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.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE RIDING THE TRAIN WITH CAUTION FROM NOW ON
- 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!
THE FINAL HOWL
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.