Tales From the Darkside 219: The Last Car

It's the middle of the night, and a woman heading home from college for Thanksgiving is waiting for a train. It's the last train of the night, and she's waiting by the sign indicating where the last car is going to stop. Just in case all this wasn't ominous enough, the exit sign picks this moment to come loose from the doorway:

And fall to the ground below. Tales From the Dark Side: For all your thuddingly obvious metaphor needs.

The train finally arrives and the coed climbs aboard. There she finds the requisite creepy passengers, including an old lady, an exhausted businessman, and a kid who won't stop shooting his capguns at people. The coed is puzzled by how empty the last car is, given how packed the rest were. The old lady's response? The last car ways more than the others. Also, I'm guessing, it's more haunted.

Things get even more odd when the old lady is confused by the 'strange, numbered bracelet' that the coed is wearing. By which she means - the watch. Trying to ignore the eerieness of the old lady, the coed shifts seats and tries to take a nap - but she's disturbed by the obnoxious cowboy kid, who runs up and down the aisle, announcing that they're coming up on a tunnel - which is when everything goes to hell.

As they pull through the tunnel everyone in the car cowers in fear, the lights go out, and the coed is menaced by her own ghostly reflection!

Somehow, she doesn't yet feel that it's time to leave the car. Instead, she stays right where she is, not rethinking everything she knows about the way the world works. Finally she gets up to take a breather in the next car, but the door won't work. The coed is told that doors won't open while the train is moving - which is clearly a lie, since she arrived in the car just minutes ago.

In other creepy developments, the coed's watch no longer works, and the obnoxious kid has transformed from an evil cowboy to an evil army guy.

It's getting pretty bad for the coed - no one will Just where he got the new outfit is somehow not a point of concern for her. She's too distracted trying to find out what time it is. No one answers, and even the mention of 'time' sends the kid into a conniption fit. The increasingly alienating atmosphere starts getting to the coed, who tries to get some air out the back door. She finds the wind far too strong outside, however, and heads back to her seat, hoping to get a little sleep. A plan which is encouraged a little too heartily by the old lady, if I do say so myself...

The coed naps and time passes - or does it? The old lady still doesn't understand the concept of 'time', and warns her that there's another tunnel coming. The problem with that? This train goes up and down the east coast, and there aren't any tunnels on that route! Well, if that's the case, why weren't you more alarmed by the ghost tunnel right after you got on the thing? Oh, and the old lady doesn't understand the concept of 'getting off the train', either. So - Limbo, Hell, or Time Trap? We've already had hell once this year (Devil's Advocate), and there was also a supernatural Time Trap (Halloween Candy), so I'm going to go with Limbo - although I'm not sure exactly when and how she's supposed to have died.

Another tunnel arrives, and things start to freak out once more. It's a little more serious this time, though - in addition to the flashing lights and shaking, an argument over playing cards escalates into murder when the kid grabs his toy gun and fills the old man with lead:

Coed responds to this with all the shock she carefully reserved during the whole 'ghost me' incident. I suppose it's for the best she saved it up.

The tunnel ends and everything goes back to normal. The old man's alive (although still bloody, for some reason) and coed returns to her bullet-riddled seat, somewhat shell-shocked.

Sometime later coed has fallen asleep, but she winds up being shocked back to consciousness by the kid, who's now a football player. Coed feels like she's been on the train for days, but the old lady dodges all of her questions about why it's pitch black outside, as if they've been traveling through the world's longest tunnel. Their conversation isn't going anywhere, so it's something of a relief when the conductor finally arrives to take everyone's ticket.

He's a little surprised to a see a new person in the last car, and asks for her ticket. Coed claims not to have one, demanding to be thrown off the train. The conductor scoffs at the idea, and refuses to let her change to a different car on the train. She tries to rush through the door when he's leaving, but they hit a tunnel just then, and the train shakes so violently that her attempt is stymied.

Also, the conductor turns into a skeleton the second he's on the other side of the door. So maybe getting through wouldn't be the best plan. Spinning around, she finds that the whole car is now populated by desiccated, long-dead skeletons, with cobwebs and dusts decorating every part of them.

Coed closes her eyes until the tunnel ends. She collapses in a seat, completely overwrough. The old lady offers her a shawl so that she'll be warm. It's a nice gesture, and coed finally seems to accept her lot as one of the train's denizens. Which goes just about as well as you'd think, since during the next tunnel-

I don't know about you, but I feel like, were I in the same situation, I would have given the windy back platform of the train another shot before giving up.

So we got to the end without ever figuring out what was going on. Which is kind of a cheat if you ask me. Although, really, this was essentially the same story (and ending) as 'Halloween Candy', so it's cool if you feel cheated.


Edie Midouri said...

I always thought this ep was strange. But I can't turn away...
I love your synopsis, very entertaining!

Unknown said...

Great synopsis! This episode has boggles my mind since I first saw it. I am going to go with purgatory/limbo. The reasons being 1) she sees her own ghost 2) one of the times they go through the tunnel everyone is a skeleton and 3) that she cannot get off the train and the route is clearly not the one her normal train takes.

Also the "Exit" sign could represent exiting life.

Steve said...

The clue is in the numerous camera angles of the celing of the carriage each time it goes through a tunnel.

Watch - and...hint...listen very carefully!

Rosemary Sandiford said...

More please more !!!! I loved this episode but my tv is on it's way out so sound and colour are a bit dodgy.

soggybottom said...

So - Limbo, Hell, or Time Trap?

How about none of the above?

If they're in a state of limbo, then why are there only 4? Slow period for The Grim Reaper? The other-3 have seemingly been on that train for a long time--so long that the old lady doesn't even know what "time" means anymore.

And if they're dead, why are they hungry, cold, or tired? You kinda need to be alive for your body to have these needs. And her form during the last tunnel looks more like an alien than a skeleton to me.

None of them look like they belong in hell, especially a little kid (although he did seem to have a fascination with guns).

There's nothing to indicate that they're in a time trap (unlike Halloween Candy where we find out at the end that weeks had passed over-night).

And what the hell does Steve mean by saying that the answer is in the camera angles and sounds during the tunnels? I don't think that he has a clue either.

The real horror in episodes like these is the fact that we're left high and dry with unanswered questions that have no obvious answers. It's like a scary haunted-train ride that doesn't make sense on purpose for the uneasy feeling that it leaves us with.

I just look at it as a never-ending nightmare that gets worse and worse as it goes along.

Have you ever been in a situation where things don't go your way--where you just can't get a break to save your life?

And just when you think that things couldn't possibly get any worse...





Unknown said...

I think the old lady is actually the devil. She's very eerie and constantly trying to get the girl to sleep.

Rose said...

"The clue is in the numerous camera angles of the celing of the carriage each time it goes through a tunnel.

Watch - and...hint...listen very carefully!"

Along with the spooky music, you can hear deep, demonic laughter. The ceiling panels seem to move in and out almost like they're breathing (though this could just be a side-effect of a low-budget set being shaken to look like a train car). I'm going with the Conductor is the devil and this is some sort of Hell-train.

Paige Swanson said...


just before she gets on the train, the exit sign falls off, indicating that there's no longer an exit. she can't go anywhere else. This is the end.

as soon as the girl gets on, she says she's dead tired. And twice the old lady says car rocks you to sleep. the old lady repeatedly encourages her to sleep.

the old guy is in on it. he sits by the door and the bathroom, like a guard. he's the one that provides the food, and he talks to the conductor as soon as the conductor enters. he's the one that points out the new passenger to the conductor. Both of them know the little kid personally.

at first, the kid is an 1800s cowboy. After the next tunnel he's a 1900s soldier, then a football player, after the next tunnel, he's a 2000's futuristic soldier. each tunnel is a generation and ends with death. Each Costume is a different person's occupation. when the kid is alive, he forgets that he is going to die and he just kills people. he kind of represents mankind.

The parts not in tunnels represent parts of people's lives when they are alive but they know they're going to die. When the little kid realizes that, he becomes very frightened. He realizes that when the girl tells him that a tunnel is coming soon.

the lady starts and completes her shawl during the episode. That indicates that WEEKS have passed.
— paige swanson