Yeah, sorry to break it to you guys, but this movie’s got nothing to do with naked ladies or some guy who whips out his “meat-train” and turns into a princess when the clock strikes 12.
It’s actually about freelance photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper) who obsesses over capturing the “true essence” of the city in which he makes his home. He goes about it by trying to snap the perfect photo of Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), a conspicuously evil local butcher who likes to bash people’s heads in while riding the 2:00 a.m. train.
Yep, that’s Midnight Meat Train – a genre flick written with medium-level proficiency but polished enough to warrant a theater release. It looks great, moves well enough and has an antagonist that is genuinely horrifying because he can totally kick your ass.
You see, Vinnie Jones makes for one scary mofo of a villain, (assuming that you pretend X-Men 3 never happened). He’s about the size of three Kimbo Slices, has his eyes obscured by perennial shadows, and smashes the crap out of people with a large hammer. He’s as mystery as he is professional. He’s the perfect choice, in this case, as someone who’ll make mincemeat out of you through blunt-force trauma. To top it all off, he never speaks.
Because we all know how little a character speaks is proportional to how scary he is.
Which of course, makes it all the more engaging when Leon spends most of the film in the pursuit of this giant, wicked man. Though, yes, we’ve seen this handled with ham-hands before (i.e., Don’t be Afraid of the Dark), but in this case, it manages to work. Usually, we get a bunch of punk teens who by genre conventions are contractually obligated to bite the dust, and so they’re given the task of seeking out a local urban legend – be it a serial killer, a supernatural or a guy in a rubber suit). At that point, the audience typically gives up on them and plays a game of “Who Dies First?”
But when you make your protagonist one of those creative types whose job it is to obsess over the substance of the mysterious, well, at least you don’t make viewers resign from the outset. I mean, shit, if I were a photographer, I’d follow this impressive, terrifying force-of-nature-in-a-suit as well. He’s got a taste for brutality and he hides out among the commoners. He could be anyone – classic urban spookiness 101.
And if you think about it, it lays down an interesting theme about the odd fetish we horror fans have of pouring over the twisted, macabre, and obscene. We’re sitting here, watching Leon watch Mahogany crush the cranium of whatever poor sap happened to be riding the train that night, and we think to ourselves, “Oh cool, he’s like me.”
Then we think “Oh, dear God, he’s like me…”
And then we watch the rest of the flick because the use of lighting and color during the kill scenes are really pretty, and the kills themselves are so damn graphic that you might fall to your knees and thank Jesus that you still hold the capacity to be shocked. Even some of the more jaded viewers might find the later scenes to be just the right shade of unsettling, and anyone who’s seen Flowers of Flesh and Blood will find some parallels here that shouldn’t have been paralleled.
At the end of the day, Midnight Meat Train (despite not being porno) makes for satisfying standard-issue entertainment. It’s got all the right moves and tropes, and plays them out with just enough creativity to get the job done:
Believably victimized protagonist: Ah, he’s a tragic hero too, no less!
Threatening, enigmatic destructive force: Yeah, he’s F’ing played by Vinnie Jones! And he’s sympathetic!
Death scenes that aren’t something you’ve seen 18 times: Yeah, and they’re performed by Vinnie Jones!
Mystery to keep you interested: Oh yeah, about that…
Ending that makes no sense and comes out of left field: I’d rather not talk about it…
But it bears mentioning, because well, you know – movie reviews.
It seems that as the plot moves along, the pieces of the puzzle start to compile on top of each other and conclusively fail to work together. Though portions of the film were directed using the good old Foreshadow For Dummies approach, when the final 15 minutes of the movie peter out, the ultimate reveal totally flies out of left field (while wearing a fursuit and dancing the Macarena.)
It seems that it was the filmmaker’s intention to leave you wondering just WTF it was that you just watched.
You sit there, thinking to yourself “Why did that just happen?”
And then the end credits begin…
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
“Well, that explains that.”
Those damnand their random-ass ways of tying things up in the end. When will they learn!? WHEN WILL IT STOP!?
The Verdict: [rating:3.5]
If you’re in the mood for some clean and consistently horrific meanderings through gore-ville USA, then pick up a copy of The Midnight Meat Train – it’ll get the job done just fine, my friend. It might commit creative suicide in the final stretch and leave you wondering whether or not you’ve just been trolled – but don’t worry, broheim. That’s just how the Japanese are.
It’s what they do.
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Year Released:
- 17 February 2009
- Ryûhei Kitamura
- Vinnie Jones, Bradley Cooper, Brooke Shields, Tony Curran, Barbara Eve Harris, Peter Jacobson, Ted Raimi, and Leslie Bibb
- Horror, Thriller, Mystery
- Official URL:
- The Midnight Meat Train Official