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“Horror Express” is old school spooky fun

“Horror Express” is old school spooky fun (photo)

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26 minutes and 30 seconds.

That’s the exact moment I fell in love with “Horror Express,” the 1972 horror film that’s new this week on Blu-ray. That’s when Peter Cushing finally confronts Christopher Lee about the possessed fossil he’s brought on the Trans-Siberian Express. This frozen prehistoric ape man, discovered by Lee in a Manchurian cave, should be long dead and locked inside an enormous trunk. Somehow it manages to thaw itself out, escape, and go on a killing spree. Confronted with the empty trunk and the evidence of a murder, Cushing delivers this whopper of a line: “Are you telling me that an ape that lived 2 million years ago got out of that crate, killed the baggage man and put him in there, then locked everything up neat and tidy and got away?” To which Lee replies, “YES I AM! It’s alive! It MUST be!”

Yes, it must be. There’s no other explanation than the fossil came to life and started killing people! It MUST be! C’mon: that’s got to be one of the most ridiculous exchanges of dialogue in movie history, and yet it’s delivered with such absolute conviction by Cushing and Lee. That is textbook great acting: the ability to deliver hilariously bad dialogue without cracking a smile.

“Horror Express” has a lot of great acting, and just the right mix of camp and creeps. It’s a silly movie, but it’s genuinely scary at times too. The design of that ape man is spooky as all get out, as is the way it leaves its victims bleeding from blank, pupil-less eyes. I also got a big kick — and a good amount of chills — from the big autopsy scene, where Cushing systematically cuts open a victim’s skull to find — gasp!! — their brain’s all smooth! I hate it when that happens.

The film is sort of the original “Snakes on a Plane,” only instead of a plane it’s a train and instead of snakes it’s one very pissed off prehistoric ape man (who’s also harboring a dark secret — because God knows if this movie was just about a prehistoric ape man, that would be boring!). You don’t get Samuel L. Jackson mothereffing it up, but you do get Hammer horror legends Lee and Cushing bickering like an old married couple. Admittedly, Lee tersely barking “I have had it with these motherfucking ape men on this motherfucking train!” would have been better. But that’s just me being greedy.

The plot is an obvious variation of “Who Goes There?” or “The Thing From Another World.” Eventually — SPOILER ALERT! — the ape man is revealed to be the host of the real killer, an alien consciousness that’s been trapped inside this fossil for several millennia. As the ape is killed, the alien jumps into the body of a police inspector, who continues the killing spree. Inexplicably, he also gains one hairy ape man hand; even more inexplicably, no one seems to notice or suspect the guy with the furry paw (he keeps his hand in his pocket most of the time to avoid arousing suspicion which works surprisingly well). That whole device is kind of stupid, but there are clever elements of the screenplay. The movie frames the mystery surrounding the ape man’s rampage as a debate between Lee, the man of science, and a monk, who believes the killings are a religious sign. Then the monk decides the ape man must be Satan himself, cast out from heaven lo those many years ago, and denounces his faith in order to worship his new, dark master.

Before it’s over, “Horror Express” even squeezes in a Telly Savalas cameo (playing a grumpy Cossack!) and a chase scene with zombies, since the alien discovers it can reanimate its victims and turns them into undead slaves. Given the slightly dickish way Lee rejects the curiosity of anyone who suspects trouble from his trunk full of fossilized evil, I’m surprised “Horror Express”‘ ending is as upbeat and happy as it is. But I guess by that point enough people had been slaughtered in the name of our entertainment; might as well send the people out on a little bit of a high note.

Yes, that must be it. It MUST be!

“Horror Express” is now available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack. If you see it, let us know what you think, tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.