= Highest Rating
about jumping the tracks! Amok
Train tries to be
the Little (Horror) Engine That Could, and in
some regards succeeds. Thanks to cinematographer
Adolfo Bartoli the film looks far, far better
than it ever had a right to given the low budget.
The squishy gore effects are as good as, even
superior to, those seen in the much better known
— and, to my mind, often overpraised — works of
Lucio Fulci from the same decade. Ultimately,
though, what derails this movie (yep, I just had
to go there) is one of the most inane scripts
A group of seven California
college kids prepares to depart on an overseas
field trip as part of their Balkan Studies course.
They're to witness an ancient passion play that
predates Christianity (???), held in a remote
Serbian village only once every hundred years.
All the coeds except one are keen to go. Beverly
(Mary Kohnert), herself of Serbian ancestry, is
overtaken by a vague but powerful feeling of unease.
Is this indefinable sense of dread somehow related
to the weird, flame-shaped birthmark on her abdomen?
She won't discuss the matter with her Serbian
immigrant mom (with whom she has a troubled relationship),
nor can she confide in her fellow students, who
consider her something of a nerd. (Mainly because
she's a standoffish virgin.) Unable to shake this
disturbing vibe, she nonetheless joins the others
on the flight to Belgrade, not knowing that her
mother has just been killed in a freak auto "accident"
while leaving the airport.
Arriving in Yugoslavia, the
kids meet their chaperone for the field trip.
Anthropology professor Andromolek (Bo Svenson)
seems friendly enough despite his eccentric demeanor.
The professor guides the students to their destination,
a primitive village located deep in a fogbound
forest of gnarled, twisted trees. The silent,
staring inhabitants prove even more gnarled and
rustic in appearance than their environment. The
students can't help but be creeped out but, not
wishing to be rude, accept the villagers' hospitality.
This consists of being quartered in dilapidated
huts, dorm-style, and fed drugged soup. Beverly
— who is billeted separately from the other Americans
and receives special attention from the professor
— senses something is wrong and initially refuses
the soup, only to relent when Andromolek samples
it himself to no ill effect. Going along to get
along, she takes a sip and is soon unconscious.
The students have fallen prey
to an ancient satanic cult, led by Andromolek,
whose purpose isn't clear but certainly can't
be good. Fortunately the cultists misjudge the
average American college kid's tolerance for narcotics.
The six segregated students awake from their stupor
to find their lodgings nailed shut — and on fire.
Five of them manage to escape (I just knew
the lone black kid in the group would be the first
to die); joining Beverly, the group flees into
the woods, running for their lives. They stumble
upon some railroad tracks, and in desperation
jump aboard an old steam-powered train which comes
At this point the movie goes
straight to hell — literally and figuratively.
A demonic force takes control of the train, slaughtering
the crew in the process. (The fireman is sucked
screaming into the coal furnace.) The students
find themselves trapped onboard, along with a
mysterious flute-playing mute dressed in monk's
robes (Igor Pervic) and a stoic female thief (Savina
Gersak) who was stranded while robbing the baggage
car. In the engine compartment Beverly holds a
conversation with the invisible entity possessing
the locomotive, which explains to her what's going
on... Marked from birth as the virgin bride of
Satan, she was brought to Serbia for the occult
ritual that will fulfill her destiny. Her escape
has only temporarily delayed the inevitable. The
train will see to it that she's returned to the
cult and the ritual performed. The others with
her will all die horribly...
Ol' Demon Train is not talkin'
idle bullshit, y'all. One by one her companions
expire in especially grisly ways (including decapitation,
impalement, being torn in half, etc.). To ensure
Bev's delivery into the cult's clutches, the train
derails itself, plowing across the countryside,
smashing through forests and bodies of water,
hopping on and off the tracks at will! Nothing
will stop it, as both unwilling passengers and
the Yugoslav authorities try everything they can
think of to halt the juggernaut's inexorable progress.
This gonzo plot twist is visualized with the use
of some particularly cheesy-looking models, which
only reinforce how astoundingly ridiculous the
whole concept is. It's certainly unique, though...
I can't think of any other movie in the history
of cinema in which a (toy) train runs over and
kills people in a boat — in the middle of a
It's about as nutty as one
could possibly imagine, yet very professionally
mounted. Bartoli (lenser of many films for Charles
Band, such as Doctor Mordrid,
Subspecies 4 and
multiple entries in the Puppet Master and
Trancers series) makes terrific use of
rural Yugoslav locations, establishing a palpably
spooky atmosphere. (Creepy looking locals were
hired as extras.) Some of the individual shots
look so good, so stylish, that I found myself
wishing they could somehow be incorporated into
Express, my favorite horror film set aboard
a train. The well-staged gore will please splatter
fans; although cast against type, Svenson (The
Inglorious Bastards) is quite effective as
the villainous cult leader. (The less said about
some of the college kids' acting, the better.)
So where exactly does it all go wrong?
Setting aside the spectacularly
lame model FX and a gratingly bad oh-so-'80s synthesizer
score, fault lies primarily with the nonsensical
story — it's simply too retarded for words, in
the space available here, to adequately convey.
To avoid spoilers I didn't wish to catalog all
the jawdropping "WTF?" moments this
pic serves up... Suffice to say that most of 'em
aren't the good kind.
Shriek Show's Amok Train
disc boasts a topnotch 2.35 transfer, 16x9 enhanced,
and a decent English language stereo track. The
source print looks terrific, allowing Bartoli's
visuals to shine; the actual onscreen title is
Beyond the Door III,
one of the film's alternate monikers (which makes
absolutely no sense, since it bears no relation
whatever to either the 1974 original or Mario
Bava's Shock, which
was similarly re-titled ["Beyond The Door
II"] by distributors for cash-in purposes).
with an image gallery and a roster of trailers
the DVD offers a pair of interview featurettes.
For 26 minutes, producer Ovidio G. Assonitis discusses
the making of Amok Train
(some college friends of his son wanted to make
a gory horror movie) as well as his involvement
with the Golan-Globus Cannon Group, working with
John Huston on Tentacles
(1977) and hiring a young, inexperienced James
Cameron to direct 1981's Piranha
II: The Spawning. (Cameron proved so "difficult"
to work with that the film had to be taken away
from him.) In the interview with Adolfo Bartoli
(12 min.), the cinematographer talks about shooting
Amok Train in Serbia
and briefly sketches his tenure with Charles Band's
Full Moon Pictures. 8/08/08