Monday, October 6, 2008

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Unlike video games, literature has had a much better rate of success when it comes to transfering the essence of the medium to the silver screen… that is unless your name is either Clive Barker or Stephen King.

The translation of King's work from book to visual format has undergone a sea change from campy to monumental thanks to the mini-series format.

Meanwhile, poor Clive's only iconic cinema character, Pinhead, has seen his stock drop severely over the course of several embarassing sequels to the Hellraiser franchise.

The Midnight Meat Train represents a return to good form for Barker fans, and don't be fooled by the silly title.

Here there be monsters.

Our story begins with a day in the life of photographer, Leon Kauffman (Bradley Cooper). Leon is an aspiring artist living solely for that one perfect shot; that picture that tells a thousand words. Unfortunately for Leon, he can never seem to seem to capture that special image. He's always in the right place, but he's never there at the right time.

Leon makes a meager living selling photos to the local newspapers, but he dreams of one day making it big and schmoozing it up with the well to do members of the nouveau riche art community.

On the urging of his girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb recently of Iron Man fame), Leon goes out one night in an effort to finally capture that perfect moment. He manages to foil the near rape of a famous fashion model, Erika Sakaki (Nora), only to snap a photograph of her last moments on earth before she falls victim to Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), a serial killer who prowls the subway and has apparently been at his job for more than a century.

Despite being cursed with one of Clive Barker's trademark, unintentionally hilarious story titles (remember Rawhead Rex?), The Midnight Meat Train is actually a fairly effective chiller.

Ryuhei Kitamura keeps the pacing and the narration very tight and as you would expect from something based on the work of Britain's master of splatterhorror, the blood flows in rivers. It's a real shame that Lionsgate didn't have enough faith in this movie to give it a wide release because this movie really is much smarter than the humorous title would indicate. The performances are passable as far as horror movie standards goes. Vinnie Jones is menacing and Cooper does the best he can with what little is available, but Brooke Shields is content to merely chew on scenery and cash a paycheck.

There are quite a few moments in the film that are complete throwaways as far as the plot goes, but I can forgive Kitamura. After all, this is based on one of Barker's earliest short stories and Clive had a knack for trading plot for gore. Barker's gift for conjuring visions of nightmarish landscapes is somewhat betrayed by his hamfisted foreshadowing. Just read the short prose, Dread, sometime and you'll see what I mean.

The ending is predictable but Kitamura does his best with material that was pre-designed to telegraph nearly everything.

Thankfully, we horror fans have FearNet OnDemand to thank for bringing this movie directly to the masses at a cost of zero American dollars for the entire month of October. Check it out for yourself and then write the brass at Lionsgate a nasty letter letting them know what cowards they are for keeping this project in the dark, yet forcing another meaningless SAW sequel on us later on this month.

For the staff here at MoveFeast, Christmas isn't the most wonderful time of the year.

Halloween is.

1 comment:

Doug Tilley said...

I was really hoping this movie would break Kitamura in the states. I love VERSUS, and have a fondness for ALIVE, AZUMI and (the awesome) GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. Looks like he's back to Japan for his next flick.