Midnight Meat Train (2008)

MAY 1, 2008


It’s not every day you have to tell Samuel L. Jackson to step aside so your buddy can get out of the row to go take a much-needed piss, but then again for a lot of folks, it’s not every day that you have to watch/review a horror movie you’ve never seen before. That’s what happened at Midnight Meat Train though, which capped off an evening spent with a much needed entry in modern horror – a new Clive Barker film (and a good one at that).

(I have no idea why Sam was there, as it was otherwise just press and people involved with the film. Maybe he just likes a good horror movie as much as the rest of us).

Despite being the most famous horror novelist next to Stephen King, very few films have been made from Barker’s work. Three of them he directed himself, and there have been about as many made by others (such as Candyman and Rawhead Rex). And to some extent I can understand why – apart from Candyman, as well as Hellraiser and its first sequel, none of these films made much at the box office. Barker’s themes (not to mention the borderline hardcore sex usually found within his tales) aren’t quite as easy to digest as your average horror movie, but his unique visions can’t usually be done for cheap. That’s a shame, but hopefully Midnight Meat Train will turn things around once released to theaters.

Ryuhei Kitamura makes his American debut (and his first legit horror film – his others are more fantasy/action based, including a Godzilla film), and fares far better than many of his peers. The film has a very unique look – it’s very grainy, but also has a lot of soft focus (it’s rare that anything but the main characters or object in the scene are in sharp focus, backgrounds are sometimes a total blur). Some of it may remind you of the Saw films (particularly when the blueish hues and lighting take over during the subway scenes), but it’s still visually striking from start to finish.

It’s also a well cast film. Bradley Cooper is a perfect choice to carry this type of film – he’s not a big star, but neither is his character (an aspiring photographer). Leslie Bibb plays his girlfriend, the most supermodel-y waitress in film history, and thus between this and Iron Man she’s become my de facto favorite actress of the year. Vinnie Jones plays the same mute bad guy he seems to always play, but he’s rarely as menacing. And Hostel II’s Roger Bart pops up in a few scenes, and he’s always a welcome presence.

Back to the menace though – what surprised me most about the film was how it managed to be equally as suspenseful as it was splatter-y. There are a couple stalk/chase sequences between Jones and Cooper that rival any modern horror films’ attempts at suspense (the fact that these sequences have zero dialogue is another bonus), giving the film a “classy” edge that many others lack (come on, are you really biting your nails when watching a Saw film?). At the same time, the kill sequences are impressively gory, to the point where it’s almost a surprise this got an R rating. They also carry a bit of an Argento feel; there’s a fantastic gag where a guy, hanging upside down on a meat hook, sees his reflection in a growing pool of his own blood. A+.

Ironically, this is also part of the only issue I had with the film. During the 2nd act, it begins to get a tad bit monotonous, as Cooper follows Jones around twice, with many near-misses, and we also see about 4 scenes of Jones killing random people on the train. It’s a short film (less than 90 minutes I think) but I wish something else could have been done to make the film feel a bit less like it was going nowhere for a small amount of time. Also, Cooper’s character becomes traditionally “obsessed” with his target, ignoring his girlfriend, plastering the entire apartment with photos, and even eating a steak (he’s a vegetarian who brings his own tofu to the diner where his girlfriend works). But this obsession comes rather suddenly, and is not fully explored (I wanted to see more with his newfound love of meat, for starters). Still, once the 3rd act (which is almost entirely train-set) begins, it’s no longer an issue, and the film barely lets up from there.

There is also a random, hilarious reference to an (unjustifiably) Oscar winning movie that had me laughing so hard I apparently annoyed others in the theater. Sorry!

Another great thing about the film is that screenwriter Jeff Buhlerwill didn’t slow the film down with needless exposition and explanation for everything. Not only does it leave available story for the (hopeful) sequel, but it keeps the film focused on its real point(s). In fact, without spoiling much, you can almost look at the film as an “origin” film once the final scenes play out, and like any origin story, it sets the stage for bigger and possibly better things to come.

Between this and The Ruins (and, God willing, the release of Repo), it looks like 2008 will be a great year for original, top notch (and R RATED!) horror films. Hopefully the box office will be good enough to inspire more Barker stories making their way to the screen.

What say you?


  1. this seems like a neat movie. I am a huge fan of the Hellraiser series (even the later ones that..well you know)..

    Your reviews always make me WANT to see any movie you review. Thats a bad thing, because then i go broke buying dvds.

    I do apologize for taking part in The Ruins sucking at the box office. I DID NOT go see it, and still havent. It was out of the theaters really fast, and well..Prom Night is STILL there. sorry bud.

    I still have The Ruins on the top of my list..and well..this one is jumping up there.

  2. I say, fuck yeah. I always liked the story, and it had a cinematic vibe to the prose.

    Kitamura...I dug Versus. It had a guerrilla-style to it that reminded me of early Jackson.

  3. I was given to understand that the release date had been pushed back to August for this. Are they still juggling it, or are you just THAT important in the world of horror? :)

    Can't wait for this one, though. Everything I've heard has been great.

  4. I knew this was on the way, but didn't know Kitamura was involved - it's just become a must see on that alone!

  5. I thought the short story in The Books of Blood (which has some other great stories like The Yattering And Jack) had quite a 'Lovecraftian' feel to it. Like Bungle, I also thought it was quite cinematically (is that a word?) written.

    Looking forward to this one, though I wish Vinnie Jones would just fuck off though. The bastard used to bully one of my friends at school.

  6. yes!! im all about MMT!!! brain-- you said you haven't read it, right? go get yourself the books of blood before i beat you to death.

    if only theyd make "dread" into a movie. i'd be in clive barker HEAVEN.

  7. They are making dread! My friend Anthony is directing it!!

  8. I thought this short story (tag "based on short story" and not "novel" or am I just being pedantic here?) had quite a Lovecraftian feel to it when I read it as a teenager in Books of Blood (which also contains classics like The Yattering And Jack.

    I agree with Bungle that it has nice cinemtic feel to the writing too so it's not surprising to find it making it to the big screen.

    I hate Vinnie Jones - he used to bully a mate of mine at school.

  9. Can't wait to see this one. Barker's original short story is one of my favorites of all time (and I'm not really a huge fan of his).


  10. if we can get the yattering and jack into a movie, life itself would be perfect

  11. WOW!

    i JUST finished reading this part of the Books of Blood. I picked it up mainly cuz i know the movie is here and I love to see comparison. I can see there will be quite some addition as in like..filler scenes for the movie to be longer. It was GREAT. and now reading the other comments about Yattering and Jack , its the next story to take on. cant wait now!

    thats funny guys! cuz IIIII used to bully Vinnie Jones in school. what a small world?

  12. just watched this online while patiently..sorda..waiting for the dvd release..

    I read the story, and aside from the fact that they ADDED a little more to make more movie time..they didnt remove the original story at all..i was happy about that.

    and the gore AND effects for the movie was very fun. between the shifty edgy transition effects, the blood...AND the quality of video (lighting, reflections, and shadows) all did wonderful.

    I cant wait for this movie to come out on dvd. its a definite owner.

  13. good flick, best wtf moment with rampage jackson poppin up to get killed by vinnie jones haha

  14. Well, I'm pretty late to this one. Just watched it on DVD last night. It was fucking awesome! I would've seen it in the theatre had I been into horror at the time. Wikipedia says this cost 15 million and only pulled in 3. I guess we can forget about the Yattering and Jack.

    Man, the murder scenes were brutal as hell. I loved Vinnie with his meat tenderizer. It was certainly shot brilliantly. It really turned the reflective surfaces on the train into a beautiful effect. Almost a kaleidoscope. It had a very unique look. This was a couple of steps above most horror.

    My DVD was 100 minutes long. It's supposedly the director's cut and it didn't really seem to resolve any of the issues you raised. The meat and obsession issues weren't really expanded upon.

    I watched this by myself and laughed my ass off at the same joke you seemed to love. Whaddya wanna bet that actor ad-libbed that line?

    I felt the same way you did about the reflection in the pool of blood. Awesome! Another good one was the POV shot from the head of the decapitated swinger lady, which then pulled back out from her eye. Fucking brilliant!

    I'm so bummed this didn't make any money. The entire Books of Blood need to be made into movies of this calibre. I guess I only have myself to blame.


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