Thursday, December 26, 2013

AMOK TRAIN (1989)

AKA BEYOND THE DOOR III.  I probably rented BEYOND THE DOOR a billion times when I was a teenager.  I rented it, realized that it sucked, and promptly forgot about it, then grabbed the box at the next video store trip and repeated the experience.  I still can't remember anything about BEYOND THE DOOR, so I have no idea how connected AMOK TRAIN is, storyline-wise.  I know that it does start off with some fantastic lipstick/orange shirt synergy.


This lady is in the film just long enough to establish that a group of students are going on a dream trip to Serbia!  The Alabama of Europe!  One of them is of Serbian ancestry and is embarrassed about that and also about being a virgin.  Her mother is very eastern Euro in appearance and rate of worrying.


Let's test your ethnic identification skills: circle the Serbian virgin in this picture.


The kids are met by "The Professor", who has a very eastern Euro Van Dyke beard and promises to take them to a pre-Christian passion play.  It's explained right in the dialogue that this doesn't make sense, since passion plays are Christian by definition.


But just in case you don't pick on this subtle hint that SOMETHING IS WRONG, we then travel to the Serbian holler, which pretty much looks like rural Alabama with dwarfs instead of albinos.  


If AMOK TRAIN is valuable at all, it's in its pre-HOSTEL depictions of the Wrong Part of Europe as a deadly, untrustworthy place full of dwarfs and strange beards and cackling granny versions of Messiah Marcolin.  It's taken for granted that the Serbians we meet are all rubes or devil worshippers.  It's hard to imagine the same sort of trope happening if the kids were going to France or Prince Edward Island or Compton.


The kids escape and board the amok train, whatever that means.  Now the interminably long and incredibly boring portion of the movie begins.  Missteps abound.  e.g. Serbian Virgin has a conversation with the evil train in which the evil train says, "Oh, dear".  


A horror film whose cynosure is a train ride filmed in real time is probably not going to succeed.  Yet there are some highlights if you look hard enough.  The body count in AMOK TRAIN is pretty low, but I liked the gore that we get.  There's not enough of it to shift your opinion of the film, but it's definitely one of the movie's stronger assets.  


The typical "how do we stop the train?" stuff is pretty thrilling on occasion, especially when it's integrated with the train's supernatural elements, like when it plows through a lake or whatever.  I liked the contrast of the train with individual trucks and other vehicles.  Gross evil mass transit vs. honest gas-using car culture is a good motif to explain the changes in crypto-Soviet states.


The TL;DR on this, though, is "mostly sucks".  

RATING: 4

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