Grindhouse Review: 'The Midnight Meat Train'

‘The Midnight Meat Train,’ from director Ryuhei Kitamura, is a shocking modern horror film and gets 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.

“The Midnight Meat Train” (2008)

Directed By Ryuhei Kitamura
Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Vinnie Jones and Roger Bart

From visionary filmmaker/author Clive Barker comes one of his best adaptations since the first “Hellraiser” film released in 1987. Based on his 1984 short story “The Midnight Meat Train,” the film follows struggling photographer Leon Kauffman (Cooper) and his obsessive pursuit for dark subject matter that eventuality leads him into the pathway of a serial killer, Mahogany (Jones), the subway murderer who stalks late-night commuters—ultimately butchering them in the most gruesome ways imaginable.

Working with visionary director Ryuhei Kitamura and constructed from a very solid, detailed screenplay by screenwriter Jeff Buhler, Barker has created one of the most shocking modern horror films that has earned the spot and the right to be up there with classics such as Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 classic “The Seventh Seal” and Academy Award winning director William Friedkin’s blockbuster shocker, “The Exorcist.”

We’re all obsessed with the dark side of human nature; either it turns us on, or we shy away from it. But we talk about it every day. It’s in a section of the human brain that unlocks the shadows that cover the history of our past. Like many stories from dark ages that have been passed down from generation to generation, it captures the atmosphere that surrounds this film—the human race is a group of savage animals. By using the backdrop of the early slasher genre of the ’70s and early ’80s, the filmmakers focus on the darkness that dwells within the hearts of the characters.

Many scenes throughout the film portray the human reaction that occurs after witnessing a violent act. The concept can be proved in the scene when Leon enters the underground subway, prowling for an aggressive situation that he can capture on film. Leon follows a group of street thugs into the subway where the gang attacks a young female bystander. Instead of immediately assisting, Leon stands in the shadows and takes pictures of the event.

After about five minutes of the girl being attacked by the ruthless gang, Leon shows himself to scare off the gang. After he checks to make sure the girl is fine, she kisses him as thanks for helping.

Now, wouldn’t a normal casual Joe who witnesses an attack on another human being have the common courtesy to call for help or immediately take action? But instead, he watches to see if anything will unfold. It’s like sitting down in front of the television watching a news report about a murder. Our first reaction is to become sickened and taken aback by the event, but after hearing or seeing it for a while, we become immune to the situation.

Leon’s character is a great example of the dichotomy that dwells within us all. This film questions the human nature and behavior of mankind. Barker always uses dysfunctional characters to pave the way for a typical horror story that leaves us with this one question: Are we the pure children of the earth, or are we all a masked civilization that hides who we really are underneath? My thought is that you’ll never know who you really are until you witness or experience something that makes you questions your own humanity. Only then will you be able to make the decision on who you think you are when you look into the mirror.

As I said before, modern horror films that are produced today are either a senseless gore-filled ride that’s suppose to leave an imprint on the mind or a remake of a low-budget film that has made an impression on both audiences and critics. They’re just amping everything up for modern viewers. While trying to recreate the golden age of horror pictures, the modern filmmakers are forgetting the psychological aspect that’s more effective when it come to creating a certain type of mood.

I’ve noticed that some critics think horror films as just for a “fun night at the movies,” and it is to an extent. But if you eliminated all the over-the-top violence and focus on the theme it’s trying to explain to you, it’s a lot more frightening because most of these concepts can actually happen behind closed doors.

Although I did think some of the gore was a little too excessive in some sections, hence why the film lost half of a star from its full four-star rating, “The Midnight Meat Train” is a huge exception when it comes to blending the old style of horror along with the new style that seems to be popular these days.

Three 1/2 out of Four Stars

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