The Midnight Meat Train

I still feel queasy. It’s like with rollercoasters – there’s a very fine line with me between ones that are scary and fun, and ones that are scary and not-fun. This fell for me on the not-fun side, but Him Indoors loved it. It certainly is a well-made film – but did I really need to see so many eyeballs?

Ryuhei Kitamura’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story stars Bradley Cooper as a reportage photographer. He’s trying to impress Brooke Shields, who agrees to feature his work in an exhibition if he can come up with some suitably dramatic pictures. His efforts lead him to follow shady Vinnie Jones, and soon he’s convinced that our Vinnie is a serial killer.

It’s all shot in moody blue-grey, and even a small role for Ted Raimi can’t camp it up enough to lift the gloom. It was originally supposed to be directed by Patrick Tatopoulis, the production designer whose work includes Pitch Black and Underworld, so you can see what sort of underlit visual sulk they had in mind. Luckily the near-monochrome filters tone down the blood effects, because this is one of the goriest films I have ever seen. Eyeballs fly everywhere, tongues and other bits go AWOL. It’s really not a film to watch after dinner.

It’s really not a date movie.

There’s not a lot to fault from a production point of view. It’s beautifully filmed, the actors are competent (yes, even Vinnie) and it’s very, very tense. What ultimately lets it down is the story, because without wanting to spoil it for you, it doesn’t make much sense. If you know this guy has killed umpteen people singlehandedly, why would you go after him alone? And the ending … don’t get me started. Desperately silly stuff.

But if you can get past all that, and have a taste for splatter, then it’s great.

Shot for just $15 million, a botched theatrical release meant it took only $3.5 million at the box office before going straight to DVD. A furious Clive Barker said that “the politics that are being visited upon it have nothing to do with the movie at all. This is all about ego, and though I mourn the fact that The Midnight Meat Train was never given its chance in theaters, it’s a beautifully stylish, scary movie, and it isn’t going anywhere. People will find it, and whether they find it in midnight shows or they find it on DVD, they’ll find it.”

Go find it. But don’t go alone.

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