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John’s Horror Corner: Beyond the Door III (1989; aka Dark Train, Death Train), a zany and gory, false-sequel, ‘not-quite folk’ train horror.

February 12, 2022

MY CALL:  This wasn’t bad! Between solid death scene pacing, general zaniness and a lot of bloody decapitations and the like, this is a good “check your brain at the door” one-and-done horror flick.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Beyond the Door III: They’re totally unrelated except in title, but there’s Beyond the Door (1974) and Schock, aka Beyond the Door II (1977). Want more train horror? Consider Terror Train (1980), Midnight Meat Train (2008), Howl (2015) or Train to Busan (2016).

An American student of Serbian blood, Beverly (Mary Kohnert; Star Trek TNG) is off to Yugoslavia for a school trip to observe a rare ancient pagan ritual. I somehow doubt this class trip idea would fly with school boards nowadays. The students are met in Belgrade by their kind Professor/host (Bo Svenson; Deep Space, Curse II: The Bite) who leads them to a remote village inhabited by time-forgotten sullen folk. You might be getting a folk horror vibe here… but that aspect of the film doesn’t develop as you’d expect.

When it becomes apparent that the villagers are trying to kill the students, they flee the woods and jump onto a moving train to escape. Just one thing… the train might be possessed by the spirit of Beverly’s devil-worshipping father, who has plans for his daughter! Not sure how that spirit-possessed train makes sense, but we’ll just have to go with it. The runaway train makes its own itinerary and occasionally travels off track through countryside and swamp alike.

I expected a hopefully entertaining one-and-done B-movie. But truth be told, this movie is trying a lot harder than I expected. For example, the Serbian-speaking mother brings a lot to the table as a minor character, Vesna the village witch is an over-the-top delight, and the ritual scenes are elaborate.

The opening death scene was much better than I’d expect from some movie I’d never heard of originally. The death smacks of the decapitation in The Omen (1976), and much later Final Destination 2 (2003). Subsequent death scenes are also actually pretty cool: decapitation by train and death by engine furnace! Another major highlight was when a student tears the flesh from her face, spewing blood and gore while revealing the grotesque beneath. There really are a lot of beheadings and head trauma in this feisty little flick. I haven’t even managed to mention all the bloody severed head shenanigans encountered on this ride. A guy even has his lower half completely severed in a gloriously gory display while another is completely impaled through his torso. Gosh, this movie is really entertaining, and it isn’t pulling any punches in the death scene department.

Despite its title, this is the third in a title series that has nothing to do with one another ensuing Beyond the Door (1974) and Schock, aka Beyond the Door II (1977). But director Jeff Kwitny (Iced, Illegal Alien) did well here. Against all odds, I very much enjoyed this movie! The special effects and death scenes are delivered with good pacing and execution, the gore is abundant and very entertaining, and this was just zany enough without being mindlessly fun. Highly recommended for fans of obscure 80s horror.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. rdfranciswriter permalink
    February 13, 2022 11:25 am

    I always felt bad for the filmmakers behind these films. As you said, the film that lies under the bogus sequel-title is sometimes much better than you anticipated. I liked this one and am glad I gave it a chance.

    But to suddenly discover your film is to be dovetailed into a “franchise,” which is more detrimental to the film than promoting, well, that has to be disheartening to see your works hawked in such a manner.

    As I recall, a couple of the “House” films, as well as the “Zombie” and “Demons” faux-sequels, came across as well made, entertaining films.

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