First, a little background. Midnight Meat Train is based on the first story in Clive Barker’s seminal short story collection, The Books of Blood. The story, it must be said, scared the shit out of me when I first read it nearly 20 years ago. In fact, most of the short stories in the six book series did. When it was announced that Midnight Meat Train would be making it to the big screen, I was incredibly excited. I followed the blogs that talked about the film’s shooting, the casting of Vinnie Jones as the lead villain, and the anticipation horror fans had for what was shaping up to be a solid Clive Barker adaptation.
Then strange things started happening. First, Lionsgate management went through changes that found the man who first green lit the movie out of the picture. Soon afterwards the release date changed and changed again. Then there was talk that the film title was being changed too, from Midnight Meat Train to simply Midnight Train. Then came the big hit – Lionsgate wasn’t going to give the film a wide release, electing instead to dump it into 100 dollar cinemas across the U.S. before putting it on to DVD. Clive Barker himself tried to rally the troops and petition Lionsgate to give the film better treatment, but in the end Midnight Meat Train spent two weeks in the cinema and died a quick death.
With all this controversy you’d likely be left thinking Midnight Meat Train was a total clusterfuck, a horrible film worse than anything in the Final Destination canon or even the straight to DVD Lost Boys sequel. Unfortunately you’d be wrong, which makes the treatment of the stylish and downright scary film by Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura so much more disappointing.
On Thursday August 22nd, Rue Morgue Magazine held a one night only showing of Midnight Meat Train at a packed Bloor Theatre. Clearly there was demand to see the film, since the line-up to get in stretched around the corner and people had been milling about for nearly an hour and a half before show time.
As adapted by Jeff Buehler, Midnight Meat Train tells the story of photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper), who is encouraged by a sophisticated art dealer (Brooke Shields) to try and capture the dark underbelly of the city in his photographs. Leon winds up in the subway late at night and captures the picture of a woman who winds up missing the next day. Ultimately he comes face to face with a subway serial killer known as Mahogany (played by former football hooligan Vinnie Jones. Oh, and he’s also the Juggernaut, bitch). Leon’s life begins to unravel as he slowly discovers what darkness lies underground beyond the subway borders.
Midnight Meat Train is dark, uncompromising, unrelenting, and one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years. The performances are solid, but not spectacular. We watch as Leon comes unglued and feel sympathy for his girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb) as she tries to hold their relationship together. Vinnie Jones utters only one word in the film, which means he has to scare and intimidate slowly by his face and physical prowess, which he admirably accomplishes.
Midnight Meat Train has gore a plenty, with director Kitamura crafting some innovative kills for good measure. But more so than that, the movie looks great, courtesy of cinematographer Jonathan Sela. This is a film that should be seen on the big screen to be appreciated, which makes Lionsgate’s decision to leave it for dead that much more disappointing. Since the company’s new head Joe Drake took over, he’s been clearing out the films that don’t mesh with Lionsgate’s desire for more accessible and less bloody film fare. For all of its quality, under the new regime, Midnight Meat Train just didn’t stand a chance.
I’m not going to suggest you sign any petitions or call your local congressman. But if you’re a fan of horror, I will say that when Midnight Meat Train does make it to DVD take the time to check out what’s become an unfairly and unjustly ignored film. It’s scary. Trust me.
Though not as scary as the fact that Meet Dave made it to theatres.