Two early slashers, two New Year’s Eve parties, two movies that turned 40 this year, there’s oddly a lot in common between Terror Train and New Year’s Evil. Neither are quite as well-known as other slasher classics, but they both capitalized on New Year’s Eve, a holiday which doesn’t get as much attention in cinema, and they both did so in the very same year.
So, as we approach New Year’s Eve, we thought it would be fun to commemorate the 40th anniversary of both movies by pitting them against each other, and determining which is the objectively superior New Year’s themed slasher from 1980!
Round I – Characters
Beginning with a prank gone wrong (which becomes a revenge story), Terror Train boasts as a cast of pretty unlikable characters. Other than Jamie Lee Curtis (who feels remorse) and the random magician played by a young David Copperfield, they’re pretty terrible.
It’s very easy to root for the killer seeking his revenge against the preppy bullies who’ve wronged him, and now enjoy high status life. That said, they’re pretty underdeveloped, even by slasher film standards and are just cartoonish in their portrayal.
New Year’s Evil on the other hand features a strong protagonist who struggles with sexism at the hands of the police, who don’t take the threats against her seriously (at first). Couple this with a villain who has a much more complex motivation, it’s just easier to get into. While it certainly has fewer characters, the ones in New Year’s Evil are just more interesting.
Round I Winner – New Year’s Evil
Round II – Story
As the title suggests, Terror Train deals with a New Year’s Eve party on a train where the masked killer seeks revenge on those who wronged him six years earlier. He picks them off one by one. It’s simple, sweet, and to the point. At times, it’s a bit slow, but to be fair movie pacing wasn’t quite the same 40 years ago.
New Year’s Evil is a bit more involved, including a race against the clock scenario. As each time zone strikes midnight, someone dies, all leading up to the killer emerging at the New Year’s Eve party. It tries to do a lot, but doesn’t quite hit the mark on all of it.
Honestly, this is a very close category. Terror Train attempts less but is more successful at everything it tries, so it gets a very slight edge over New Year’s Evil.
Round II Winner – New Year’s Evil
Round III – Tone/Style
Both movies aren’t exactly trying to be Citizen Kane. They were definitely aimed at a young audience at the time, who just wanted to see the Halloween formula played out. Unlike the previous category, there is a very clear winner for this round.
Terror Train is more simple and straightforward, but at times this comes at a cost. Its plot is slow-moving and there are few scenes that just sort of seem to drag. It’s supposed to be a New Year’s Eve horror film, but it doesn’t really capture the spirit of the holiday. Rather it’s just a basic early slasher, set on a train that could have taken place any day of the year.
On the contrary, New Year’s Evil shines brightest here. Because it’s set at a radio station party, we’re treated to some awesome rock music, including a kickass song with the same title as the movie that gets played so much it’s impossible not to get it stuck in your head.
If you’re hosting a party for New Year’s and want a fun slasher to entertain your guests, New Year’s Evil is the clear choice over Terror Train!
Round III (and overall) Winner – New Year’s Evil
Which movie do you prefer? What are your other favorite New Year’s themed horror movies? Let us know in the comments!