There was a time when I loved ghost movies. But I’m no longer twelve, the days of Poltergeist and House are long gone, and bumps, creaks, fleeting apparitions, and slamming doors aren’t enough to keep me focused on a movie. I was hoping Train of the Dead and Djinn might interest me a little more than The Conjuring. But alas….
TRAIN OF THE DEAD (2007)
Despite sounding like just another zombie film, Asian horror Train of the Dead is a ghost film. It’s also pretty boring for the first hour. The main characters—a gang of thieves—are all completely unlikeable, plus, I think the film is trying to be funny more often than not but didn’t even give me a giggle. Actually, none of that’s true. One character was both fun and funny—his personality along with dialogue like “now that you have money will you cut off your balls” suggested that he wants to become a she. So which one is the transgender woman? The butch looking bald guy with tattoos on the left….
The first sign this is going to be a chore to get through is the opening scene. A guy in bed has a terrifying experience with a creepy, witchy looking ghost. And then he has it again. And again. And again. I lost count, but I’d say this intro is comprised of at least 5 or 6 dreams within a dream before the dude finally wakes up.
Then we get to the plot. This small gang robs a…kiddie party? WTF? Anyway, they get into a car chase with police, crash, and then board a train to hide out. After a bunch of banter and bickering, they realize there’s a party on another train car, so they infiltrate. The guy having all the dreams at the beginning keeps seeing ghosts. Halfway through the movie, the others kind of start believing him. Eventually, they all see dead people.
An hour into the film, there’s a brief period of highly entertaining ghost shenanigans, complete with some gore and fun effects (but not scares) as the ghosts terrorize the gang in a trippy realm of existence.
But dare I say, just when Train of the Dead gets on track, it goes off the rails, with cheesy exposition and a finale that takes place on top of the train and looks laughably low budget.
I can’t wrap my head around the fact that this generic mess is directed by horror legend Tobe Hooper. And I can’t imagine what possessed him to have characters in the film constantly jump between speaking English and Arabic with subtitles in mid-conversation. One or the fucking other, directors. Either give me the luxury of being able to look away and just listen when a crack on the ceiling grabs my attention, or force me to stay locked onto a film to read subtitles.
Here’s how not to start a movie. Introduce a couple in therapy after a failed pregnancy, then suddenly cut to a young white American dude and two young Arabic guys setting up camp outside a tall building in what appears to be the desert, without in any way letting the audience know you are showing a flashback (I seriously had to look up a synopsis of the film to clarify). Also, don’t use three completely irrelevant characters we never see again in an unannounced flashback just so they can tell a story by a campfire explaining the legend that is the basis for your film’s plot.
Now that we are firmly in the “what the fuck is going on” zone, we’re back to the couple. The wife’s family is driving them to their new apartment in Arabia. Nothing says “I’d turn back if I were you” like fog that would make the creatures in The Mist envious, but the family plows through it and dumps the couple off.
If Rosemary’s Baby were remade as an Asian horror film circa 2002, it would be Djinn (Rosemary’s Ring?).
I could elaborate, but it’s not worth it. If you’re twelve, perhaps this could be your generation’s Poltergeist, otherwise you’ve seen everything here before.