The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Ryuhei Kitamura

Bradley Cooper - Leon
Leslie Bibb - Maya
Brooke Shields - Susan Hoff
Vinnie Jones - Mahogany
Barbara Eve Harris - Detective Lynn Hadley
Peter Jacobson - Otto
Stephanie Mace - Leigh Cooper
Ted Raimi - Randle Cooper

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Slasher

Running Time - 100 Minutes

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

Taking the train in NYC is an every day experience for me. I've been doing it for so long that it's become quite second nature to me. Feeling like a sardine in a crowded train, getting hit on by rugged men and underage girls, and witnessing some bizarre and desperate panhandlers are things I can't imagine living without. In my boring life, the subway is probably the main source of my entertainment and the reason why I keep mostly sane.

What I have never witnessed on any train is someone murdering another passenger right in front of my eyes. Hell, just the thought makes me nervous. It's not like it couldn't happen, especially during the evening hours when the trains are pretty empty. And if you're stop isn't for another few minutes and you're unable to get off the train, what could you do to survive?

2008's THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN doesn't delve this deep but it does involve a sicko who uses the train as his personal human slaughterhouse. Shit, I thought that shit only happened in dreams, Haddonfield, campsites, and freakin' Texas! But Clive Barker gives us a story that makes city subway life that extra dangerous edge that it didn't need personally. Thankfully, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is one ride worth taking, even if it may cost you your life.

Leon (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling photographer, taking photos every damn day hoping that one of them will help him break big into the photography business. Leon has a supportive girlfriend (Leslie Bibb) whose friend Jurgis (Roger Bart) introduces him to a big time gallery owner named Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields). While Susan likes Leon's perspective visually, she still needs him to find something that will really make him stand out among the rest - something that will capture the heart of the city.

Determined to make this happen, Leon ventures into the late-night subway hoping to find something. He stumbles upon some thugs attacking a pretty Asian girl. He takes photos of the act before stopping the incident from getting worse. Leaving the Asian girl to board the train, Leon doesn't find out until a few days later that the same girl was murdered on that very train on that very night - making him the last person to see her alive. Looking through his photos, Leon spots a ring from the hand of someone (Vinnie Jones) who was on the train with the victim. Unfortunately after taking this information to the police, they accuse Leon of some foul play. Now having to prove his innocence, Leon decides to investigate this ring and the man wearing it. What Leon finds out is that the train has now become a slaughterhouse, with a twist that no one saw coming a mile away.

In 2008, Lionsgate really made me scratch my head. They promoted THE STRANGERS [which was decent] and SAW V [which wasn't] heavily while leaving the more anticipated flicks under their distribution, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA, to rot in a limited theater release and subsequent DVD sales. What's funny is that REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA and especially THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN were the better films of the four - and two of the best horror films of last year. Lionsgate dropped the ball big time here because THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, despite its ridiculous title, deserved a wide release to prove that horror could still thrive without a remake or a pointless sequel to keep it afloat.

Clive Barker and Jeff Buhler [who also directed and wrote the underrated 2008 film INSANITARIUM] write a thriller/mystery that will keep viewers very interested and entertained throughout the entire film's runtime. Instead of giving us the story in a straight-forward fashion, Barker and Buhler piles on more questions than we do answers. This creates an intrigue factor that makes you want to know about the motives of the killer [Mahogany] and of some of the other characters as well. The characters change according to the horrible situation believably and the payoff works as much as it could. Barker and Buhler don't make the violence the centerpiece of the film like most torture flicks such as SAW and HOSTEL. While I love gore and kills in horror films as much as the next person, it gets a bit boring after a while. Barker and Buhler use these horrible experiences as a way to create character for both the heroes and the villains. It's simple and uses the horror standards as they should be used. The dialogue is also well written and I got a sense of who these characters were, especially Leon - who began to deteriorate to the point where he and Mahogany were becoming almost as one. Here's a story that builds up to its climax and actually explains it LOGICALLY and at the RIGHT TIME. I wish more modern horror films were like this because it was refreshing.

The gore and SFX for THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN was amazing, I thought. I couldn't believe some of the shit I saw here. People got beat down with a meat hammer. We had a 3D assault on an eye. Hooks to the balls. People losing their heads. Stab wounds to the neck and even through the mouth. I mean, nothing was sacred here. Just blood, blood, blood - and I loved every second of it. It was just so brutal, gory, and really fun to watch at the same time. Call me a sick man but it almost got me excited...in that way. Sure, some of the CGI was evident, but at the end of the day I didn't give a damn. The redder the film got, the bigger the smile on my face grew. This MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN was one bloody ride!

Ryuhei Kitamura, who directed the awesome VERSUS, created a visual masterpiece with THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. This film was energetic, stylish, beautifully paced in each act, and definitely creative. That certain death scene with the memorable POV shot speaks for itself. And the blue hue - I'm in love with films with blue hues. The cinematography by Johannes Koblike was incredible. This film looked absolutely beautiful. Just a fantastic visual film, with lots of atmosphere, tension, and extremely interesting imagery that makes you think. I was more than impressed with this one. LOVED IT!!

The acting was also quite good here. Bradley Cooper has never done wrong in my book and he's quite good as the tortured hero, Leon. I believed his turn from motivated photographer to obsessed victim. He carried the film well. Leslie Bibb looked hot and had nice chemistry with Cooper as Maya. I enjoyed her here. Brooke Shields played the bitch well and Roger Bart did his usual supportive role well. But the star here was Vinnie Jones as Mahogany. The dude was intimidating as fuck. And that was all body language and facial expressions. The guy had no dialogue at all! Jones was incredible and definitely a villain I will look out for on the subway so I know whether to get on or not.


- Girlfriends of photographers use sex to distract them from working too hard and neglecting them. You better hope you use a wide angle lens on her if you want to keep her satisfied.

- Brooke Shields criticized the photographer's work, saying it wasn't "brave" enough. You know what's brave? Watching both seasons of Lipstick Jungle. I couldn't even sit through one episode. What does that make me?

- Always pay attention to your surroundings even if you're talking to your friends on the train. The results can be bloody eye popping if you don't.

- Don't imply to someone on the train that he looks like Forrest Gump. Just like a box of chocolates, you'll never know what kind of death you're gonna get.

- The killer's name is Mahogany. I guess he's Billy Dee Williams and Diana Ross all rolled up into one. A diva who shills Malt Liquor - I can dig it!

- The killer likes to cut his victims up and pull out their teeth and eyeballs. I see someone got an A+ on their Biology exam!

- Leon and the killer had a pretty nicely choregraphed fight on the train. If more train fighting occurred, maybe I'd be willing to give subway performers some of my cash!

Definitely one of the best horror films of 2008, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is a must see for any horror fan out there. If you love gore, a great story, good acting, and fantastic visuals, then this film is for you. Fuck you, Lionsgate, for screwing the pooch with this one! THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is definitely worth the fare.


The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Hellgate (1989)

William A. Levey

Ron Palillo - Matt Coleman
Petra Curran - Pam
Joanne Ward - Bobby
Evan J. Klisser - Chuck
Abigail Wolcott - Josie Carlyle
Carel Trichardt - Lucas Carlyle
Lance Vaughan - Charles "Zonk" Taylor

Genre - Horror/Zombies

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Score - 0.5 Howls Outta 4

It's been a while since I've really posted a review where I've really tore the film I'm reviewing apart. Maybe it's just been plain luck that I've actually been watching decent movies not bad enough to warrant my wrath for the last few months. Or maybe I've been trying to avoid bad cinema period. Maybe it's the primary reason why I've felt burnt out and unmotivated when it comes to reviewing films. The lack of crappy films dried up the juices from flowing.

But sometimes a film comes along that unexpectedly surprises you at what a big piece of smelly shit is really is behind the celluoid. A film that gets you thinking. A film that makes you want talk about it. A film that's so bad that people deserve to know to avoid it, or for you bad cinema loving people out there - hunt down for it. Now I love bad movies, but there are some that just deserve a new asshole. And the 1989 zombie flick, HELLGATE, is one of them.

And like your traditional zombie movie, HELLGATE has not only resurrected my juices for reviewing. It has also resurrected the WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Vault!

Welcome back,
Your dreams were your ticket out.

Welcome back,
To that same old place that you laughed about.

Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they're turned around.

Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)
Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)

Yeah we tease him a lot cause we've hot him on the spot, welcome back,
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

Sigh...thank you HELLGATE. Your crappiness has opened my heart. Who knew I'd have the lock and you would have the key?

Some teenagers [a.k.a. actors in their thirties who look every bit their age but refuse to act it] sit around a fireplace talking about some really interesting [note: sarcasm] legend about the town of Hellgate. Apparently in the 1950s, some bimbo named Josie (Abigail Wolcott) ends up getting kidnapped by some biker gang at a diner. They take her back to Hellgate and her father (Carel Trichardt) kills some of the bikers and his daughter by accident as a result. Years have passed and some strange crystal that looks like it was stolen from the Fortress of Solitude apparently shoots beams that revive inanimate objects. The father uses the crystal to bring Josie back to life, but Josie isn't the same person. She now wanders at night, stopping surprised drivers and bringing them into Hellgate.

One of the "teenagers'" friends, Matt (Ron Palillo from Welcome Back Kotter), is one of these surprised drivers who's been seduced by the undead Josie. Although he manages to escape, he and his friends decide to head into Hellgate to see if the legend is true and what's really going on there. Zombies, ghosts, and 91 minutes of pure crap - oh my!

I have three words for HELLGATE:


HELLGATE only got my attention since it was the B-side on the DVD that also held the film I last reviewed, THE PIT. Other wise, I wouldn't have bothered with this piece of undead shit. I've honestly seen low-budget flicks with more heart, soul, and terror in one minute of running time that HELLGATE holds in its entirety. Let's see why HELLGATE should have stayed six feet under.

The screenplay by Michael O'Rourke makes no fuckin' sense. What the hell am I really watching here? A zombie flick? A ghost story? The rehearsal of rejects who weren't hired for the 1989 season of Saturday Night Live? I'm guessing HELLGATE was a zombie movie because people were brought back from the dead for whatever reason. And while I like the premise for the film [the whole 'crystal resurrects people and makes them explode' and the 'ghost story at the beginning actually turning into something that was happening to the same characters simultaneously'], the execution was severely flawed and just ends up making a ridiculous film that's not even all that funny to watch. It was like O'Rourke vomited a bunch of ideas into a bucket and decided to use all of them to create a film. Less is more, remember?

The issues with this film may possibly be endless. The characters are as interesting as watching paint dry. Hell, they're supposed to be teenagers but look like their parents instead. And the female leads weren't really all that attractive. It probably would have helped the experience if they were. The dialogue is atrocious. One, the actors can barely pronounce much of what they have to say. And the lines they recite make the protagonists look like total morons. Why in the hell would I want to watch these idiots for 91 minutes? If the dialogue was funny, HELLGATE would have been a pretty fuckin' cool B-flick. But it's not and renders the whole thing pointless.

I also have issues with this crystal that resurrects the dead. It was never consistent. It brought Josie back to life. It also turned her into a big-breasted slut who seduced men on the road [that was actually a positive for this film]. It turned a goldfish into a large puppet that exploded. Same with a turtle. I had no idea what this crystal was and why it did so many different things. I mean, why did Josie survive while everyone else combusted? It just did whatever the fuck it wanted to do. These scenes were probably the silliest and funniest portions of the film because they made no sense and were so ridiculous. Too bad these scenes were few and far between.

Also, nothing really interesting or exciting happens in this movie. The last act of the film basically has the "heroes" just walking around Hellgate while a magician pops up and entertains them with a can-can dance or something. There are also blue-tinted zombies walking around too but they don't really do much of anything but walk and stare. This ain't DAWN OF THE DEAD, folks! Shit, this ain't even WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S!

The film also had time issues - BIG TIME! The events pretty much take place in one night. I had no idea a person could get lost on a road, get seduced by a zombie to the point where he willingly goes to her house, almost has sex with her, escapes from her crazy dad, tell the story to his friends, fucks his girlfriend in one of the most awkward sequences I have ever seen in my entire life, has a midnight snack, goes back to town, fends off the undead, and gets seduced again until his friends save him in the span of three hours. Amazing. I wish I had that much action within 28 years!

Speaking of action, who in the hell thought Ron Palillo was this big stud who deserved a cringe-worthy nude sex scene and have almost every woman in the film want him? IT'S FUCKIN' HORSHACK!! NOT VINNIE BARBARINO!! I'd be surprised if his right hand even finds him attractive! Up your nose with a rubber hose with this ridiculous sub-plot!

The "special effects" of this film were pathetic at best. For a zombie flick, there was hardly any blood. There's a decapitation scene, gunfire, and someone who spits up blood after being choked to death. But that's it really. Where the fuck is the brain munching? The skin chewing? My splinter-in-the-eye scene? Hell, I'll take a fuckin' shark at this point! If you're a gorehound, you will be severely disappointed with this film.

The direction by William A. Levey is terrible. There is no flow. Nothing is consistent. Levey doesn't believe in using close ups, which is like a no-no in horror flicks [we want to see the reactions of our characters to feel what they're feeling]. I'm surprised he actually left his name on the film and bragged about this crap to his friends. Well I'm sure any guy who directed films called BLACKENSTEIN and WHAM BAM THANK YOU SPACEMAN has barely a drop of dignity left. His editors as well did a shitty job. For a badly chopped and badly cropped film, even three editors weren't enough to make a coherent piece. That's fuckin' sad. Levey never directed after HELLGATE. Gee, I wonder why?

The acting was just as bad in HELLGATE. Even though I dissed him earlier, Ron Palillo is really the only actor of note in the film. His acting is the only one above average, making his annoying character less annoying than the others. The other actors were horrible and wooden. Their characters didn't die fast enough for me as far as I'm concerned. For a zombie movie, it's sad that the only "dead" people were the actors themselves.


- Don't bother telling girls monster stories if you're alone with them in some romantic mountain cabin. They'll just find the stories more disgusting than scary. Unlike 1 NIGHT IN CHYNA, which is both scary and disgusting at the same time.

- Don't mess with a weapon expert's daughter. You'll be axe-ing for it. And probably receive a splitting headache in the process.

- Black chicks dig Horshack. Apparently they need cream in their coffee. Fill 'er up!

- Some dude found crystals that are able to reanimate the dead. If only they'd work for Vanilla Ice's career. I guess that wasn't nice, nice baby...

- When the crystal's beam targets a human, their skin begins to melt. I'm guessing Michael Jackson has been to Hellgate more than once.

- Zombie chicks are really slutty. My stance on necrophilia continues to grow after every "undead" movie I watch. SCHWING!

- You should always be cautious at a haunted location. Some guy with a cleaver will decapitate you. That's no way to get ahead.

- The highlight of Bobby's experience at Hellgate was watching a bad comedian/magician who introduced girls doing a French dance. Can I officially say that HELLGATE is a piece of shit? Oh yes I can-can! Oh yes I can-can!

- Josie flew through a window via a shotgun. I'm sure that wasn't her first time having something long and hard fire at her. It would explain how she paid for those implants...in 1950!

Well it had to happen after all these months. I finally watched a horrible film and its name is HELLGATE. This is definitely one of the worst zombie flicks I have ever seen [and will never see again]. HELLGATE is a boring, uninteresting, unscary, and poorly constructed "horror" film that should be avoided at all costs. Unless you want to see a giant rubber goldfish explode into Gordon's Fish Sticks, take a U-Turn away from HELLGATE.

Related Posts with Thumbnails