The Midnight Meat Train – Review
- Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
- Starring Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Vinnie Jones and Roger Bart
I haven’t read the short story this was based on since I was in my early or mid-teens, but as far as I can recall, this is definitely the closest to the source material adaptation of Clive Barker’s work that we’ve seen in quite some time.
Opening with a pre-credit sequence in which a man awakes on a deserted subway car and goes to investigate that mysterious chopping sound, which is never a good idea, we’re then pitched into the workaday lives of Leon (Cooper) and his girlfriend Maya (Bibb) as he struggles to make the jump from journalism to fine art photography. Maya takes some initiative and asks their friend Jurgis (Bart) to introduce Leon to some of his connections in the art world, so he sets up a meeting with Susan (Shields), known locally for her ability to make or break someone career with a showing in her popular gallery.
Susan presses Leon to look closer at the Ëœreal’ city, choose his shots wisely, rather than just snapping away at the moments before he can capture something truly sublime, so he goes out shooting that night. His wanderings lead him into the subway, following a group of thugs. He’s able to save a woman from their clutches by luring the leader into the view of the security cameras, snapping photos of the hostile youth the entire time. She thanks him and boards the last train as Leon continues to snap pictures of her as she leaves.
Pleased with his pictures of the thugs the next day, Leon is surprised to notice that the girl from the photos was reported missing in the newspaper. He takes his pictures to the cops, but they seem suspicious of his motives for being there to take the pics in the first place, hinting that he was stalking the girl because she was a local model.
Leon goes out to get more shots in the same vein the next night after Susan approves of the ones he took in the subway and this in when Leon first notices Mahogany (Jones) coming up out of the same train station. Leon follows him, but is easily caught and scared away with just a stern glare from Mahogany, though he does take note of the ring on the man’s hand. It’s the very same ring that is on the hand that caught and held the door for the girl the night before at the subway station. Intrigued, Leon stakes out the hotel that Mahogany lives in, follows at a safer distance and learns that he’s a butcher, his day job mirroring his night one. He follows him to the train station, but loses him when an overzealous security guard wants to inspect his camera.
Mahogany goes to work, but falters in his kills, he’s coughing up blood and the conductor has to step in and finish the victim with a pistol. Later we also see Mahogany trimming off strange welts from his chest with a scalpel; this guy is in pretty bad shape for no explained reason.
Leon decides to really push his luck and follows Mahogany into work the next day, dressing in the garb of one of his fellow butchers. He’s able to snap a few pics, but is caught doing so and chased out of the building by Mahogany. Running off the adrenaline of his day, Leon impulsively tries a steak, which confuses his friends who know him to be a big tofu fan. This is just the beginning of many changes as Leon’s obsession with Mahogany grows and he continues to follow him into the subway, determined to find out what happens on that last train each night.
I kinda glossed over several kill scenes scattered around in there; because they are just that, they don’t move the story along except that it’s what Mahogany does each night and we follow him through some of his routine. I would like to mention that the kills are marred by some pointless CGI blood spray, which is irritating when you consider the fact that they use pretty decent prosthetics otherwise, but then you suddenly feel like you’re watching a videogame when someone gets stabbed or hit in the head with a mallet.
The movie is never scary per se, there are a few jump scares, but more than anything it’s just unsettling as Mahogany is just a relentless killing machine who does most of his damage with a large meat hammer that pulverizes his victims’ skulls before they know what’s happening.
Kitamura, who also directed films like Godzilla: Final Wars and Versus gives us some interesting camera work here, especially during the kill sequences and the fight late in the film between Mahogany and Leon when they come face to face in the subway.
I’d recommend this to horror fans, it’s well worth checking out and a damned shame that the studio shafted the creators completely by dumping it into dollar theaters to fulfill their contractual agreements before putting it essentially straight to video.
Give it a look.
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