The Midnight Meat Train

The Midnight Meat Train

Film review by: Witney Seibold

 

            These days, it’s rare to see a horror film in American theaters that isn’t a remake, either of a mildly popular American film or an obscure J-horror hit, so the appearance of “The Midnight Meat Train” is something of an event. Based on a short story by gore legend Clive Barker, and featuring enough blood to shock even the desensitized modern gorehound crowd, “The Midnight Meat Train” is actually a pretty darn good film. I didn’t like the ending, and the photography gave me a headache, but it was clever and scary enough to serve, and serve well, a glorious helping of mo’ better meaty meat.

            The story: Amateur photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper) is living in bliss with his pretty girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb) in their tiny NYC apartment. His ultimate goal as a photographer is to capture the city “the way it really is.” He is advised by the vampish art expert Susa Hoff (Brooke Shields. Woah.), to stay put and keep shooting his usual subjects until… I dunno, until they encounter tragedy.

            Leon ends up following an expressionless touch guy with an inmate’s haircut. He follows this man into the subway, where he sees the man’s hobby: smashing people in the head with an enormous hammer, stripping their bodies, and hanging the bodies on meathooks.

            Leon, unbelieved by the police (natch), begins tailing and investigating these horrific crimes himself, and discovers that this horrible man has been in operation for years, and that he’s unloading the “meat” somewhere on the subway line. The killer is a cold-eyed monster, and is played by a minimalist Vinnie Jones. Yeah, he’s pretty scary.

 

            There are other story twists as well, some of which are satisfying, others of which are kinda dumb. Roger Bart from “Hostel: Par II” shows up at one point. He’s a good actor.

            The one thing that really bugged me about “The Midnight Meat Train” was the actual shooting of it. The photography was all steely blues and tinted-out closeups, and the editing was so quick and jarring, it was almost tough to tell what was going on in some vital scenes. The film featured loud screeching and banging noises even when nothing was going on. It was way too stylized. Had director Ryuhei Kitamura (“Versus,” “Azumi”) stuck with a starker 1970s crime style (warmer colors, longer takes, less music and quieter sound effects), this film could have been truly horrifying. As it is, it’s more of a thrill ride than a scare-fest. I suppose that won’t bother some people.

            Otherwise, “The Midnight Meat Train” is tightly paced, cogent, and even a little scary. And it manages to have us care about the characters; we actually have a little bit of stock in whether or not the characters get hammered.

            A lot of people are furious over “The Midnight Meat Train.” Evidently, when the new CEO of Lionsgate film took over the company from the old one, he, spitefully, shelved or shoved aside all the pet projects the old one was working on. One of the pieces of collateral damage was “The Midnight Meat Train” which received a one-week theatrical run in a single theater in La Mirada with no advance notice, and no advertising. Luckily, I was able to see it as a midnight screening at the Nuart in West L.A., and it sold out there.

            Perhaps that was enough to send a message to the new CEO, and perhaps enough to get it a proper theatrical run. We shall see.

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Published in: on August 21, 2008 at 11:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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