Time: 103 Minutes
Bradley Cooper as Leon Kaufman
Leslie Bibb as Maya Jones
Brooke Shields as Susan Hoff
Roger Bart as Jurgis
Ted Raimi as Randle Cooper
Vinnie Jones as Mahogany
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
One night, a struggling photographer (Bradley Cooper) saves a woman from some thugs in the subway. When she disappears, he tries find out what happened to her. His obsession soon leads him down the path of horror.
I heard about The Midnight Meat Train for a while, it’s known as a bit of a horror cult classic, and certainly has one of the most memorable film titles ever. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect outside of a lot of blood. While it does have its issues for sure, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and in fact was a lot better than I thought it would be.
I did watch the director’s cut of the movie, and if you’re looking for the fully bloody horror experience, I highly recommend seeking out that version. The Midnight Meat Train is based on a short story by Clive Barker which I haven’t read, but the premise is pretty intriguing, with a decent mystery. Unfortunately, the script is a bit mid-range and isn’t as great as it could’ve been, it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. There are some subplots that aren’t quite as interesting towards the middle portion. Plotwise, the last act also has some issues when it comes to the revelations and explanations at the ending. With that being said, I was reasonably invested throughout, and it’s saved by the rest of the elements of the movie.
Bradley Cooper is quite good here in one of his earlier roles as a photographer who wants to uncover the mystery of disappearances/murders on a train. The character of Leon becomes obsessed with this, and Cooper portrays that obsession excellently. Leslie Bibb, who plays his girlfriend, is also really good and deserves a lot of praise for her performance. Unfortunately, she’s not given much to work with outside of being ‘the girlfriend’, but Bibb does actually add a lot to the role and sells it so well, her performance is equally as strong as Cooper’s. Vinnie Jones plays the killer of the movie known only as Mahogany, in one of his best performances. He doesn’t say a single word, but is really imposing and scary. Jones is already a pretty intimidating person, but his movements and reactions in this movie make him particularly unnerving, even in scenes when he’s not attacking or killing anybody.
Much of the film is elevated (and kept afloat) by the direction by Ryuhei Kitamura, who has done some excellent work here. It’s given such a sleek and stunning look throughout that it was even great to watch. The Midnight Meat Train is known as one of the bloodiest and most violent horror movies, and I can definitely see why. Now I did watch the unrated director’s cut and I can confirm that it’s extremely brutal and gory. I can’t say I was disturbed but then again, I have a high threshold, easily squeamish people aren’t going to enjoy either version though. While I had some issues with the plot in the last act, the movie is elevated significantly by how it is directed, given such an unrelenting energy. Because of that I kind of loved that section even just for how well it was filmed. The fight scenes in particularly are outstanding. The one thing that doesn’t work on a technical level is some of the CGI, and indeed even considering that it’s a 2008 movie, a lot of that really hasn’t held up well. However the practical effects especially with regards to the violence and gore are top notch.
If you’re a big horror fan and you aren’t too squeamish, The Midnight Meat Train is well worth the watch. Admittedly despite an intriguing premise, the script was underdeveloped and could’ve been a lot better and fleshed out. What makes up for that are the performances by Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb and Vinnie Jones, and particularly the sleek, unflinching direction from Ryuhei Kitamura, elevating this to a solid and bloody horror flick.