Director: John Strysik
Writer: Michael McDowell
Cast: Begoña Plaza, Mary Carver, Louis Guss, Scooter Stevens, Bert Williams, and Paul Sparer
Composers: Ken Lauber and Kevin Maloney
Air Date: 2/23/1986
Traveling home for Thanksgiving, attractive college student Stacey (Begoña Plaza) boards a train occupied by an old man (Louis Guss), a little boy (Scooter Stevens), a conductor (Bert Williams), and the elderly Mrs. Crane (Mary Carver). Though initially optimistic, Stacey uncovers a harrowing truth about her surroundings.
A ghoulish episode, “The Last Car” will appeal to Tales from the Darkside fans of a morbid inclination. It should be noted, however, that the majority of questions raised in this episode are never answered in a logical or satisfactory manner.
Director John Strysik should be commended for crafting an ominous, albeit occasionally campy, fright show despite the limited resources with which he was given to work. For example, nearly every scene occurs inside a single train car, thereby establishing and amplifying any claustrophobic undertones at the core of Michael McDowell’s teleplay. As the final act approaches, horror devices of a more overt and macabre nature (e.g. skeletons, flickering lights, and creepy synthesizer music) are employed in conjunction with the terrified reactions of Stacey—the perfect culmination of suspense in a low-budget setting.
By talking back to his elders and using toy guns to “shoot” people, the little boy hampers an otherwise eerie atmosphere with his annoying antics.
Similar to “The Hitch-Hiker” from The Twilight Zone, “The Last Car” serves as a metaphor on death itself. That being said, a lack of resolution in the final scene may lessen the impact of McDowell’s narrative thesis (i.e. the futility of resisting life’s only guaranteed outcome).
For viewers in search of a spooky entertainment piece to watch during Halloween season, “The Last Car” will not disappoint. As a commentary on human mortality, on the other hand, this offering leaves much to be desired.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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