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A photographer's obsessive pursuit of dark subject matter leads him into the path of a serial killer who stalks late night commuters, ultimately butchering them in the most gruesome ways imaginable.
When Lionsgate greenlit "The Midnight Meat Train", it was still very much a genre studio. Up until that point, it had primarily been associated with horror films like "Saw" and "The Grudge" and was not one of the major studios. Flash forward a couple of years and Lionsgate has a $340 million credit line and its sights set on becoming one of the top studios in the business. Bad news for "The Midnight Meat Train", a film which would have been given the star treatment in 2006, but has now been dumped out into 102 theatres, most of them being dollar theatres or second run theatres. This decision has led many to believe that the age of the R-rated horror film is coming to an end. I certainly do not believe that, but it is a sign that the industry's top horror studio it now looking to add more commercial and more award-worthy pictures to its slate. "The Midnight Meat Train" represents one of the last Lionsgate R-rated horror films of the year, and I don't see another that will match it in wit, camp and absolute blood-soaked brilliance.
The film stars Bradley Cooper as Leon, a photographer who is looking for the picture that will thrust him into the spotlight. His girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb) has her best friend, Jurgis (Roger Bart) introduce Leon to an infamous gallery owner, Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields), who encourages Leon to look deeper for those special pictures. One night, Leon witnesses an attempted robbery, and then the next day realizes that the girl he helped save is missing. His investigations lead him to discover a strange man who works, by day, as a butcher and at night always boards a train. This man is played by Vinnie Jones. As Leon continues to investigate, he slowly gets pulled into a bizarre world and he starts to realize that the hundreds of missing people in the city might all be the victims of the man he has been following, who always carries a black medical case and always wears the same black suit everywhere he goes. The film is based on a short story by Clive Barker, the man who created "Hellraiser" and "Candyman". You can just imagine that there is a supernatural twist somewhere in there...and there is.
What makes "The Midnight Meat Train" so effective is the sense of horror the film has, just as all Clive Barker films do. Clive Barker wrote the film, and acclaimed Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura directed it, and Kitamura definitely knows how to stage a bloody and gruesome sequence. The train sequences with Vinnie Jones are brilliant and use digital effects to their advantage instead of them seeming unnecessary. Cinematographer Jonathan Sela delivers one of the best shot horror films of the year, turning the city into a walking nightmare and turning a train car into one of the most frightening locations for a murder imaginable. The original score by Johannes Kobilke and Robb Williamson is one of the best of the year and one of the best horror scores I have heard in a very long time. "The Midnight Meat Train" has all of the elements in the right place, and all of them firing on all cylinders. The ending of the film, which I will not divulge, is also very true to the short story and takes the whole film into a world you just don't expect in mainstream movies these days. It stays true to its roots.
If the film has one weakness, it's the performances. Bradley Cooper is not very engaging in the lead roles and I wanted to see the character have more to do other than just walk around and takes pictures. Brooke Shields' role could have been written out entirely and no one would have missed her. She seemed there for name value alone. Leslie Bibb has some pretty bad scenes, most of them involving her screaming, "No!" or "Jurgis!" And, poor Roger Bart - one of the greatest stage actors of his generations, and he gets stuck with the worst character name in a horror film ever - Jurgis. The best performance in the film comes from Vinnie Jones, who only speaks one word in the entire picture. Jones has this look about it that makes him one of the most intimidating actors on the planet. He can kill you with a stare and he uses that to his advantage in this film. Ted Raimi makes a nice little cameo in the film took, so be on the look out for him.
If you are a true horror fan, you'll love "The Midnight Meat Train". It's Clive Barker all over the place and it stays true to the original intent of his story. It's filled with more blood and gore than any other film this year, but it doesn't become mired down in it. It also spends equal amounts of time focusing on the story. The special effects, although they may not be the cream of the crop, work perfectly and help add a nice humor and a nice pace to the horror sequences. Lionsgate dumped this film into theatres because it didn't know how to market it. I understand that a little. But, I don't see investing that much time and money into a project and then not seeing if it can at least make some of it back. I think the film would have done well enough in a wide release, but now it will make close to nothing and then get dumped onto DVD, never to be heard from again. It's a shame. It really is one of the best horror films of the year.
- added 08/03/2008, 11:56 AM
"I've got it - we've made our name in
horror, we've got one of the most anticipated
genre films of the year on our hands, it's
received rave reviews from everyone who's seen
it... how should we handle this? I know - we'll
dump it in a grand total of four dollar theaters
across the US! It's a guaranteed win for...
somebody... maybe not us... or the filmmakers...
or the fans.... but it makes sense, somehow!"
- added 08/04/2008, 01:55 AM
What Chad said.
I've been waiting too
goddamned long for this movie and... shit... well,
looks like my ass is waiting/torrenting... I loved
this story so damned much...
- added 08/04/2008, 11:13 AM
Yeah...it sucks that the film is getting the
shaft. And it barely made a nickel opening
weekend. I saw it at a local dollar theatre and
there were about 15 people in the theatre, eight
of which were part of my group. The film is
hitting DVD in October though, so you shouldn't
have too awfully long to wait for it.
- added 08/06/2008, 09:27 PM
I'm glad you wrote this, otherwise I wouldn't
have even realized it came out (haven't seen a
trailer since I saw Rambo back in January, and
then it was set for release in May). I'll be off
to see it tonight, luckily a theater near me is
showing it- I'm sure it'll be awesome
- added 10/13/2008, 07:32 PM
DVD in October you say? Maybe in '09.
I enjoyed it up until the final twist. I think
it would have been a lot creepier if they'd just
made it about a serial killer on a train, rather
than putting some big otherworldly spin on it.
Still, it was a very well done movie.
8/10 seems about right.
- added 10/13/2008, 09:16 PM
Actually, they are saying January of 2009 now.
- added 11/13/2008, 09:56 AM
Great movie, totally agree with the review.
Tristan - it stayed true to the source material,
so you should have known where it was going. I'd
have been pissed if they had changed that to
"just a serial killer on a train", as
would the vast majority of Barker's fans. 9/10.
- added 02/07/2009, 10:15 PM
Thanks for the review. I saw the preview for this
on a rental copy of Saw V and have been very
interested in seeing it. Guess I'll have to sign
up for netflix here soon or pray that Blockbuster
has a copy. Ofcourse I'll more then likely end up
purchasing the DVD of it but its always good to
check it out before hand. Also does anyone know
where I could obtain a copy of Clive Barker's
- added 02/08/2009, 02:17 AM
Check into the "Books of Blood" series,
that'll keep you busy.
- added 02/08/2009, 06:17 PM
I'm anxious to see this...
- added 02/08/2009, 07:16 PM
I've had a boner for this movie since it was
announced, this DVD is going into my collection as
soon as I see it... maybe even Blu-ray, who
- added 02/19/2009, 08:28 PM
First movie, in a LONG time, that's lived up to
my expectations. Washed that nasty fucking
"Friday the 13th" right out of my
- added 02/22/2009, 02:49 AM
Great film. And it was cool seeing Ted Raimi, I
always enjoy his cameos. 9/10
- added 03/01/2009, 03:35 AM
Sorry guys... i found this a bit disappointing
after reading all of your glowing reviews.
It only really becomes engaging halfway
through the film... and the added CG gore is not
only superfluous (and unnecessary... the regular
gore was fairly good), but also poorly done. The
first violent scene was so lame that it almost
made me want to return this flick before it even
got properly rolling...
Kitamura has always
been hit or miss as a director... and this mess of
a story confirms it. He can't decide whether he
wants to accurately re-tell an abstract horror
short (and not particularly exemplary tale, even
by Barker standards) story or reinvent the idea
with added character drama and interaction...
He succeeds in neither.
film DOES have great moments... I can't help but
agree with you all when it comes to the moody
sequencing and cinematography... but a lot of the
film felt flat and incidental to me (and my
companions as well). Only the latter parts of the
film... most notably the "preparation"
scene and the final confrontation on the train...
really kept my interest. Aside from some of the
worst fight continuity I've seen in a while (guy
pulls a knife out of his shoulder.... next scene
he's kicking a downed foes without said knife that
should be in his hand for stabbing... then later
on in the fight it appears on a subway seat a
short distance away... etc), this film had some
really well done visceral sequences... but not
enough of them to carry the acting dead-weight
that dragged the film's center downward.
Aside from it's partial loyalty to the original
Clive Barker tale... i found the ending terribly
What the HELL is up with the
Conductor? Where does HE fit into the whole
And most importantly... WHY does he
have to verbally sum up in a half-assed last
minute diatribe what should have been either shown
or deciphered by the main characters throughout
the length of the film ?
- added 06/02/2009, 11:51 PM
I was LOVING this movie. Every minute of it, the
creepy setting, the conspiracy, the killer, the
over the top blood and gore, the hammer,
fingernails and teeth, EVERYTHING.
and then they started pulling up newspaper
clippings from over a hundred years ago. and I
thought shit, this is gonna go straight downhill.
and it did.
If they had left it with
the original idea and not tried to throw in the
the "twist" this would have been
perfect. The last bit (altho visually pretty
freakin cool) just made me roll my eyes and
ruined the whole thing for me. Cant a film just
let a psycho be a psycho these days?! I think Im
going to watch it again and just stop it before
his stupid ass girlfriend gets involved and finish
the rest in my own head..... and be happy.
- added 06/04/2009, 11:40 AM
Know what I loved most about this? How they kept
the twist at the end. Hated that they felt the
need to add a girlfriend, for drama, but I loved
how faithful it was to the source... that and
everything else about it.
- added 08/12/2009, 10:05 PM
9/10 I love Clive Barkers work and this movie
really surprised me. Nobody liked the ending that
I watched it with, but I thought it was perfect.
- added 10/23/2009, 02:46 AM
Really awesome movie. I finally got around to
watching it today. I thought the twist was
ridiculous at first (why he's butchering people),
but then I realized, "Fuck...it's based on a
Clive Baker story. It's never gonna be just some
serial killer story." And boy, did they let
the gore flow. I read a comment on imdb.com where
some guy said it was hardly a gory movie. O_o