Clive Barker is finally back in a big way as his short story THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (from his BOOKS OF BLOOD) is heading to theaters as a full R-rated feature film. It’s always a little nerve-racking to have a short story adapted into a feature, but for what Jeff Buhler had to work with he did a magnificent job. MEAT TRAIN (from here on out TMMT) is a one-way ticket back to the early Clive Barker projects that leave modern PG-13 studio films in the dust.
When Leon Kaufman’s (Bradley Cooper) latest body of work – a collection of provocative, nighttime studies of the city and its inhabitants — earns the struggling photographer interest from prominent art gallerist Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields), she propels him to get grittier and show the darker side of humanity for his upcoming debut at her downtown art space. Believing he’s finally on track for success, Leon’s obsessive pursuit of dark subject matter leads him into the path of a serial killer, Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), the subway murderer who stalks late-night commuters — ultimately butchering them in the most gruesome ways imaginable. With his concerned girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb) fearing for his life, Leon’s relentless fascination with Mahogany lures him further and further into the bowels of the subways and ultimately into an abyss of pure evil – inadvertently pulling Maya right along with him.
Clive Barker fans will rejoice in what director Ryuhei Kitamura has given them. In the Japanese director’s first English-language film, he has taken his visual genius from ALIVE and VERSUS and translated into an action-packed blood fest. It has been a long time since a major horror film has been given such loving treatment by its director. During the epic final battle on the train, the camera spins around the train giving us uncanny views of the in action in progress. TMMT isn’t flashy or cut quick (like the SAW films are), it’s elegant in its madness – it defines exactly what a Clive Barker story is… beautifully mad.
Kitamura pulls no stops on the violence and gore, lending a creative hand to when and where he uses blood. Even though we don’t see every kill happen, we still are hit hard by the impact of the shot and are occasionally given the gift of an insanely bloody aftermath. There are passengers rolling around in blood, getting wacked in the face with a hammer and then having their throats slit by Mahogany. TMMT is bloody, disgusting and a gorehound’s wet dream. MOST of the special FX were practical, which gave the film a more believable tone. There were dead bodies hanging from the train, creatures, teeth being pulled, eyeballs being plucked – you name it, it was there! One of the only real downfalls in the film were a few moments when CG was incredibly apparent, which ruined a hilariously awesome eyeball popping moment.
TMMT felt like it was made around the same time as LORD OF ILLUSIONS and carries a very similar pace. The photographer becomes the detective, which slows down the pace of the film to a nearly unbearable level at times. But once the train leaves the gate TMMT becomes one of the wildest rides in a long time. The movie has everything a horror fan could want, although the Clive Barker connoisseur will probably be the biggest of fans.
Liongate’s TMMT is the first BOOK OF BLOOD to depart from the station in a long time and it’s refreshing to see that the film carries that bleak, yet romantic touch of Clive Barker all over it. MEAT TRAIN is guaranteed to make you squirm, scream and beg for more. You won’t need a round trip ticket for this sucker, because you won’t be coming back…