|The Plot: Our film begins with a man waking up on a subway train, he wanders down the aisle before slipping in a massive pool of blood. He gets back to his feet and comes to the next car – to find a mountain of a man, using a sledgehammer to bash in the heads of the passengers. We cut to Leon Kauffman (Bradley Cooper) who is a struggling photographer in the big city just looking for his break. He takes photos in the seedier sides of town and wants to really show off the grimier aspects of our society. When he is given the opportunity to show some of his work to the brilliant Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields) he jumps at it, but is slightly rejected when Susan tells him he doesn’t take his work far enough. She wants to see real danger, real confrontation. Leon is hurt, but realizes she may very well be right. Armed with this knowledge, he leaves home one night at 2am and walks down to the subway. There he finds a group of hoodlums attempting to rob a young model, he scares them off by pointing out the subway security camera and bids the model fairwell. He captures a few more shots as she boards the train and a barrel chested man holds the door open for her. The next day, as Leon eats at the diner his girlfriend works at – he finds an article in the newspaper about that very same model coming up missing. He goes to the police with his pictures of the young thugs, but to no use as the police feel there are more important matters at hand. Leon now begins his search to find out what happened to this model, and also why so many people are coming up missing on the subway.|
The Review: Hollywood doesn’t exactly have the most stellar track record with their treatment of smaller horror films, they also don’t have the greatest of results when great filmmakers from the East make the travel over to the states. Put the two things together and what do you get? Well, I can tell you nothing that is detrimental to the filmmakers or the quality of this particular film. Unfortunately, the fine (read: moronic) people over at Lions Gate who dumped the film in a little over 100 low end theaters for a quick release before shuffeling it off to what they consider a slow death in the DVD market. However, controversy more often than not brethes life into any and all projects – so I won’t be surprised to see the film do well on the DVD market. Especially after Barker came out in defense of the project and completely bashed Lions Gate and the people responsible for holding the film back, and tried to start an e-mail campaign to get the film it’s true proper theatrical release. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t successful, as I do think The Midnight Meat Train had everything in it to make money and holds a lot of what the horror market could use right now. That is, a good dose of originality and a decent amount of fun and not just the same “torture porn” or “retro horror” that seems to be all the rage these days. The Midnight Meat Train is far from a classic on the same level as a Friday the 13th or Halloween, but if you’re looking for some good old fashioned American horror written by an Englishman and directed my a tremendous Japanese director – The Midnight Meat Train really does deliver.
The Midnight Meat Train is a film that takes horror seriously, something that seems sorely lacking in today’s climate as everyone seems to one-up each other in sheer entertainment factors. Barker’s bloody tale is brought to life here under the watchful eye of Kitamura, who really branches out into new territory with this film and creates something unlike anything I have seen from his work previously. Not in a bad way either, like when John Woo made Hard Target. Kitamura still very much shows an affection for style and gritty natural looking urban environments, but is simply relocated to North America for this particular trip. Although his love affair for CGI and technology in his films is only found here in light degrees (anyone complaining about too much CGI here is just off their rocker), if you’re familiar with his work this still feels like a Kitamura film. Most especially when it comes to the bloodshed, because Kitamura is all about delivering pints and pints of the red stuff here. The mallet, swung by the ever-massive Vinnie Jones, completely destroys everything. Body parts in the way? No problem. A human head in the way? He’ll just smash that off the body and fifteen feet down the aisle with one quick swing! It isn’t the most realistic physics you’ll ever see, but doesn’t it just sound like a lot of fun? The previously mentioned Vinnie Jones is of course fantastic in his role, something I’m growing to expect from Jones. The guy knows how to deliver a character, even when having almost no dialogue in the film whatsoever. Bradley Cooper in the lead role equits himself very well also, giving the project a lot of life and playing his character as a tougher everyman. I was expecting more of an artistic wimp of sorts after reading a summary, but Cooper plays the character straight up and allows the audience to respect him a little easier. Really, the performances were all done so well it’s almost not even neccesary to mention them. When you see the actors, you believe in them and you believe in their goals. Kitamura did a great job working with the crew and getting the film that should have been made, made. Something not always easy for someone foreign to the market. As a fan of Versus, Alive, Heat After Dark and Aragami – I’m proud to see him come to Hollywood and make a very dark and atmospheric horror film with seemingly little limitations put on his abilities; even if the distributers did ultimately screw the film over. Kitamura excused himself courageously and I think The Midnight Meat Train speaks for itself.
The Midnight Meat Train is likely to find a home in the DVD market and I hope to hear about it for a long time. It’s a bloody trip through the underbelly of the inner city, and although the conclusion is likely to confuse or possibly distance some in the audience – I think it is part of what makes the film special. The willingness to go where you wouldn’t expect. The horror community can always use a little more originality, that’s for sure. I know I had a great time with it and hope that I won’t be alone in my enjoyment. I give the film a solid four out of five, do check it out!