Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Night Train Murders (1975)

Dir: Aldo Lado
Blue Underground DVD

In general, I think horror films are made for escapist viewing. They provide a sort of catharsis for things we internalize and can help us overcome fears. Audiences tend to laugh at violent moments, often to relieve tension, and at the end of the day, we feel safe and head off to bed. Lado's Night Train Murders does absolutely nothing to support this generalization. This is often mentioned as Euro sleaze and does contain sequences that are most definitely sleazy. But to write this film off as mere exploitation is to do it a great disservice. While it's not a movie I would recommend, to anyone!!, it just may be the most effective movie of it's kind ever made. If you're familiar with Bergman's The Virgin Spring or Craven's The Last House on the Left, then you can tell where this film is headed from the start. We see two thugs mugging a Santa and causing chaos intermingled with two young girls heading home for the winter break so obviously the two duo's are on a collision course. The variation on the story is that it takes place on a train and that the two thugs are just that, hoodlums. That is until they meet an educated, affluent, middle-classed woman that feeds her own depravity by directing the boys into increasingly disturbing acts involving the college girls. What makes the film both repulsive and impressive, is just how shockingly competent a director Lado is. Not once could you possibly laugh or make a joke about what is happening on screen. In this respect it is the exact opposite movie that Last House on the Left is, which may be the most incompetent movie ever made. Director Lado states in the interview accompanying the film, that he has never seen Craven's film and doesn't mention Bergman's at all! If this is true, it makes Craven's film that much worse. Now the film follows all of the same plot points, including the ending where the villains accidentally run into the parents of one of the victims. Revenge is exacted, but not in such a way where we as the audience feel satisfied, merely the futility of the situation. Lado flips our own wants and expectations by making the real villain the middle-class, where the woman on the train and a well-to-do gent, that passes by and participates in the horrible deeds, are the real reason for all the violence but feel and act that they are above being held accountable. We never get true justice, just more senseless violence. Credit certainly has to go to Lado for getting his point across but the final piece is incredibly difficult to watch. As I stated, I could never recommend this to someone, but if you're in to remakes of The Virgin Spring, then don't pass this one up.
The difficulty in watching the horrendous violence perpetrated upon the girls makes this one difficult to assign a numerical rating too, so I'll give a slight cop-out and just drop it in the middle.


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