5-Word 365 #299 – The Midnight Meat Train

I decided to embrace the inevitable and stick with horror flicks for this last week in the run up to Halloween. Yesterday was disappointing. Today? Not so much.

The Midnight Meat Train

Better than the title suggests.

A photographer wandering the city at night accidentally takes a picture of someone he begins to suspect is a serial killer. Following the man into the subway, he finds out the truth is even more terrifying than he thought possible. Hilarity ensues.

This is insane. When I saw the title (and the poster) I admit I had some preconceptions about this flick. It is adapted from a Clive Barker short story (from the Books of Blood collection) and let’s be frank here, movies of his work have been a bit of a mixed bag over the years. For every Hellraiser, there’s a Rawhead Rex. But as this film unfolded before my sleep-deprived eyes, I became ever more aware of one simple fact: this is insane.

The Midnight Meat Train is the first English-language feature from Japanese action/horror director Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus), starring Bradley Cooper – in that sweet spot right before his career skyrocketed – as Leon, the photographer, Leslie Bibb as his girlfriend Maya and Wales’ own Vinnie Jones as the implacable butcher. Jeff Buhler wrote the screenplay, and it is a fantastic piece of work. The original story was quite a brisk little thing, with only two main characters. This adaptation expands that to a full hundred minutes of slow-burn unease alternating with some glorious bloodshed leading to a bonkers final act.

Say cheese!

Cooper is believable as the initially brazen artist who starts losing the plot as his self-appointed mission becomes less about investigation and more about obsession. The cast are very good all round in fact, even the smaller roles like Peter Jacobson as Maya’s diner-owning boss and Roger Bart as Leon’s friend and agent. Leslie Bibb plays one of the strongest “girlfriend” roles I have seen in a genre flick for quite a while, crafting a fully-formed person instead of the standard damsel in distress. It helps that the characters are all grown adults with full lives instead of the vacuous teens we usually get these days, not looking anywhere in particular (*cough* Nightmare on Elm Street *cough*).

Yesterday, I had a minor rant about the preponderance of ropey digital effects in horror flicks taking over from lovely, slimy, practical work. Midnight Meat Train mixes goes for the pick’n’mix option, only using CG to enhance the practical effects, or for shots that are just impossible to do for real. The result is some truly gorgeous kills, such as a victim on the train being hit so hard in the back of the head that his eyes popped right out straight at the camera in sexy slow motion. If any flick deserved to be in 3D, it’s this one. The on-set stuff is remarkably visceral, considering the film had a budget just over half that of Nightmare 2010.


This film deserves to be widely seen. It shows a recognisable world, then it flips that world completely on its head. The result is an experience not soon forgotten. Gory, scary and original; take a ride on The Midnight Meat Train. (See what I did there?)


  1. Jon Abrams · November 11, 2012

    I saw this when it first hit DVD and totally agree at how under-seen it is. I’m not even a huge fan of anyone involved but I think they all did a superlative job. I’ve been meaning to take another look at this one.

    • Ryan McNeely · November 12, 2012

      I think it might prove to be one of the great cult flicks in another ten or fifteen years. Cooper’s increased profile would certainly help.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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