They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge (unless you count that time Landon Palmer was challenged to write an article using only words under twelve characters long), so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!
A scientists (Christopher Lee) find a missing link frozen in the mountains of China, and knowing it’s the find of the century he bundles it up onto the Trans-Siberian Express for the long train ride home. Fools! The humanoid popsicle thaws out shortly into the trip and begins wreaking bloody havoc on the passengers and crew including Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas. Necks will be throttled, orifices will bleed profusely and the double-team of Lee/Cushing will run a train on a Russian countess (not really).
A mad monk, already somewhat nutty due to his resemblance to Robert De Niro, becomes possessed by the ancient creature and enters a train car filled with armed Cossacks. The lights are cut, and with his eyes glowing a menacing red he begins to take out the soldiers one by one. Their eyes go white, blood drips down their faces and he jumps on to the next. Chaos reigns in the dark until it’s down to the murderous monk and Savalas in a short-lived duel to the death.
A Russian freeloader named Natasha offers up some sexual innuendo in exchange for a free ride, but nothing comes of it.
The violence is slow to start here as the first several victims are simply grabbed, stared at and left for dead, but as the deaths multiply the aggression increases. Fights break out, knives are thrown and shots are fired. One of two of the dead folks have their skulls sawed open and brains examined too.
There are no jump scares here really, but there is a pretty high sense of creepy dread. The creature itself is essentially an undead ape, but shots of his clawed hand flexing near sleeping children and reaching towards victims are effectively done. The human victims bring the really creepy scares. Their eyes go as white as an egg albumen and blood leaks from their facial holes before they drop dead, and as if that isn’t bad enough the film’s finale sees all of the deceased rise up and begin blindly hunting for survivors.
Horror Express is a fun little flick with big ideas and creepy visual effects. It’s a rare non-Hammer collaboration between Cushing and Lee, but while that explains its relatively low profile on the horror scene it’s no reason to avoid the movie. Cushing is a bit muted here, understandable as his wife of many years died prior to filming, but Lee is energetic and authoritative. Horror fans will enjoy the growing terror and the unsettling intensity of the final minutes, but everyone will enjoy the hell out of Savalas’ odd presence. He plays the head Cossack with no attempt at an accent, meaning it’s essentially Kojak kicking butt and taking names in a Russian soldier uniform.
Like many older genre films its home video history has seen a series of shoddy transfers passed off as bargain bin fodder, but specialty label Severin gave the film a cleaned-up release on Blu-ray and DVD last year. There are some intriguing extras alongside the new HD transfer, and it’s well worth a buy.