There’s something inherently entertaining about yelling at the characters in a horror film. “Don’t open that door!” “Don’t pick up the phone!” “Don’t get on that darn train!” Is it the sign of a cheesy horror film, though? Probably. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a certain existential pleasure in smugly knowing that if you were in the same risky situation, you’d make better choices than the nitwits on screen.
That’s just one of the many tropes explored in the smart “b” horror film D-Railed. It’s a mashup of Murder on the Orient Express and Venom with a The Shining-esque ending that’s, well, a bit mismanaged by director Dale Fabrigar. No spoilers, though, so you’ll just have to see what I mean when you get to the last few minutes of this barely 90min film.
The story begins with a group of individuals boarding a “Murder Mystery” train on Halloween night, all dressed in 1920’s era flapper costumes. Notably, they are Evelyn (Carter Scott), Thomas (Wallin), Antonia (Leticia LaBelle), the young Abigail (Shae Smolik), and Marcus (Daniel O’Reilly). Then the host of the murder mystery event (Frank Lammers) appears, along with a few of the event performers and it’s instant mayhem; The host is murdered and the whodunnit begins. But it really is chaotic and the train ends up going far too fast around a tight curve and derails, crashing into a river. Stuck in the train, they now need to figure out who’s part of the murder mystery performance and who’s actually a criminal. Oh, yes, it appears some robbers have joined the fray too. Now, who really got hurt and who’s just faking it? That’s part of the fun of this movie.
The train carriage is slowly sinking, however, and as the poster reveals, there’s something in the water that makes swimming to shore a dangerous task. The mysterious creature isn’t just floating around, waiting for victims to try swimming ashore, however! It climbs into the carriage and grabs one of the survivors, forcing everyone else to leap out and speed-swim to the shore. Bad news, though: this monster is fine being out of the water, so we switch from one horror trope to the next. Again. Monster attack? Check. Sinking ship forcing dangerous choices? Check. Creepy abandoned house in the woods? Got that too. Agatha Christie-esque slowly shrinking group of heroes? Yup.
To set expectations, this is not a great horror film. The acting is generally poor, the sets look like sets, the dialog is banal and characters are tossed away as needed to keep the central story plowing ahead. Not being great doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, though, and the combination of a scary monster, mostly decent special effects and the guessing game of trying to figure out each person’s motivation and back story make it a good watch anyway. If you can find it on cable or as a midnight movie at the local cineplex, smuggle in a beer for refreshment and enjoy.
Dad Note: This is probably perfectly fine for teens and it’s somewhat laughable effects and mediocre performances make it easy to not get pulled into the story, so many tweens might find this fun too.