The Midnight Meat Train

The Midnight Meat Train
Made in: USA
Language: English
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Barbara Eve Harris, Tony Curran, Roger Bart
Year: 2008

Synopsis: This movie was adapted from the short story by renown horror writer, Clive Barker, and is from Volume One of the Books of Blood collection. Leon (Bradley Cooper) is a talented, ambitious, but broke photographer who specializes in taking candid, urban street shots. With the help of his girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb), he's able to meet with Susan Hoff (Brook Shields), a famous art dealer.

Although she sees promise in his work, Susan bluntly criticizes his portfolio. She points out that Leon needs to be more courageous with his photography in order to capture the true emotional essence of the "city's soul."

While in a subway station late one night, Leon photographs several thugs who are about to rough up a young woman. He manages to prevent the crime, and his intense photos, once developed, have enough grit and raw realism to impress Susan. On the brink of success, Leon just needs a few more pictures like it in order to make it big.

Leon then becomes drawn to a quiet, dour, and scary-looking subway rider named Mahogany (Vinnie Jones). Unbeknownst to Leon, Mahogany is actually a serial killer who rides the trains late at night, brutally slaying unsuspecting passengers with the help of a heavy meat hammer. After slashing or decapitating his hapless (and often annoying) victims, he strings their messy corpses up like slaughtered cattle.

Leon soon becomes obsessed with Mahogany, who may be connected to a hundred year-old mystery involving a killer known as the "Subway Butcher." This leads the photographer down a dark path as he risks life and limb to find the bloody truth.

And through it all, everyone in this movie is still considerate enough to observe the no-smoking rule on the subway.

The Good: The Midnight Meat Train has a lot of solid suspense, and a great build-up. Bradley Cooper does a good job as the photographer who becomes obsessed to the point of becoming mentally unhinged. The psychological change surrounding his character is intriguing, and the mystery behind Mahogany and his gruesome purpose will draw you in.

Director Ryuhei Kitamura often moves the camera in creative ways, and makes use of a dark, bleak-looking atmosphere that perfectly captures the mood of the film. The editing and lighting give The Midnight Meat Train sort of an "indie" look, which makes it seem a cut above the average modern slasher.

Former footballer Vinnie Jones is perfectly cast as the mysterious Subway Butcher, and Kitamura masterfully pulls the viewer along, giving us enough clues to know that there's a well thought-out plot. But at the same time, he never gives so much away that the movie becomes predictable.

The Bad: The ending. Although it all comes together in a coherent, sensible way, the story sort of wraps up a little too quickly. Truth be told, I found it really disappointing.

Who would like this movie: Take The Midnight Meat Train if you like the works of Clive Barker. I haven't read the original short story (shame on me, since I myself am a horror author), so I can't guarantee that Barker fans will like it. But it's sure to spark a reaction.

As I said, the first half of the film is excellent and much better than a by-the-numbers slasher that's content to throw blood all over the screen for the sole purpose of grossing you out. That being said, this movie has plenty of blood and cringe-inducing graphic violence to remind you that, in the end, it is indeed a horror movie.

So if you enjoy watching eyeballs getting plucked out of heads or corpses getting stabbed in the genitals, then this movie's definitely for you!

But despite a great build-up and some genuine suspense, The Midnight Meat Train gets a little off-track with a so-so ending.

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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