A review of The Midnight Meat Train

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Archive posts, Journalism, Reviews

A film review from the Death Ray website, published around the time of Death Ray 16 in 2008.

THREE AND A HALF STARS

18/96 minutes

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura

Writer: Jeff Buhler, Clive Barker (short story)

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Vinnie Jones, Roger Bart

British horror author Clive Barker has adapted a number of his Books of Blood stories for the big screen – Candyman, Lord of Illusions and the awful Rawhead Rex, among others, all have their origins as Barker shorts. The Midnight Meat Train is the latest. The set up is simple, the shading within the lines subtle. Typical Barker.

Leon (Bradley Cooper) is a photographer who, at the urging of a vampish gallery owner (played by Brooke Shields), immerses himself in the darker side of city life in order to capture the beating heart of New York on film. He’s soon in over his head, tracking a man he is convinced is a serial killer linked to a series of gruesome cannibal murders a century ago. His comfy if frustrated existence, and the lives of his nice pal Jurgis (Peter Bart), and sexy fiancee Maya (Leslie Bibb) are put at risk as his obsession with the truth behind the killings threatens to overwhelm him.

Barker’s fiction is, in part, concerned with the horror lurking under the surface, and in The Midnight Meat Train, this metaphor creeps from under the skin of the flesh to slither beneath the tarmaced skirts of New York. There’s something innately creepy about late-night subway trains and the warren of half-forgotten tunnels beneath any metropolitan street. But Barker’s concern with the capacity for unfettered carnality that hides within us all gives it that extra edge. Barker’s imagination is a rich antidote to the tedious run of teens in peril, ladies in peril, or far eastern remakes that clog the genre right now. Good cinematography only heightens the sense of queasy revelation the best of Barker’s work brings.

There’s not quite enough material here for the running time, and Vinnie Jones, who has solid form as a film hardcase, could perhaps have been asked to not scowl quite so ferociously in a few shots here and there (he’s pretty damn good otherwise). The gore is questionable. Not in the amount or whether it services the story – it’s a horror flick about people being eaten for cripes sakes – but it’s surprising that, in a film which is otherwise deadly serious, the gore tends towards the comedic. There’s one notable sequence where Ted Raimi’s eyes fly out of his head when Jones’s character Mahogany bops him on the head. So he’s armed with a massive mallet and has supernatural strength, but it looks laughable. The rest of the ick is appropriately nasty, but here and there gets silly. Eyeballs aside, it’s a good horror flick from the master of the macabre.

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