*** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***
Review by Darren Gaskell
A group of guests gather in all their vintage finery to embark upon a train journey which promises food, drink and a murder mystery to solve, but things are – surprise surprise – about to take a lethal turn as the train plunges into a river bed and its passengers are plunged into a fight for survival.
Firstly, if you’re going into this because you noticed Lance Henriksen’s in the cast, I probably should warn you that he’s only in the sequences which bookend the film. Always good to see him, of course, but the main thrust of the plot concerns Evelyn (Carter Scott) who is part of the aforementioned list of guests and friend of one of the performers in the interactive murder mystery play.
It’s not before we’re heading on down the tracks and an enigmatic chap known only as The Host (Frank Lammers) sets the scene for the evening’s entertainment. Not only does he possess a creepy edge, he seems to have a bead on most of his fellow travellers. Having said that, his “I know more than you do” routine is abruptly curtailed as 1) the lights dim and 2) he’s stabbed in the back.
The game’s afoot. A bunch of suspects, all of them suspicious in their own way. Whodunit? Well, we don’t get to investigate who may or may not have “dunit” because the plot throws in a twist where a passenger or two (or three) reveals an ulterior motive for being there which soon leads to the train crashing and a severe reduction in the cast list. For the survivors on the riverbed, things are not going to get a whole lot better.
Starting out as an amusing pastiche of a “golden age” mystery, D-Railed then takes as sudden a turn as its doomed mode of transport, becoming a monster movie for its second half. The shift establishes the horror credentials of the piece but it’s unfortunately it’s not as interesting as the thriller-style set-up and it boils down to the characters being picked off one by one in occasionally bloody but all too brief ways.
That’s not to say D-Railed is terrible, because it clearly isn’t. It just reminded me of other movies most of the way through. The first time someone clocks The Host, they ask if he’s part of the mystery, to which he just gives them a look and leaves their question hanging. As a big fan of the Lamberto Bava movie “Demons”, it’s a very similar moment to when Natasha Hovey’s character asks the masked Michele Soavi if he’s part of the promotion for the film to which he’s handing out free tickets.
The pre- and immediate post-crash shenanigans gave me a bit of an Airport’ 77 flashback with some nefarious get rich quick (or get at least a little richer) activity leading to disaster – but far less contrived than the art heist of that movie and with way less water, of course. After all, ’77 had a plane that went down in the Bermuda triangle. Still, there’s enjoyment to be had from seeing just where all of this is heading – literally – before the characters do.
The monster – to me, at least, is a toothier variation on the creature from Humanoids From The Deep (possibly borrowing the extra set of gnashers from either Alien or The Deadly Spawn). Let’s be honest, these touchstones aren’t necessarily a bad thing and it’s nice to have some not so familiar reference points to hang on to.
I did appreciate the monster, though. Yes, it’s a guy in a suit but it’s a snazzy suit and it’s on screen for just the right amount of time to be effective. It doesn’t hang about in tearing into what’s left of the passengers either once they’ve found themselves in what’s left of their train. In terms of gore, D-Railed is restrained and it might have been nice to see a beast that’s all teeth and claws really going about its blood-soaked business but that’s hardly something for me to complain about.
The final fifteen minutes maybe hints a little too strongly at a final twist which was guessable in any case and good old, reliable Lance is on hand to deliver the expository dialogue of the punchline which may leave you with a smile on your face or leave you frustrated at the shaggy dog story you’ve just sat through. Me? I ended up in neither camp, contrary soul that I am.
Yes, you can kind of see the end coming and the third act monster mash isn’t as exciting or tense as it possibly could have been but I wasn’t bored with the trip. Most of this is down to the excellent Carter Scott, whose Evelyn is smart and kick-arse but relatably vulnerable too. Also, there’s a rather good performance from young Shae Smolik, a child actor who hits all of the requisite emotional beats without going way too big.
Is D-Railed worth the ride? Just about. It has its fair share of interesting ideas even if they aren’t fully developed and even when it heads into more familiar creature feature territory there’s a feeling that the filmmakers are still trying to tell the tale in a slightly quirkier way than the material would normally allow. And Carter Scott is certainly a name I’m going to be looking out for in the future.
Rating: 2.5 / 5