Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Train | Paranoid Activity 2

By Steve Anderson
December 1, 2011

TrainTrain
**
DVD
Directed by Gideon Raff
Written by Gideon Raff
Starring Thora Birch, Gideon Emery, Kayan Reece
NR
94 mins
2008

I was a bit concerned when I first saw Train, because it practically had "torture porn" stamped all over the box. Obviously first impressions aren't always right, so I had to sit down with this one and see just how it all came out.

Train takes us out to Europe, where a group of college athletes are looking to head to what I'm guessing is RUssia to compete in a wrestling competition. The contest itself goes reasonably well for them, but their ride home is about to have some serious problems when they miss the train thanks to an unexpected mixup out at the train station, featuring a group of wrestlers who'd been out partying all night. When a mysterious woman offers them passage on her own train, the wrestlers are only too happy to join her. But when the wrestlers find out they're on a train full of homicidal lunatics who want the wrestlers' organs for the black market--which is probably how they managed to have their own train in the first place--the end result will be, well, somewhat predictable.

Sadly, Train is pretty much exactly as advertised, a gigantic ball of torture porn that features lots of bloodied corpses in various stages of disassembly, from the "recently deceased" to the "full-blown med school final exam". Worse yet, it's also boring--the first third of the movie can't coax anything more than marginal creepiness out of the proceedings, and then when it actually does put up something that's not merely creepy, it's straight into the organ harvesting. Honestly, there are days when, to watch some horror film, you end up feeling wholly convinced that horror filmmakers have equally wholly forgotten how to really make horror film scary, with atmospheric driven tension, not with blood, guts and abject misery. And am I alone in getting positively sick and tired of the "naive belligerent American versus homicidal lunatic foreigners" concept? Look, I know that the whole "ugly Americans" thing has been kind of big of late, but are we seriously down to this? Are we seriously to the point where all the Americans are just bait to the tortures and organ theft of gleefully sociopathic Europeans?

I will give Train some due credit, though: you get into the last third of the movie and things start getting pretty nice, with lots of chase scenes and some of that fine good old fashioned horror stuff that made the old movies scary without resorting to constant organ removal and sociopathic jackasses tormenting victims before a kill. You get about fifty minutes in and it starts looking like a pretty nice slice of horror, all right. But then they pull the plug on the whole "good movie" concept in favor of more implausible torture porn followed by a nice sequence in which everyone so clearly hates Americans that an entire train car's worth will basically stand by and watch one get dragged off to get de-organed.

I was reasonably sure that the only way this would have a happy ending is if all the organ thieves were all put into a giant furnace feet-first, but even then I realized that that wouldn't be a happy ending so much as it would be a small slice of justice, but I wasn't going to get that either. Nope, the organ thieves got their comeuppance, but still, in the end, everyone loses. Including the audience who blew ninety minutes on this godawful slop. Perhaps most of all, the audience who blew ninety minutes on this godawful slop.

The ending is reasonably satisfying if for no other reason than the organ thieves get theirs, but it's really not all that satisfying. It's actually more sad than anything else.

The special features include your choice of English or Spanish subtitles, audio options, a behind the scenes featurette and a variety of trailers, including ones for the After Dark Horrorfest, Frontieres, Captivity, the Ghost House Underground Series and Fearnet.

All in all, frankly, you can do a whole lot better than Train, so save your time, save your money, for something that will pack more good scares and less blood and torment into the proceedings.

Paranoid Activity 2
**
DVD
Directed by Kevin Clark, Manzie Jones
Written by Manzie Jones, Kevin Clark
Starring Natasha Blasick, Andrew Bassano Brewer, Manzie Jones
NR
78 mins
2011

You know, when I first spotted this one, the first thing I thought was, I didn't even know there was a Paranoid Activity ONE, let alone a Paranoid Activity 2. And based on my time on Amazon, there is actually not a Paranoid Activity one.

Paranoid Activity 2, meanwhile, follows a group of friends who moved into a little house in Alaska. This is, of course, in the middle of winter, so they're going to have a whole lot of cold and dark winter to deal with. But it's not just the cold and dark that's going to get to them...or is it? Strange things start happening to the group of them after a medium calls up a hostile entity at a housewarming party, and the three must decide whether to fight the entity, or die.

I'm a sucker for a good ghost story, and though they're clearly trying their best for a low budget riff on Paranormal Activity 2, the end result is actually reasonably watchable. They're doing much the same things that Paranormal Activity did, with little bits and pieces of problems cropping up here and there. Much of the first half hour, though, is devoted to strange noises and dishes being set on the floor, with a side feature on a cross in the kitchen being inverted. That's foreboding, of course, but considering that the first third of the movie or so is basically dish-related pranks, it's not exactly a terrifying thing. It does, to its credit, pick up in rapid fashion but this sudden escalation and acceleration of the incidents doesn't make a lot of sense. How exactly even a malevolent spirit goes from repeated pranks involving dishes to trying to kill someone is beyond my capability to understand.

The ending is somewhat unexpected, and doesn't exactly make a lot of sense, but does end things in the grandest Paranormal Activity tradition, and thus gets some points for its authenticity.

The special features are limited to director's commentary and trailers for Hired Gun, Buried Alive and Paranoid Activity 2, which frankly would be all right if they'd had some kind of subtitling going on in there.

All in all, Paranoid Activity 2 isn't half bad for a ripoff, and watches pretty nicely. It's a good rental, and probably better seen in the company of friends to enjoy the laughworthy content.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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