Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review: Midnight Meat Train

Unless you live in a haunted, abandoned summer camp on Dead Teenager Lake, your home is too comfortable for viewing horror movies. The minute you go get your Pop Secret out of the microwave you’ve diluted all the tension some screenwriter worked for years to try to achieve. The best place to see horror is in a theater.

For that and several other reasons I was sad about Lionsgate’s decision to cripple the theatrical release of “Midnight Meat Train,” the best horror film I’ve seen awhile. Evidently trying to distance itself from a genre it’s helped in the past, Lionsgate (American Psycho, The Grudge, Hostel, Saw) gave ‘Meat Train’ a limited release. It was the equivalent of only wearing your good jewelry out into the backyard.

This beautifully shot movie by the lusciously disturbing Clive Barker has just the right amount of scary/bloody scenes to keep the viewer’s hunger in high gear. It’s gory. I’ve seen gorier, but it’s gory. It’s Clive Barker, for god’s sake. If Clive Barker had written “Steel Magnolias” Julia Roberts would have come back from hell in a rubber suit and bisecected the Hee Haw Junior League with a meat hook and a paint scraper and it would have all made sense. This is why we love Clive Barker.

‘Meat Train’ is about Leon (Bradley Cooper), a photographer who’s starving for his big break. He’s promised by a high-end gallery owner (Brooke Shields), that if he gets some really gritty images of city life he can be part of a group show. After capturing the image of a mysterious man in a suit during a violent incident in the subway, Leon starts prowling the tunnels at night, obsessed with his artistic mission and, increasingly, with the mysterious man. Where this leads to I can’t say lest I wreck the ending, but I’ll tell ya, this is the first time I’ve ever glad my town doesn’t have a subway.

Vinnie Jones in the role of the man in the suit was positively inspired casting – his chiseled, superhero bearing, robotic sense of purpose and the fog of silent solitude he travels in make him as irresistible as a second potato chip. He is the most magnetizing character in the film but on a different level, Leslie Bibb, as Leon’s girlfriend, nearly stole the show, not because she did such a great job – though she did fine – but because her resemblance to Jessica Lange is so uncanny it’s hard to concentrate when she’s on the screen.

‘Meat Train’ isn’t perfect – some of the sensible-girlfriend-lectures-reckless-boyfriend scenes ring a bit stale and there are occasional elements of comic book obviousness, but that’s part of the fun of horror. Bottom line: the stylish photography, attractive freakishness of Jones’ character and thoroughly creepy story mean that Barker and this movie deserved better than they e. There are plenty of movies that deliver more blood with less art. Hopefully next time Lionsgate has a creepy little jewel like this – and a far shinier one than Hostel or The Grudge – it won’t just wear it to let the dog out.


James said...

Midnight Meat Train delivered.

The hero sees the world behind his camera and that makes the overall tranformation easier then most people think.




Hell Yes!

Greg B. said...

Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker are my literary gods. I have waited so long for them to make another film worthy of Barker's stories (the only other one being "Hellraiser"). They picked on of my favorite "Books of Blood" and I am so glad to hear that it turned out so well.