I rarely delve into the free movies on Comcast's On Demand network, mainly because I've seen all of the films worth seeing. But every once in a while, I need to watch a trashy horror flick - and On Demand's FEARnet has quite a few of such things. As I was cycling through the list, I came across a movie that came out this year to little fanfare, but one that I wanted to see if not just for the title itself: Midnight Meat Train.
Midnight Meat Train is not your typical horror movie full of unrecognizable actors and cheesy gore; it stars Bradley Cooper, best known from Alias, sexy Leslie Bibb, who was last seen undressing in Iron Man, Brooke Shields and Vinnie Jones, from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Jones plays a serial killer who locks people on a moving subway train, kills them and then butchers them like they're cattle. Cooper plays Leon, a struggling photographer who immerses himself in this dark world to figure out the truth, and ends up getting more involved than he ever would have liked.
Midnight Meat Train, based on a short story by Clive Barker of all people, is captivating in parts, but is not nearly as good as I was expecting. And I mean that literally. When I saw the previews way back when, the movie looked surprisingly tense, gritty, bloody and frightening. Other than being a bit bloody, the movie doesn't fit those other adjectives. The flick, directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, has a nice look and feel to it, but he fails to create a sense of tension or suspense. The movie isn't particularly scary, and really, not nearly as gory as one would expect from the title (that may just be little old desensitized me talking, though). Ultimately, despite his attempts to make something more, Kitamura has simply created yet another forgettable horror movie.
The problems lie mainly in the script; anytime a short story is expanded to a full-length feature, there are risks, and writer Jeff Buhler just doesn't quite have what it takes. In terms of how the story is stretched (I've never read the original story), there's nothing wrong, but the movie tries to delve into the mind of its main character rather unsuccessfully. As Leon starts to believe that he has discovered a serial killer, he starts to become darker and darker and push his girlfriend away as he becomes obsessed with discovering the truth. This transition I just didn't buy, and in many ways this was make-or-break for the film.
The surprise ending is also incredibly stupid and disappointing, though not un-Clive Barker.
Midnight Meat Train isn't a disaster, but even with a rather unique story and nice visuals, it doesn't do anything to set itself apart from the rest of the horror genre.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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