Before we get going with another SyFy Channel review, I wanted to talk about the way sexist ideas and words get so ingrained in our culture we don’t notice them. Several times in this movie, Senatorial aide Rosie (Amy Locane) says to her ex-husband State Trooper Vic (Lou Diamond Philips) “you can’t tell me what to do, we’re not married”. As well as being lazy scriptwriting (how many times have you heard that line?) think about the implication for a second. Is it okay to just tell your wife what to do? I’m sure they didn’t intend to reinforce the patriarchy when they popped that line in, but there it is.
Also known as “Dead Rail”, a far better title for this would’ve been “Aliens On A Train”. An arguing couple waiting by a railway crossing are hit by a meteor just as the special campaign train of Senator Frank Rawlings (Barry Corbin) is about to go past. The train stops, a toothy little alien pops out of the meteor and kills one of the engineers, the State Troopers are called to the scene, and the Senator acts like an asshole to get the train moving again. Guess who snuck on board?
Wow, I was expecting to have to take a bit longer to recap this movie. Vic, our hero, is suffering from a mild form of PTSD from the first Iraq War, and is a bit of a loser. No-one believes him when he starts talking aliens, or that the train needs to be stopped, but luckily his partner has a helicopter and flies him after the train (they take a really long time to catch up to it, given how short a head start it had). Then the alien kills the other engineer, and starts laying eggs, and the train is an hour from crashing into a slow-moving train carrying nuclear waste. Vic is perhaps the loosest cannon ever, and it’s so cheesy that you occasionally forget Lou Diamond Philips can act, and is probably enjoying this chance to go over the top. Main villain is Brit Steven Brand as the Senator’s campaign chief / financial backer Paul Fitzpatrick…oh, I nearly forgot, there’s a terrorist subplot which goes absolutely nowhere, too.
The aliens themselves are like a cross between the Aliens from “Aliens” and the ant-monsters from “Things” – ugly, very toothy creatures, usually models (although the main alien is a bloke in a rubber suit, which is nice). They can move with blinding speed, except when it’s convenient to the plot to have them move normally – and talking of models, the outside shots of the train are perhaps the most obvious use of miniatures in modern movie history. Sorry, aliens! They’ve got methane for blood so you can just wave a flame near them and they explode, which seems to be a substantial weakness, and would correct the people who are insisting “we can’t stop the train, these aliens would get off and wreak havoc”.
There are lots of really terrible supporting cast members in this, for us to enjoy. Train safety operator Gina (Steffanie “wife of Gary” Busey) is very wooden, and the good guy porter is so terrible I thought he might have won a competition to appear in a movie (I liked his earnest-ness, I suppose). No-one really seems to be trying, like they all read the script and realised how awful it was, but needed the money.
Perhaps the greatest of all the runaway train / alien / eco-terrorist / nuclear waste danger movies, or perhaps the only one. Absolutely miserable from beginning to end, cliché after cliché after cliché, with special effects so rotten you’ll never be quite sure if it was supposed to be a joke or not.
Rating: thumbs down