The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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Connections: Books Of Blood

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. --IMDb
Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper
Leslie Bibb
Leslie Bibb
Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields
Vinnie Jones
Vinnie Jones
Roger Bart
Roger Bart
Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 03, 2008
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.

Chad #1: Chad - 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!"
Ginose #2: Ginose - 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...
bluemeanie #3: bluemeanie - 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.
thrasher #4: thrasher - 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
Tristan #5: Tristan - 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.
bluemeanie #6: bluemeanie - added 10/13/2008, 09:16 PM
Actually, they are saying January of 2009 now.
Chad #7: Chad - 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.
Mojokc #8: Mojokc - 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 short stories?
Chad #9: Chad - added 02/08/2009, 02:17 AM
Check into the "Books of Blood" series, that'll keep you busy.
Greg Follender #10: Greg Follender - added 02/08/2009, 06:17 PM
I'm anxious to see this...
Ginose #11: Ginose - 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 knows...?
Ginose #12: Ginose - 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 head...

9.5 /10
Nirrad #13: Nirrad - added 02/22/2009, 02:49 AM
Great film. And it was cool seeing Ted Raimi, I always enjoy his cameos. 9/10
Greg Follender #14: Greg Follender - 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.

This 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 disappointing.
What the HELL is up with the Conductor? Where does HE fit into the whole deal?
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 ?

Show, don't tell...

Dametria #15: Dametria - 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.
Ginose #16: Ginose - 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.
Lucid Dreams #17: Lucid Dreams - 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.
waxtadpole3657 #18: waxtadpole3657 - 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
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