Holiday Horror Guide #13–The Night Train Murders

I’m surprised there aren’t more rape-revenge movies set during Christmas. You’d think this particular subgenre–responsible for some of the most odious, disturbing, or reprehensible films ever produced–would use the festive season to contrast themes of violation, humiliation, and vengeance. Of course, most pictures of this stripe don’t need yuletide accoutrements to heighten the debilitating effect of extended scenes of rape or retaliatory castrations, but since when did explotation filmmakers pass up a chance to be shocking?

Fortunately (if that’s the word), Aldo Lado’s 1975 film THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS doesn’t shy away from the concept. An Italian knock-off of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, the movie centers around two young women vacationing through Europe for the holidays; their trip turns ugly when they encounter a pair of goons and a mysterious (and unexpectedly sadistic) woman, who subject them to myriad torments and humiliations before killing them. And just as in Wes Craven’s shocker, the killers meet the parents of one of the girls, who dole out the appropriate revenge–though Lado adds a couple of unusual twists, which both sets it apart from other rape-revenge pics and makes it even more disturbing.

THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS is a grim, unpleasant movie, its extended sequences of violation made all the more poignant by Ennio Morricone’s mournful score. Yet despite some of its plot contrivances it’s still an effective film that doesn’t pull any punches. Somber and difficult to enjoy even as grindhouse-style entertainment, it’s still less depressing than the 12-hour A CHRISTMAS STORY marathons that make up the usual holiday programming.

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