Saturday, July 9, 2011

REVIEW: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

The Midnight Meat Train is a movie with a silly title based off a story with a silly title by Clive Barker. I’ve never read the story, but given Clive Barker’s involvements with movies like Candyman and Lord of Illusions, I have to say it’s no surprise that this movie is stupid. Hellraiser must have been a minor fluke, and Clive Barker seems to be some kind of antidote to making an effective horror movie…so yeah, a horror movie that sounds like a 70s gay porn title; anyone else instantly turned off?

Actually, to be serious, this movie did get some level of hype when it first came out, as people generally seemed to like it. It has a relatively decent little following among fans of more modern horror movies. But it’s really just underwhelming crap, and since my opinion is always 100% correct, I think you know what happens next. CUE REVIEW LEAD-IN SENTENCE FOLLOWED BY PICTURE AND INFORMATION!

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Vinnie Jones

Our movie begins with a random bald man waking up on a subway. He gets up and hears a noise from the next car over, so he takes a step forward but slips on the blood on the floor…I hate when trains don’t clean up the blood on their floors; it’s so inconsiderate. Then he sees a guy being killed with a hammer in the next car over, and realizes that he’s in the only train so good that it’ll kill you, the SERIAL KILLING MIDNIGHT TRAIN OF DOOM. Reserve your tickets now.

"I hate the Subway system...always leaving blood everywhere."
This is the MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, maggots! Don't call it anything else!

Right…so what do you think happened to that guy anyway? We don’t really see him get axed (well, the proper term would be “hammered” in this case, but I don’t think that wording would work out). Maybe he got out OK. I think I’ll watch the rest of the movie to find out!

Either way, we’re then introduced to our main character Leon, played by one of those generic looking white male actors who you’ve seen everywhere, but just can’t place for the life of you. He’s a photographer who is troubled because he didn’t get the photo he wanted to shoot exactly right. His girlfriend, Maya, complains that he isn’t giving her enough attention, even though he’s only been home a few seconds and just walked in the door. But she makes up for this whininess by telling him that she got him a connection with a famous art gallery owner in town, which I guess balances everything out.

The gallery owner tells him that his photography isn’t gritty enough, and that he should try harder to capture the real “feel” of the city, which is what he’s apparently trying to do. So he goes down into the subway and takes some pictures of a girl getting mugged, deciding to use his good Samaritan powers of nonviolence to make the three muggers aware of the security cameras, and even tricking one of them into coming close enough to where the camera catches his face. Crafty! Then he puts on a superhero costume and starts doing this more often…no, actually what happens is far less interesting than that. But he does get a big smooch on the lips from the chick who was about to get mugged! For some reason this isn’t enough for him, so he takes another picture of her when she’s getting on the train.

"Don't mess with my powers of nonviolent intervention. I'll MESS YOU UP MAN."

Then after she gets on the train she gets her neck broken from a nice hammer blow by this guy in a suit.

The next day, Leon notices her picture in the paper, with an article that says she disappeared. But he’s too busy celebrating his new deal with the art gallery to care about that right now. She only needs two more gritty realistic photos of the city and he’s in the photography show! He’s hanging out with his girlfriend and their mutual friend Jurgis, who got him the contact with the owner of the gallery in the first place. He pours them a few drinks, toasts, and then…leaves to take more photos? Somehow I get the idea this guy isn’t exactly the life of every party he goes to.

While that’s going on, we see the suit-guy on the train killing a bunch of idiots who I guess couldn’t afford a cab…suit-guy beats them up with his hammer and even makes one of the guys’ eye pop out. And here we have one of the main problems with this movie – the CGI blood and gore. It looks incredibly silly, and removes any kind of fear or entertainment value you’d otherwise get. It is mostly just lame.

Look at all the CGI! It's...mostly just ugly and stupid looking.

Also, what’s up with the POV shot from the severed head? Great way to make your scene completely un-scary…

Leon spots the guy with the suit from the train coming up an escalator, and decides “Hey, guys with suits are TOTALLY representative of the grittiness of the city! Let’s follow him!” So he does. He notices that the guy is wearing a ring, which he also saw in the picture he took of the missing model getting on the train. So that leads him to follow the guy like a stalker on a hunch, because, you know, NOBODY ELSE could ever have a similar looking ring. And, you know, it couldn’t possibly have been any other ring that Leon just accidentally mistook for the suit-guy’s because his photo was blurry. And, you know, just because the guy was on the subway TOTALLY means he was behind the girl going missing! There’s no other options! And I’m definitely not being sarcastic right now!

So Leon follows the suit-guy to his job the next day, which is at an actual butcher’s shop. He gets a few photos, but then decides to wait outside patiently ALL DAY until suit-guy comes out. And seriously; he puts on that suit to go out and work in a butcher shop all day? That’s probably nitpicking, but it still struck me as funny…what; does he put on that suit when he’s mowing the grass, too?

Leon tries to follow him down to the subway, but gets stopped by a random cop who wants to search his camera for explosives…yes, I’m serious. Why weren’t there any cops or security guards before, when the model was being mugged? STORY CONVENIENCE! So Leon doesn’t get to ride the Meat Train tonight, which is a shame, because he misses a real good show. Suit-guy kills another random guy with help from the conductor of the train this time, who is in on it. Yeah, all the random murders so far have been part of a conspiracy! Surprised?

While that’s going on, Leon proposes engagement to Maya and then has some extremely steamy buttsex with her. Yes, really. And it’s interspersed with a scene of a guy getting killed on the Meat Train, from his perspective as his throat is cut. It’s not scary because of the goofy POV shot of the awful CGI blood coming down, and it’s mostly just awkward with the sex scene before it…so yeah, waste of a scene. I’m bored even writing this review.

Upside down vision will be the new way EVERY movie is shot after this!

After that the movie sinks into repetitions. We get some shots of suit-guy in the train buying candy, which could be a bad commercial:

"I will accept your sweetened, fattening means of nutrition in exchange for this paper currency-like item."

…and we also get some shots of Leon’s continued obsession with the killings. Leon researches the killings by – get this – GOING TO THE LIBRARY AND JUST SEARCHING ‘BUTCHER KILLER’ on the computer! Yup, that isn’t pointlessly vague at all! Couldn’t possibly get you anything besides what you wanted. Then we get this scene where Maya tries to get Leon interested in her again by stripping for him while he takes pictures…could have been heartfelt but it’s mostly just weird and unpleasant.

This awkwardly unpleasant scene brought to you by the powers of bad horror movies that think they're being emotive.

Have you noticed that this movie just alternates over and over again between scenes of suit-guy killing people on the train and trite “emotional” scenes between Leon and Maya? There’s no difference. It’s actually been incredibly hard to write this one just because it’s so dull and formulaic. Nothing really exciting happens. It’s like a great big void of blandness, interspersed occasionally with spices of silliness. And people gave this positive reviews. It’s no secret why the horror genre is in such bad shape these days when we keep letting THIS CRAP go by!

So while searching for any semblance of something interesting happening, Leon infiltrates the butcher shop to take pictures of suit-guy, who he has an odd infatuation with…being that he just brushed off his girlfriend to do this, I think Midnight Meat Train is actually a metaphor for something else entirely. Man neglects his hot and loving girlfriend to go and follow another man all day and even most of the night? If this wasn’t so gory, I would say that the film’s attempt at forbidden romance was quite a fruitful and impassioned attempt. Perhaps I have misrepresented this, and this is the film’s true intention. Hell; even when the suit-guy, after killing a few more random idiots, finally catches Leon, HE DOESN’T KILL HIM. Why? So he can knock him out, take off his shirt AND…draw a weird tattoo on his chest?

No point to the story and is never brought up again...yup, these guys are GENIUSES!

Huh. I guess my speculations about this actually being a veiled romantic venture were off-beat. I have too much faith in mankind sometimes. This really IS just a bad horror movie then, huh? I mean, unless this was free promotion for a local inner-city tattoo artist brand, then it’s pretty pointless…

No explanation, huh? Not even another sentence about it for the rest of the movie? It’s just there for no reason? Well isn’t that just magical. WHY DOES THIS EXIST?

Ugh. So Maya and Jurgis somehow find the suit-guy’s apartment and go in even though they admit it’s a dumb idea. Movie, just because you lampshade the fact that your characters are doing the dumbest, oldest horror movie cliché out there DOES NOT make it OK if they just do it straight-up anyway. It’s still stupid. Inside, they find a record of his killings (OK…), before he comes in and silently kidnaps Jurgis – because I guess he just enjoyed being really loud and blatant when he killed people on the train. And he left Maya alive and able to go to the police BECAUSE…no reason given.

So we find out that the one cop shown in this movie is in on the whole thing too – yeah, it’s a citywide conspiracy now! Joyous – and then Maya goes to the train alone to rescue Jurgis. Leon shows up too and fights the suit-guy and actually beats him. This action scene isn’t too bad, and although it’s kind of silly, it is at least a little entertaining. Too bad it came at the very end of this whole damn borefest of a movie! Bit too little, too late there…

And the same thing again with the reveal that it was actually monsters behind the whole thing, in some kind of hellish underground cavern, devouring all the bodies that the Meat Train guys killed. That’s not too bad of an idea, and although a lot of people cite it as a detractor of the film, it’s actually the best thing about it. It’s mystical and odd and freaky, and although yes, it is a bit stupid, it at least shows SOME creativity, which the rest of this pile of manure distinctly lacks. The end of the movie is basically this – Maya gets killed off, Leon gets his tongue ripped out and becomes, after an overlong sequence of him walking and not showing his face as the movie tries futilely to build suspense, the new Meat Train/suit-guy killer. Whoop-de-do.

So yeah, this was one hell of a mediocre and silly excuse for a horror movie. Nothing about this is in any way captivating or interesting at all. I was bored watching it and I was bored writing about it. I could excuse the numerous small plot holes if this was even a little bit entertaining, but it’s just SO DULL. I mean…you have no idea how dull it is. It’s duller than the dullest of dull things in dullsville.

Did I mention it was bad yet? I did? OK.