interesting about this film.

But the cheapness and the over-the-top acting makes AMITYVILLE CHRISTMAS VACATION oddly charming and amusing, especially when the couple falls in love and outside forces want to destroy the relationship before it blossoms even further via scheming landlords, ghost hunters and even a skeleton that’s meant to be the Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s goofy, dumb as rocks, yet way less boring than most of the AMITYVILLE films I’ve seen. Plus, the film is only 50 minutes - how can anyone hate that?

While I don’t think AMITYVILLE CHRISTMAS VACATION is a must-see or anything, I would recommend it if you want something short and silly to watch for the holidays that you can shut off your brain to. This is a quick watch for you and your boo to support the fact that even evil spirits need love during the Christmas season.

Directed By: Philippe Gagnon

Starring: Robyn Alomar, Mary Walsh, Nadine Bhabha, Matias Garrido, Corteon Moore, Emma Elle Paterson, Tori Barban, Dakota Jamal Wellman, Tim Rozon

Genre: Horror/Thriller/Slasher

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Score: 2 Howls Outta 4 (5 out of 10)

Plot: Alana and a group of college seniors board a party train for a Halloween-themed bash, but their fun spirals into fear when a mysterious assailant begins killing the passengers one-by-one.


Back in October, I was surprised to see that Tubi had produced a remake of the 1980 cult slasher TERROR TRAIN. The original 1980 slasher isn’t a top level slasher, but it has memorable moments and a great Jamie Lee Curtis performance. Plus, it had a killer who would disguise himself in unique costumes, as well as a reveal that I didn’t see coming even though it’s in front of you the entire time. And even though I appreciate Tubi, I honestly wasn’t expecting a lot from this TERROR TRAIN remake. But color me surprised - it’s not half bad, even though it’s nothing special either.

Since I had watched the original a couple days before, the new TERROR TRAIN felt like deja vu for the most part. We have the same characters and relationships. We have the same inciting incident, the same beats in how the story plays out, and even the same ways the murders happen in the exact same order. Even a lot of the staging is the same. The only differences are that characters have been racebended, gender bended, a short commentary on a woke society, it takes place on Halloween instead of New Year’s Eve, the visuals look cheaper and the killer costumes aren’t as unique [prefer Groucho Marx over a clown any day]. But the film is still fairly watchable.

What really sets this new TERROR TRAIN apart is the changed final act, that retains a lot of what happened previously but does it with a nice twist that actually works in the film’s favor. The original ending wouldn’t fly in a 2022 society, considering its characterization of a mentally ill character. The new ending adds a new element to the original’s, playing homage to a more famous slasher film of the 1980s. It brings a less problematic conclusion to the remake while also keeping things a bit more open-ended, which gives the film a reason to exist.

And while the direction and screenplay is fine but nothing spectacular, the acting helps elevate things a bit. In particular, I enjoyed Robyn Alomar as Alana, Matias Garrido as Doc and Schitt’s Creek’s Tim Rozon as the Magician. While David Copperfield was more creepy in the original, Rozon is a way better actor and gives the Magician some depth that wasn’t in the original film. 

I still prefer the original TERROR TRAIN due to its atmosphere and stronger performances. But the remake is worth watching if you’ve never bothered with the original, or if you’re just curious about this update. 

Now let’s see about the sequel to this remake…

Directed By: Philippe Gagnon

Starring: Robyn Alomar, Nia Roam, Romy Weltman, Tim Rozon, Lisa Truong, Emma Elle Paterson, Dakota Jamal Wellman

Genre: Horror/Thriller/Slasher

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Score: 1.5 Howls Outta 4 (4 out of 10)

Plot: A year has passed since a series of gruesome murders took the lives of multiple college seniors aboard the now infamous Terror Train. The survivors are coerced to go on a New Year’s Eve redemption ride aboard the very same train, where a new kind of evil awaits and the terrified passengers must once again fight to survive the ride.


So I guess these new TERROR TRAIN films were filmed back-to-back considering how close both films were released from each other. TERROR TRAIN is a decent remake for what it is, made for modern audiences who may not have seen the original cult clasher. While the ending was a bit open-ended, it wasn’t like audiences were clamoring for a sequel. And from watching TERROR TRAIN 2, the film proves that some stories should be left alone.

TERROR TRAIN 2 takes place a year after the events of the first film, this time taking place during the original’s setting - New Year’s Eve on a train. The survivors from the last film have returned, it seems many beats from both versions of TERROR TRAIN are repeated here, along with the same killer costumes and a simple knife for a weapon. Despite a never ending commentary on grief and trauma, an emphasis on social media and live streaming, and an ending that pays homage to a more recent slasher sequel [although nowhere as effective], TERROR TRAIN 2 is pretty much the same movie as the first one. It’s only less interesting or exciting, with more annoying characters and weird performances that seem to distract from the story rather than enhance it. 

The real issue is the film’s story, which makes all the characters look dumb. I can understand getting back on a Terror Train to get over the trauma of what happened there previously. But characters are cosplaying as the killer to scare the survivors, or gaslighting them for having panic attacks when weird stuff goes down. Murders are happening and people think it’s a prank or something, with no common sense that what happened before is probably happening again. So strange and annoying, to the point where I didn’t care who survived this ride.

The direction by Philippe Gagnon is the same as the first, but with less tension and suspense. The kills are ordinary, with stabbings and ax attacks being the focus. There aren’t enough of them though, although there is a lot of CGI blood.. And the film feels a bit rushed, as the final act wraps up fairly quickly and easily without enough time to simmer in it. 

The actors are fine, with the highlights of the last film [Robyn Alomar and Tim Rozon] being the best. Romy Weltman seems to be having a blast playing mean girl influencer Pet, also returning from the first film. Her character is really grating but Weltman does a good job with the role.

I just felt like TERROR TRAIN 2 was a film that was spinning its wheels to continue a story that really didn’t need it. While it’s nice to see what happened to the survivors of the first film, the movie doesn’t do a whole lot to make us care. But at least it wasn’t the worst horror film I watched in 2022, so the film has that going for it. I’m hoping this is the last trip on the TERROR TRAIN for a while.

Related Posts with Thumbnails