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Midnight Meat Train, The (2008)

The Midnight Meat Train review!Reviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura


Clive Barker’s Books of Blood is the holy grail of horror literature. We’ve had several film adaptations for better (Candyman, Lord of Illusions) and for worse (Rawhead Rex, Quicksilver Highway) but as a whole, the author’s short story collections remain a neglected gold-mine of movie material. The Midnight Meat Train is one of Barker’s most celebrated works and the film version has been a long time coming, with numerous false starts and changing of the guards over the years. But despite the efforts of a wonderful creative team and genre-friendly studio, the end result is a mixed blessing.

Leon Kauffman (Cooper) is a photographer obsessed with capturing life in the big city. When opportunity knocks at a prestigious art exhibit, Leon is sent into the darkest corners of the underworld to capture the ugly side of life, despite pleas from his live-in girlfriend. While wandering a subway station, he catches sight of the sinister Mr Mahogany (Jones), a mysterious man with a bag full of instruments which he uses to dispatch unlucky train passengers. Following the trail of disappearing bodies, Leon’s new subject becomes an obsession until he finds himself at the edge of sanity.

First, the good. Director Ryuhei (Versus, Azumi) Kitamura tackles Barker with blood-soaked bravado, making Meat Train the most visually-stunning horror film in years. The cult filmmaker has obviously been given more creative reign than most foreign directors would on a big Hollywood debut, yet his usual off-the-wall style is subdued in favor of a moodier, more deliberate approach. That is, until he lets loose with the murder scenes.

Through a perfect marriage of prosthetics and CGI, Kitamura unleashes some of the most outrageous and inventive kills to ever hit the screen: Victims are sliced, diced, bludgeoned, hacked, and smashed in several shocking jump-out-of-your-seat moments (how this got away with an R-rating is mind-boggling).

But despite its best intentions and a jaw-dropping first act, Meat Train blows its load too early (no pun intended). The warped kills and seedy exploration soon take a backseat to standard mystery-solving and predictable stalking scenes where it becomes clear the filmmakers are really pushing a short’s worth of material to feature length.

The Taxi Driver-esque approach to Leon’s mental state is an interesting one, but eventually loses all focus when the story randomly shifts to the point-of-view of his girlfriend. Things pick up again during the finale (where most of Barker’s original story is played out) but the journey there is just too meandering to make for a suspenseful pay-off.

Die-hard fans of Clive Barker will be happy to see a faithful gore-drenched version on the big screen, but The Midnight Meat Train ultimately plays out like an extended episode of Masters of Horror. This material would have made for a perfect segment in a Books of Blood anthology film, but as a feature it loses itself and falls just short of greatness.

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3 out of 5

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  • True_Pagan

    Classic Clive Barker? Close.
    I have read and re-read the books of blood more times than I can count. Midnight Meat Train is one of my all time favorite stories from the collection. So, color me thrilled the moment I heard they were FINALLY making the movie.
    I went and saw it last night…and I’m a bit torn. Overall, it was good. The gore effects were out-fucking-standing and the use of shadow and washed out colors was fantastic.
    I only have one gripe about the whole thing. The ending. Anyone who has read the story knows exactly what I’m talking about. If they had done the smart thing and kept that original ending, it would have been the classic, quintessential Clive Barker film. It could have been shelved with those greats such as Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions and Candyman. They all had those unique plot twists and ideas that could only come from the mind of Barker.
    In changing the ending so dramatically they made it just another monster-cannibal-creature movie. I was so disappointed when the credits rolled. I was left sitting there in a slight state of shock.
    All in all, If you have never had the experience of reading the story then the movie is a great gore filled ride. If you HAVE read the story, you may a bit let down overall.
    I think it will all be redeemed if we ever see that “Thief of Always” movie that been in “development” forever! *lol*

  • Doc Block

    I saw it last night and I thought it was an awesome mastepiece (but that’s just me). My one problem with the movie was a cheesy CG scene involving an eye, but other than that I was absolutely blown away. Amazing movie, too bad it’s not a wider release. I’ll be seeing it three more times before it leaves on Thursday night.

  • Doc Block

    Frankly, I still think I will love it. It does get me a little let down to hear that you can tell it’s streched to fit feature length time, because that’s exactly the issue I had with Candyman.

  • Hunter1006

    Steaks on a Train.

  • Cash Bailey

    It sounds like what I was expecting; all the stuff based directly from the story is spectacular, but all the feature-length padding is pretty mediocre.

    I would much prefer the anthology that was originally planned, but it is truly awesome to see Barker’s name up on the screen again.

    Now let’s see how they go with DREAD and PIG’S BLOOD BLUES.

  • Sirand

    I love Lord of Illusions and still consider it Barker’s best directed film. Rawhead Rex may be more faithful, but it’s complete shit.

  • Caterpillar

    I wouldn’t call LORD OF ILLUSIONS one of the better adaptations from the BOOKS OF BLOOD. As a movie it is merely a mess but as an adaptation it’s utterly terrible and from what Barker has said in interviews in the years following its release he feels the same. Just read the short story again and then rewatch Barker’s movie… In fact RAWHEAD REX is much more faithful to its original story than LORD OF ILLUSIONS is to THE LAST ILLUSION.