December 01, 1980 12:00 PM

Amtrak doesn’t look so bad after a 97-minute trip on this iron hearse. Considering the recent commercial success of quickie films along the horror/sex line, it isn’t surprising that movie-makers keep hopping aboard. This one, however, should have remained in the station. A college fraternity hires an old steam train for an all-night costume party, which turns ugly when an unknown murderer begins dispatching revelers in increasingly grisly fashion. The movie works better as a bloodcurdler, with several unusual plot twists before the killer is revealed. Veteran Ben Johnson lends a professional touch as the kindly engineer. Plucky Jamie Lee Curtis survives her fourth straight cinematic encounter with ax-wielding psychos. (She was previously menaced in Halloween, Prom Night and The Fog) The script is uniformly bad, and novice director. Roger Spottiswoode sets everything in distracting shadows, as if to hide the production’s shabbiness. Two particularly dreadful moments stand out; an inane discussion about recreational vehicles and a scene in which Johnson attempts to dance with a lady in a wheelchair. Even hard-core chiller freaks won’t want to get railroaded into catching this train to nowhere. (R)

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