Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Midnight Meat Train

Based on a Clive Barker short story—the first in a multi-volume collection called Books Of BloodThe Midnight Meat Train has a title that perfectly evokes the cold, blunt, businesslike slaughter within. No one could walk out of the film claiming they’d been misled. The villain is a butcher named Mahogany (though his handle isn’t revealed until the end credits), played by ex-soccer enforcer Vinnie Jones, who haunts the subway cars in the wee hours, clubbing night owls with a giant silver hammer. He isn’t particularly scary, but he’s an indomitable figure who carries himself with an air of bloodless professionalism, killing out of workaday duty rather than sick pleasure. It’s hard to talk about his reasons without giving too much away, but suffice to say, humans are treated like any other animal in the middle of the food chain. PETA would approve.


Taking a break from playing fatuous cads in romantic comedies like Wedding Crashers and He’s Just Not That Into You, Bradley Cooper begins the film as Mahogany’s opposite, a vegan photographer whose only access to the city’s grim underbelly is from behind the camera lens. Encouraged by his girlfriend (Leslie Bibb), Cooper catches a break when a leading art dealer (Brooke Shields) takes an interest in his work, but wants him to delve deeper into dark subject matter. So Cooper heads further and further down into the criminal abyss, eventually catching onto a series of mysterious late-night disappearances in the subway system. The closer he gets to the subway killer, the more his dark obsession threatens to drag him down, too.

Coming at the crest of the extreme horror wave, The Midnight Meat Train barely saw any theaters before slipping into DVD purgatory, but that’s less an indication of its quality than the squeamishness of the distributor. Truth be told, it isn’t particularly gratifying to see bodies hanging by their ankles from meathooks like sides of beef as Mahogany punches the clock night after night. But director Ryuhei Kitamura, who has a reputation in cult circles for his Evil Dead-like midnight movie Versus, gives the film the look and feel of a vivid graphic novel, capped by killings that have a cartoonish, 3D outrageousness. It’s an accomplished piece of work; whether what it accomplishes is of redeeming value is another question.

Key features: A solid commentary with Kitamura and an approving Barker; featurettes on Clive Barker’s work, Mahogany’s mission, and an elaborate murder sequence; and the usual trailer and coming attractions.