For this one, Ryuhei Kitamura’s adaptation of the Clive Barker short story ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ I had to consult with my boy Tyrone. Tyrone you see is the Clive Barker / Stephen King guru and the expert when it comes to all things horror / fantasy and science fiction so not only has he read the accompanying text that most of these kinds of movies are based on he also can see beneath the surface to break it down for those of us who aren’t quite as well versed in these fields of endeavor. The basics behind ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ was pretty simple – mean dude smashing people to death with a meat tenderizer – but there was way more going on beyond that and I thought the movie did a rather poor job in explaining exactly what that more was, but we’ll get to that later on.
Leon (Bradley Cooper) makes his living chasing ambulances and the like as a freelance photographer trying to get that right shot to tide him over while he chases his real dream as a photo artist. Leon’s girl Maya (Leslie Bibb) loves her some Leon and just wants to see her man happy so she consults with their mutual friend Jurgis (Roger Bart) who has a connect or two so that Leon can finally get this artistic career he so badly craves off the ground. This leads to meeting the supreme patron of arts Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields) who is less than impressed with Leon’s work, but still seeing some potential. He just has to be bolder and braver in capturing his subjects of the city of New York that he loves so much.
Now it’s time for Leon to get down and dirty with his Nikon and get some real emotion which leads him to the New York Subways and eventually leads him to The Butcher (Vinnie Jones). In between us screwing around with Leon and Maya The Butcher has been riding the late night subway train and along with the worlds most oppressive meat cleaver he’s been steadily straight up killing folks in the worst ways possible. The curious thing about this is that aside from the occasional missing persons report there’s never any news about these incredibly bloody and grisly subway murders.
So Leon snaps a photo of the man that really upsets The Butcher greatly but this does nothing for Leon except create an obsession towards the butcher that he just can’t shake. He follows the man everywhere he goes, studying him, studying what he thinks is the history of these missing people, snapping pictures of him and eventually discovering what The Butcher does on his late night subway rides. His girl thinks he’s lost his mind, the cops aren’t interested in the least bit in what Leon has to say and now practically completely off his rocker Leon has decided to take matters into his own hands. I’m thinking there have been better decisions than this one.
Not for the faint of heart this movie ‘The Midnight Meat Train’. And poor Ted Raimi… damn. Eyeballs propel out their heads in glorious slow motion, necks reverse their axis while sitting on shoulders at extremely unnatural angles, there are decapitations, severed limbs and vital organs get ripped out and held up for all to examine while they seem to be still functioning somewhat. Yes, this is one of the more grisly and more brutal films that you’re ever going to see but I’ve seen plenty violence and gore before and was still stuck watching a shitty movie, but thankfully this isn’t the case with ‘The Midnight Meat Train’.
This here was one slick looking, smooth flowing production and Kitamura sure knows how to shoot a pretty picture capturing arterial blood spray just about right. I’ve seen a couple of the directors movies in his cult classic ‘Versus’ and ‘Sky High’ so its no surprise that the film looks so good because his skill behind the camera, at least in my opinion, is unquestionable. The big battle on the moving subway train is one of the more exciting, better staged action sequences that you’re ever going to see. But while I have the utmost confidence in the director’s visual acumen, I’m not so sure about his storytelling skills though the narrative in ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ is a bit tighter than those other films by the director that I have seen.
So like I said earlier the basics of the story are fairly simple and straightforward, it’s when the story gets all twisty like and they start attempting to explain the how of what’s going on that it becomes confusing. I don’t even think confusing is the right word as it feels as if its more incomplete than anything else, because without giving anything away there’s some strange stuff going on in regards to The Butcher and what’s going on with the man physically and some other stuff, particularly near the end that isn’t close to being adequately explained. Tyrone explained it all since he’s read the story and being the geek that he is he also has the back story on how Clive Barker felt about the changes in his story and why there were changes in the first place, but not everybody has a Tyrone to fall back on like I do.
Performance wise the actors were good if not spectacular and I like Leslie Bibb a lot more as a comedic actress than as a Scream Queen. The casting of Vinnie Jones is a curious one because his steely glint seems to work better as a tough guy more so than a Vorhees style serial killer and keep an eye out for UFC madman Quentin ‘The Rampage’ Jackson as one of those Guardian Angels who does the best he can to represent.
Despite some of the issues I had with the story in ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ it was still a very effective horror gore fest that even managed to toss in some legitimate suspense in its running time which is relatively rare to see nowadays and always good to see.