Author: Christopher Fowler
Publisher: Solaris Books
Page count: 270pp
Release date: 5th Jan 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
“When the Devil was summoned to Earth, he built a train to take the damned to Hell”.
Deliciously devilish and thoroughly nostalgic, Hell Train is an old style Hammer Horror homage set initially in the Fall of 1966 as American screenplay writer Shane Carter is drafted in to writing a script for the failing Hammer studios. In typical portmanteau style, the 1966 scenes at Bray studios featuring appearances by Hammer regular creators and Cushing & Lee, cleverly frame the actual story which is Carter’s script.
The predominant story then is set in Eastern Europe, Carpathia, in 1916 during the height of WWI. Four passengers find themselves inadvertently trapped by fate on a train tearing through Eastern Europe to an unknown destination. To survive the journey with their souls intact they must face a trial against their own inner demons. Only the mysterious Conductor really knows where the train is travelling to.
Firstly, the intermittent scenes with Shane and other Hammer employees include interesting dialogues on the subtext of the ‘film’ within the novel including discussion about the portrayal of the different classes. And all of the Hammer tropes are here; the priest, the virgin, the arrogant aristocrat, the peasants who are revolting (maybe they should’ve had a bath heh heh) and the spooky European tavern. There is also a fare share of visceral gore for those who like a bit of blood, as well of the occasional dose of humour to lighten the mood.
I found myself grinning with childish delight the whole way through this novel, which really needs to be filmed. Are you listening Mr Fowler? In fact, after I finished it I was compelled to access my DVD collection and watch Dracula Prince of Darkness.
Quite simply, this is the best Hammer film that was never made! Get on board this gravy train.