The Midnight Meat Train finds Leon (Bradley Cooper), a struggling photographer trying to get in touch with his dark side at the behest of a gallery owner (Brooke Shields). In his attempt to do so, he crosses paths with a killer that stalks the New York City Subway system. The killer, fearing exposure, begins to target Leon. But rather than being scared off, Leon is intrigued by the killer and digs deeper instead of running for his life.
The Midnight Meat Train is a fantastic Clive Barker adaptation. Unfortunately, it received a very lackluster release. It screened at dollar theaters and was given very little promotion by the studio. It’s been suggested that LionsGate put the film on the back burner in favor of promoting The Strangers. As a result, the film didn’t find much of an audience until home video. Since its DVD release, The Midnight Meat Train has garnered a fair amount of critical acclaim amongst genre films fans and horror film critics alike.
Bradley Cooper seems an unlikely leading man for a horror film. But he proves very versatile and does surprisingly well in his embodiment of Leon. Brooke Shields is also unexpectedly comfortable getting in touch with her darker side as gallery owner Susan Hoff.
Ryuhei Kitamura directed The Midnight Meat Train. He was a relative newcomer to American filmmaking at the time the picture was made and unfortunately still remains fairly unknown to American cinema fans. Had this picture been given the attention it deserved, Kitamura’s career may have taken a different trajectory. He showcased a firm grasp of the directorial process in Midnight Meat Train. I would like to have seen him tackle another higher profile project in the genre film arena after proving to be a competent director on this project. Unfortunately, Kitamura hasn’t done a lot in the way of big-budget American film projects since The Midnight Meat Train.
The Midnight Meat Train functions well both as a horror picture and as a thriller. It is filled with well-choreographed fight scenes, some good chase sequences, and plenty of brutality.
Some fans might conclude that the violence in The Midnight Meat Train is excessive. But that point is debatable. This feature is a product of the time it was released. It came out on the heels of films like Saw and Hostel, which were both successful commercially, so audiences were telling studios that extreme violence is what they wanted. Also, this film concocts a different type of brutality than the aforementioned titles; it isn’t the torturous, intestinal removing kind of violence that was popular at the time. The film is filled with violence but it’s more like an amped up version of the type of violence one would find in a slasher film than ‘torture porn’. It’s definitely brutal but, as far as I am concerned, it’s not entirely excessive. The film deals with violent subject matter and the carnage is within that context. It isn’t thrown in for good measure or tacked on. It’s also fairly true to the Clive Barker short story on which it was based.
The effects in The Midnight Meat Train are spectacular. There is an obscene amount of stage blood used. The film primarily employs the use of practical effects and the result is stunning. There is an awe-inspiring amount of blood used in the death scenes.
The killer, Mahogany, is a fantastic character. I would like to have seen a sequel that followed the events of this film. It has an interesting and somewhat open-ended finale that would have made for an interesting follow up. But that ship has probably sailed, unfortunately.
If you missed out on The Midnight Meat Train due to the studio’s lack of promotion, it is definitely worth your while. It is a terrific adaptation of the Clive Barker short story, the performances are solid, and the effects are outstanding.
Director(s): Ryuhei Kitamura
Writer(s): Jeff Buhler
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Brooke Shields, Leslie Bibb, Roger Bart
Studio/ Production Co: LionsGate
Budget: $15 Million
Length: 98 Minutes