There will be no survivors in Sukhum Mathawanit’s absolute trainwreck of a movie.
“It’s a ghost. I saw my reflection … in the mirror”
“Anyone can see their own reflection in the mirror!”
With Journey to the West month over with, it’s nice to be able to spread my range out again and not watch something so … classical. The entirety of Asian cinema lay before me and for some reason I chose to watch this piece of shit. How standards can fall. A low-budget horror, Train of the Dead sees a group of bandit teenagers (according to IMDB, even though they’re all clearly 30) board a train out of town, after a robbery goes awry. They hold local … guy To (Kett Thantup) hostage as they plan to rob everybody on board the train. However things start to go strange when Junkie (Phoomjai Tangsanga) starts to see ghosts and it becomes immediately apparent this train is actually taking them to hell.
Apologies for the spoilers, I guess. The film treats this as a big reveal, despite it being extremely evident from the beginning (and the film descriptions). Like everything else in the film, this twist is taken extremely seriously like it’s a brain-melting revelation. After all, it’s a horror so it has to be serious. The problem is Train of the Dead might be a horror, but with its comedic overuse of flashing lights and its endless dramatic percussions, I’m laughing out loud two minutes in. This goofy opening is followed by some totally extreme … I wanna say motorcross (?) opening credits and you know exactly what you’re in for before anything’s even happened. Turn it off. You’ve seen the whole thing by now. It only gets worse.
A thought you’ll get a lot while watching: This fucking editing. Jesus. It’s so obnoxious that I found myself glazing at the middle distance so I wouldn’t get a migraine. No shot lasts longer than four seconds. The camera absolutely refuses to stay still. Everything is grainy, loud and lacking any sort of interesting composition. A limited colour scheme is fine – David Fincher has made an entire career out of it – but it has to mean something. It had to serve the film in a visual way. Here, it just looks like a lazy last-minute decision to make things look more spooky and early 2000s cool. In its attempts to look edgy and mysterious, Train of the Dead instead is a pile of cinematic nonsense that is, if nothing, mercifully short at under 90 minutes.
Train of the Dead came out the same year of Rec, Paranormal Activity and The Orphanage. Yet it has the same visual style as Barbed Wire and the horror respectability of that Halloween movie with Busta Rhymes in it. Train of the Dead sports countless CGI establishing shots straight out of a PS1 cutscene, many awful CGI hands and one – count it one – decent spooky visual. That’s the old ghost woman who haunts Junkie, brandishing a knife she scrapes against pipes cacophonously. Except the effect is somewhat diminished when she’s there just sitting in the luggage rack like an old, leathery suitcase.
Here’s another thought you’ll get a lot: Enough with the fucking lightning. It’s like the train is riding down a spooky hospital ward with flickering lights it goes off so much. By doing it as often as we see here (hell, even if you halved the amount of times it was on screen) it completely loses its impact. Lightning is meant to emphasise certain situations and provide necessary dramatic punctuation. Here, it’s just part of the background noise and it just won’t stop. It’s like the film is trying to make every scene the final climax and the dramatic stakes are completely lost because of it. Nothing works. A low budget can be enough to excuse some elements like the cheap CGI and the limited range of sets, sure. But it can’t account for the complete lack of film comprehension and sheer misunderstanding of the language of cinema that the filmmakers are exhibiting here. This I feel bad for the cast, who are clearly trying so damn hard to make this lack of interesting material work.
Sometimes you get an interesting shot, but because everything is so cheap and amateurish it’s impossible to know whether it’s an intentional decision or that time of the day when the broken clock is finally right. Considering how obvious it is that this is some sort of afterlife train, the stakes are nonexistent. It doesn’t matter what happens because the characters are already on their way to hell. Their actions here aren’t any more or less indicative of their final destination. It’s not like they have arcs. God, this movie feels like Kim Ki Duk’s first draft of Human, Space, Time and Human and considering the hideous mess that was, that’s saying something.
Train of the Dead genuinely made me miss the coherence of Garuda. This is the sort of thing you’d make when you’ve ran out of The Eye sequels and decided that trains were somehow more exciting. It’s the kind of horror that would only have been made in the West during that post-Matrix depression Hollywood was in. The whole movie is this ugly shade of olive grey, except when it becomes a strikingly gross orange. Everything about Train of the Dead is trash. Come on Thailand, you can do better than this.
Overall entertainment: Train of the Dead is never on the right track, and is plain awful from start to finish.
Overall entertainment: 1/10
Decapitations: Just from a neck snap? Nice
Bandits: All look like pirates, for some reason
Train of the Dead (2007)
Also known as: Chum thaang rot fai phi
Director: Sukhum Mathawanit
Writer: Sukhum Mathawanit
Kett Thantup – To
Savika Chaiyadej – Rahtree
Sura Theerakon – Joke
Phoomjai Tangsanga – Junkie
Chaleumpol Tikumpornteerawong – Kai
Lakana Wattanawongsiri – June
Warot Pitakanonda – Ak
Saowaluck Siriaran – Phii Mae