Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Tony Curran .USA. 1h 38m
Clive Barker has a distinctive, personal vision and interpretation of horror, it’s a rough gory world filled with nasty monsters, visceral torture and eternal pain, this very unique selling point which, when missing causes his movie adaptions to not do so well and come across without their wholesome disgusting glory. Midnight Meat Train does have some hands-on work from Clive in the production chair but for me, it’s definitely a good horror movie but it’s not true to form Clive Barker horror at all.
After the blood thirsty success of Hellraiser, most fans assumed Clive would be in for transforming his back catalogue of writing into further ground-breaking horror movies, but this didn’t happen as he was stripped further and further away from his work unto it became a polished pile of nonsense and favour was generally lost, Midnight Meat Train came on the verge of the last of the semi decent Barker adaptations, and being the first one of those lacklustre events but for a few choice scenes, on the whole doesn’t really lend itself to the best features of the cult classic short story, possibly as Clive was only a producer? Or maybe it wasn’t the right time? The only highlighting character to the movie involves a little mystery relating to a distinctive 8 pointed star that suggests a worldwide network of meat trade, if you didn’t catch it, maybe it’s time for a re-watch.
Closely following Leon (Cooper), a charming vegan photographer who is desperate to be recognised by the owner of the hottest gallery in the city Susan Hoff, (Shields), but each step of the way he’s just constantly falling short of the perfect shot, until one accidental event leads to a gristly urban shot and he gets his foot in the door, but now he needs to provide the goods, enough for a one man show and Leon now desperately seeking more of the ultra-gore. But it’s not until he discovers a late night train that runs through the city that isn’t scheduled, and a hulking stranger who likes to slaughter on this late night train and a 100 year old mystery surrounding all cities in the USA, he finds his calling.
The most terrifying ride you’ll ever take
The atmosphere feels very different to the original story, written in a different decade and for a different audience, the real life version just doesn’t have the same blood drenched aura about it, however it does offer some nasty kill scenes, one favourite involves some yuppies getting whacked with hammers and dispatched with the, then all the rage slow-mo cgi blood splatter, and i have to admit that there’s something artistic about the blue steel hues of the train and splashes of vibrant red blood. Forget the added bonus of seeing Ted Raimi getting his eyeball smashed out of his head, it’s one of the highlights of the movie for any horror fanatic.
Step away from the meat
As Leons relationship and life fall into tatters, his obsession over the night train butcher, known as Mahogany becomes all consuming but he has to find the truth, and this midnight meat train it’s more of a gory murder mystery than the gory horror that I think a lot of fans were expecting, this is possibly down to the director being out of his depths, with a lot more horror actions under his belt, Kitamura definitely fumbled with the lack of a giant showdown like his classics, Versus (2000) and Azumi (2003)there is a distinct lack of a strong balsy hero for him to chuck into constant battles, and the bad guy only has one line, and a strange skin condition.
Needless to say there’s a lot missing in the movie, the first half is just frustrating, watching Leon and his adorable girlfriend Maya (Bibb) getting nowhere with their relationship isn’t drama, the odd moments that keeps the viewer interested are the odd kill scenes, which do add in a lot of crazy fights but this is Kitamura’s signature, and to be fair the movie could have done with more of this! While there’s gore, there isn’t a lot of horror, this is a perfect example of the divide between the two genres, and the instead of building tension the movie just wants to suggest the viewer spends more time looking for clues about the 8 pointed star and secret societies which is a thankless task
Definitely a good attempt, but for me it misses too many marks to be a great Barker movie, hopefully with the new series of remakes there’s hope that this will come back swinging and this might turn out to be an awesome slasher at last!
Related: No One lives (2012), The Collector (2009)
Lists: Train Horrors
Spotlight: Clive Barker, Vinnie Jones,