A private party train for a Halloween murder mystery is unexpectedly derailed when a group of thieves board the train looking to steal something a little more valuable than costume jewelry. The Conductor (Jack Betts) does his best to keep this train on track but while the passengers fight back the caboose ends up sailing over a bluff into the waters below. There’s something worse than murdering thieves lurking in these murky waters. “Stay inside and die, go outside and fight for your life.”
The first part of co-writers Suzanne DeLaurentiis, writer and actor Everette Wallin and writer and director Dale Fabrigar’s D-Railed is a 1920’s murder mystery train that’s portrayed just as over-the-top as you’d expect the acting to be. The second act is man against beast as the survivors of the train crash are pitted against an underwater monster that’s a practical-suit-worthy comparison to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The final act is a journey on land, a fight for survival as the creature doesn’t give up so easily on its prey.
The creature feature is one genre of horror that doesn’t get to see the light of day that much anymore despite the genre being something that really got Hollywood started back in the 1930s. Having mentioned it earlier, the design and practically of the creature in this movie looks as though a lot of delicacy and time went the craftsmanship of bringing this thing to life. The design and sensibilities of the character were extremely reminiscent of a classic horror movie monster, like The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and in that regard, it works. The monster is creepy, sadistic, and it does have an intimidating presence.
One thing to appreciate about D-Railed is the bold decision to attempt to tackle other sub-genres, whether it’s the murder mystery, shifting over to the idea of survival of the fittest, and then ending with and adventure. D-Railed almost felt like three separate movies in one movie and, while the movie does suffer from other things (mainly with certain story decisions), the notion of the interchangeability of the movie is something that should be admired.
But one problem is something that’s been reoccurring lately with these smaller movies. It’s too short. Cramming all these sub-genres into this 90-minute movie felt rushed and it never gave the movie a chance to breathe. What’s worse about all this cramming is that the movie does feature a defining genre quality due to how much it’s trying to balance with such a tiny run-time. D-Railed is a bit severely disjointed in that regard because on the one hand you have several horror aspects with a particular monster. Then again, D-Railed doesn’t give much room to stretch out its potential so there’s no true defining form of genre.
Another problem is that not even a small role from veteran actor Lance Henriksen can save the performances in this one. Lead actress Carter Scott and young Shae Smolik leave the most lasting impression of good performance but the time period they intended to capture comes across as being out of place, appearing as poor acting widespread throughout the film. These characters were the most impressive because they were easy to sympathize with, but the disappointing element with the rest of the characters is that the material they were handed seemed to be fun and promising, at first, and it ended up being poorly executed. Murder mysteries can be done well; just look at Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. Granted, they may be different in tone, but they’re both set on a train. The characters in Orient Express were developed better and the story was more cohesive. D-Railed could have been this fun and fully-engaging murder mystery with a more horror angle, but there were too many cooks in the kitchen, as far as what genre it was going for.
There are a few twists and turns from a creative script that isn’t executed well enough to have many surprises. The underwater creature is given away in the poster for the film, banking on a final twist that just isn’t portrayed well enough on screen to be shocking. The creature design, even if the budgeted film had to do a lot of cutaway scenes, looked cool enough. But practicality doesn’t always save a movie from being good or bad. D-Railed featured some twists that didn’t make much sense, it’s a bit non-coherent, and the main cast just felt underutilized, but the biggest criticism is how short the movie is. 90 minutes isn’t really enough when you’re trying to cram so many things all at once. D-Railed could have benefited more if it focused on one genre and adding 25-35 minutes to flush out more of the story and try expounding on the rest of the characters.
Available on DVD and digital August 6th, 2019.
Final Score: 2 out of 5.