To celebrate our amazing double bill screening of Horror Express (1972) and White Zombie (1932) at the Roxy Bar & Screen in London on Saturday 7th July we decided to share with you some fab reviews of Horror Express by some of the internets top writers! Our headline review below is by the awesome Ric Crossman aka @squidfromspace !
Once you’re done reading it why not check out these Horror Express reviews from the following:
And also check out this White Zombie (1932) review from DVD Infatuation!
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The best horror films are, at heart, about mystery; whodunnit’s freed from strictly earthbound rules, and aiming to distract the investigator with as many scares as possible. Watching great horror should be like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in zero gravity, whilst being threatened by a bear. Horror Express ups the ante in this department with constant on-the-fly rewrites of both narrative and trope. It’s difficult to go into detail without spoilers – what makes this era of horror cinema so fascinating is its unpredictable flights into glorious madness – so consider the following. Any sufficiently savvy genre fan can take a fifteen-minute stretch of most pre-millennial horror films, and extrapolate at least the bare bones of the movie’s trajectory. There’s a reason Scream’s rules drew blood.
What makes Horror Express work isn’t that it prevents such analysis; it’s that it reshuffles itself so often no two slices could lead to our hypothetical horror boffins coming up with remotely similar scenarios. Our puzzle cube is now a pyramid. Or an icosahedron. Or the Duke of Edinburgh. Director Eugenio Martin makes the most of his cast in spinning out the bafflement. With Cushing and Lee on deck (neither aiming for the performances of their lives but both turning in characteristically strong turns) as rival anthropologists trapped together on a trans-Siberian train, you can keep the audience guessing almost indefinitely. Throw in Telly Savalas – an American-born Greek speaker putting as much effort into pretending to be a Russian Cossack as Sean Connery does in pretending to not be Sean Connery, but captivating nonetheless - as your wild card, and you have a film far harder to pin down than its prosaic opening would suggest, as well as enough top-billing voltage to forgive what are generally rather workmanlike performances elsewhere.It isn’t just the intersection of stars that make the proceedings so entertaining to unpack.
There’s a constant sense throughout of, for want of a better term, deliberate narrative unsteadiness, which maintains interest through some of the films more problematic violations of science and logic, as well as a feeling of constant movement. It would be too pat to link such lurching progress to Horror Express’ titular transport, and of course anyone attempting to describe a film as a ride of any kind should be sent back to reviewing school to retake “Cliché Avoidance”. That said, the sense of motion – sideways as well as forward – is ever-present.
Some might call these shifts nothing but sound and thunder, or point out that these violent left turns are silly in isolation and nonsensical in sum. Such complaints are not without merit, but this film is defiantly greater than the sum of its parts. As the leads move (Cushing gliding, Lee looming, Savalas barreling) through waves of supernatural madness and carriages of impressive opulence, there’s more than enough to sustain you through the film’s slight 90 minute runtime. And did I mention Horror Express contains the best line of Cushing’s career?
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