The Midnight Meat Train Movie Review

Although the title sounds like the punch line to a crude joke ("...and they called it the midnight meat train!"), The Midnight Meat Train is in fact based on an early Clive Barker short story. The film is perhaps best known (at least in Barker fan circles) as a sterling example of what happens when studio politics gets in the way of filmmaking. While The Midnight Meat Train had a sizable budget and an edgy, young director (Japanese impresario Ryuhei Kitamura of Versus (a hyperactive zombie flick) fame), the movie was unceremoniously dumped into a hundred-odd budget theatres (quelle horror!) where maybe a hundred-odd people saw it. Maybe. The reasons this sad fate befell The Midnight Meat Train are legion, but most Barker fans (as well as Barker himself) seem to agree it had everything to do with infighting at Lionsgate. Whether the film was dumped due to internal politics or whether it was because Lionsgate no longer had faith in the picture, The Midnight Meat Train, despite its ridiculous title, is a decent horror flick. Slick and well-shot, it easily could have played first run theaters and may even have turned a profit.

Closely following Barker's original story (found in volume one of his Books of Blood collection), The Midnight Meat Train concerns a spate of subway disappearances. It seems a serial killer ("The Butcher" aka Mahogany) is offing commuters unlucky enough to be riding the late night trains he lurks on. Told he needs to kick his photos up a notch if he wants to be respected, photographer Leon (played by Bradley Cooper), heads into the bowels of the city looking for kicks. He finds them but he also stumbles upon The Butcher and begins a one-man quest to capture the killer.

As is typical with this sort of fare, logic seems to take a backseat when the story begins in earnest. After Leon witnesses Mahogany slaughter several passengers on a train (and hang them up to bleed like so many sides of beef), his disbelieving girlfriend changes her mind and decides (with a friend in tow) to break into the seemingly superhuman killer's apartment. What quick thinking! Sure enough, it ends in gore. But what had most audiences howling was the movie's outrageous ending (consistent with the original short story) that throws a Lovecraft-ian spin on the proceedings. It seems that Mahogany is supplying meat to... well, you'll have to find out yourself, but know that it involves prosthetics and weird contact lenses.

The Midnight Meat Train's cast is on par with the source material. Bradley Cooper is suitably distressed and obsessed, though his character is awfully thin. Leslie Bibb, playing his girlfriend Maya, is similarly simplistic. The serial killer, Mahogany, is played wordlessly by Vinnie Jones and it's one of his finest performances. He appears not only very threatening but perfectly monstrous. The images of him wielding his giant butcher hammer in the train's flickering lights are the film's best. Helmer Kitamura does a nice job creating an eerie atmosphere (this is not only a very clean "bad" city but a nearly unpopulated one) and the gore (most likely the draw for horror flicks fans) is CGI but well finished. It's just a shame that the final revelatory monster mash is so flawed on a technical level.

The Midnight Meat Train is an effortless but perfectly acceptable little horror film. It's glossier and more nuanced than Lionsgate's Saw franchise and while skimpy on characterization and plot, it should please gorehounds and Barker fans alike. Certainly nothing to abandon in those dreaded dollar theatres.

Also on the train: Cheesecake.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : , Joseph Daley,


The Midnight Meat Train Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2008


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