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Monday, May 14, 2012

Day 135: The Midnight Meat Train

The Midnight Meat Train
All aboard!

Ah, the public library. It's a wonderful, magical place where you can borrow books on any subject you want, read the newspaper, or just enjoy some air conditioning. Oh, and they also have movies to rent. Libraries are an untapped resource that some horror fans may overlook. Why many people use Netflix or Hulu, the local library does actually have movies you may not be able to find via the internet. It also forces you a bit more to commit to watching a movie. I can't tell you how many movies on Netflix instant that I've stopped within 5 minutes because they sucked so badly. At least with having a physical copy, I feel more compelled to watch. Lucky for me, there was no need to force my way through today's entry.

The Midnight Meat Train is a 2008 film based on a 1984 story by novelist/director Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Nightbreed). Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Sky High, Godzilla: Final Wars), the movie stars Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers, The Hangover) as photographer Leon and Leslie Bibb (Talladega Nights, Iron Man 2) as his fiance Maya. Leon takes photos of the grim and gritty in New York City and photographs a woman being harassed by a group of thugs in the subway. He points out a surveillance camera and they leave, allowing the woman to get on a subway while Leon snaps a few more pictures. On the train, the woman is brutally murdered by a silent killer named Mahogany (Vinnie Jones, Snatch, X-Men: The Last Stand). When news breaks of the girl missing, Leon searches his photos for clues, leading to the mysterious, silent man. Leon begins to track Mahogany, following him to his work as a butcher in a meat packing plant. Leon becomes obsessed with the man. He tails him one night into the subway and witnesses Mahogany butchering passengers and hanging them on meat hooks. Leon passes out and strange creatures paw and scratch at him, leaving strange markings on his chest. Meanwhile, Maya and her friend Jurgis sneak into Mahogany's apartment to find clues as to who he is and why he's killing people. He returns to his apartment and captures Jurgis while Maya escapes. She goes to the police to report Mahogany, but the detective, seemingly involved with the conspiracy, won't listen. She goes down into the subway to find him while Leon does the same, arming himself with various butcher knives and implements. A bloody battle ensues, taking the trio deeper and deeper down into the catacombs underneath New York City, where the creatures from before are waiting for their meat. Will Leon and Maya survive and what did that symbol the creatures carved into Leon's chest mean?

I'll take a pound of pastrami and half a pound of turkey

The Midnight Meat Train is a thrilling, violent, and gruesome horror movie. I guess you can put it in the slasher genre, but crusher seems like a more appropriate title. The story is pretty basic and easy to follow, but the mystery is what keeps things interesting. We desperately want to know who this silent killer is and why he's killing and butchering people. We only get small hints and glimpses of what the creatures are, though I could have used more. I'm also not too big on conspiracies, but I would have liked to see how far it went. The other big interest factor is the bloody, gorey violence. Nothing is implied in this movie because the blood is too busy being splattered in your face. It's a face-smashing, eyeball-dangling orgy of guts and organs, making gore hounds squeal like 13 year old Justin Bieber fans. There are some scenes that are clearly “who check this on in 3D!” but it's not enough to annoy someone watching it on a regular screen.

Vinnie Jones is a big reason why the movie works out so well. For someone that has one line the entire movie, his body language and facials speak volumes. This character has one mission in life and he achieves it with sheer brutality. Bradley Cooper is a bit of an odd choice for the role of Leon, and comes off a bit awkward. He's not terrible, I just didn't really care for him that much. Ryuhei Kitamura does a fantastic job directing, with some really creative shots that still standout in my mind. One particular scene was shot from a victim's point of view. The audience is literally right there along with the victim, watching her bloody hands claw at the floor. We feel the blows of the hammer as the camera snaps back and forth. I also appreciated the parallel between Leon's psychological descent and his descent deeper down the rabbit hole, so to speak.

What a beautiful eye you had

The Midnight Meat Train is a fun horror movie with a simple, yet thrilling story. The movie is polished and visually appearing without ever feeling fake. Vinnie Jones is perfectly cast and the movie is well directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. There are buckets and buckets of blood and gore throughout, so you might need a strong stomach to get through it. While I would have liked to have seen a little more depth in the overall story, Midnight Meat Train is a fun and violent thrill ride to the depths of Hell.


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