Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Caution: Mild Spoiler Alert


Leon Kauffman's girlfriend, Maya, is, like, totally awesome. She got him a meeting with Susan Hoff, one of the city's most renowned art snobs, in the hopes that he could leave crime scene photography behind, and get back to taking pictures of the things he loves. Clearly, Maya is, like, totally hinting that he should be taking more pictures of her.

Leon's real passion is the city. He wants to be the first person to capture it the way it really is (whatever that means). Susan Hoff (played by the iconic Brooke Shields) is unmoved by his portfolio. Her mannish features fixed on him, she urges Leon to come back and see her when he's shot something a little more "brave." So, Leon sets out on a late-night fact-finding mission, far beneath the streets of the city.

He encounters a group of subway thugs hassling a beautiful, young Asian woman (played by Japanese pop starlet Nora) on her way down to the trains. So desperate is he to gain recognition in the art world, that Leon does something crazy: he intervenes. He is able to frighten away the thugs, but not before snapping a career-defining photo of the malevolent tableau. The young woman thanks him (with tongue!) for his bravery, and gets on a waiting subway car. Leon probably should have let those dudes rape her, as a far worse fate awaits her on THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN.



When Leon learns of her "disappearance" the next day, he is understandably shaken, having been one of the last to see her alive. But, at least he got those fabulous photos of her for the art snob before she went missing...

Susan Hoff is something like The Wizard of Oz. No matter what Leon brings back to her, she is always wanting something more. She promises him a spot in her next art showing if he can capture two more images as arresting as the one he had taken of the subterranean near-rape. Leon is not only up to the challenge, but seems overly confident in his abilities after a night of celebratory binge-drinking with Maya and his Art World Gateway Pal, Jurgis.

In place of any recurrent sexual harassment action, Leon encounters a strange, silent hulk of a man coming up from the subway trains in the wee hours of the morning. He is drawn to the man for some reason, and begins regularly following his nocturnal activities after he recognizes the man's ring in the photograph he took of the Asian woman getting onto the train. Leon's shutter-buggy senses are all a-tingle. The man was connected to her disappearance, somehow, and Leon was determined to illuminate the truth.



So, what does Leon learn about the guy? Well, he is very meticulous about his personal grooming habits and appearance. He never leaves home without the big, leather medical bag with his name, "Mahogany," printed on one side. Oh, and he works at a meat packing plant. All signs are definitely beginning to point to serial killer. But, what does he do with the bodies? Those he butchers only turn up missing in the media, not murdered. And, how does he clean up all the bloody fucking mess before anybody at the transit authority knows it's there?



Unbeknownst to poor Leon, he is about to uncover a plot that is older, deeper, and more diabolical than anything he could ever have imagined. Moreover, Susan Hoff would probably eat her own excrement for access to this hidden world for her next big show. But none of that seems to matter to Leon anymore. He can't even bring himself to take pictures of his hot, blonde pre-fiance while she's taking off her bra! Not to mention the fact that his tofu-tamed taste buds are starting to crave meat ~ red meat ~ and lots of it! His interest in solving the subterranean mystery becomes an obsession, as the young photog is sucked into the cold, steel allure of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN.


"Before you were born,
or the birth of any other human thing,
that's how long. Or longer.
Now, you've found us,
as only a few before you have;
the intimate circle that keeps the secret.
We protect and nurture them,
and order is thereby preserved...
Now serve, as we all do,
without question."


Nobody brings monstrosity living amid our world to life like Clive Barker! The undisputed master of modern-day horror holds top writing credits for his short story, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, published in Books of Blood Volume One. Jeff Buhler wrote the film's screenplay.



While THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN sported a number of gaps and holes, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film, in spite of those few moments of groan. For instance: the character development leaves truckloads to be desired. The male leads (Bradley Cooper in the role of Leon, and ex-English Football Leaguer Vinne Jones as the brooding Mahogany) delivered sound, stable performances, while the remainder of the cast seemed to just sort of hang there. Leslie Bibb reminded me too much of Jessica Lange, and all of her shrill, irritating qualities, while Robert Bart's character, Jurgis, could easily have been written out of the plot entirely. The non-essential friend does, however, make a handy, human pin-cushion during the climactic final subway showdown.



Sometimes, an unknown cast of skilled actors can be refreshing. In the case of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, I simply couldn't bring myself to care whether certain characters lived or died. The film had, at times, a prime-time blockbuster feel to it, which I guess isn't all that surprising, considering the fact that the cast was comprised almost entirely of small screen veterans. It is clearly evident that Director Ryûhei Kitamura concentrated far more intently on the elaborate gore and special effects than on ensuring that the character dynamics made sense. As a result, the hack-and-slash scenes are taut, fast-paced, and gratifyingly gory, while the interplay between the characters is dull, even painful at times.

Heavy use of CGI usually aggravates me, and tends to look to me like a rather obvious flip between a movie and a high-end video game. Remarkably, I wasn't the least bit put off by Kitamura's artfully-digified version of the classic slasher film. Those victim's-eye view sequences were pretty darned cool!







4/5 Kitty Skulls = Video Cocaine!

6 comments:

Karswell said...

Sounds good, I could use a snort of fresh video cocaine myself after having taken a break from modern horror film for like almost a year now. There's gotta be a good new horror movie out there... some.. goddamn... where...

Word Verification is U RAPY OG!

Kitty LeClaw said...

Don't do it!!! I will not lose you to Angie!!! And you don't wanna damage that little nosey...

> U RAPY OG

When I read this, all I see is Scrappy Doo!

Absinthe said...

Nice to see the kitty back - this one caught me attention but then all the bad press it was getting was turning me off a little. Now that I see you had fun with it I will have to have a viewing!

when is evil cool? said...

great review.

i've been waiting for this one to come out on video for ages it seems. i remember reading the books of blood in high school and TMMT was one of my favorites.

the story always added another layer of menace to riding the subway in NYC late at night.

aunt john said...

Regarding the BROOKE SHIELDS character, I would have gone with the adjective tranny, but mannish definitely works.

Pax Romano said...

Great review (as always), but did I see the same movie? I am going to watch again (last time I was in the throes of a mind-numbing flu).