Movies From the Black Lagoon: Midnight Meat Train
Movies From the Black Lagoon
Midnight Meat Train - 2008, Unrated
A freelance photographer sets his sights on a psychotic butcher in this frenzied thriller that was based on a short story by Clive (Hellraiser) Barker.
The film opens with an eerie sequence that finds a young businessman waking up from a catnap on the New York City subway train. He begins shaking off the cobwebs but is drawn to the next car by the odd muffled thumps emanating from it. His trip gets off to a bad start when he slips on a puddle (not uncommon on a subway car). He has a hard time regaining his footing as the slippery mess turns out to be an enormous amount of blood (thankfully that is uncommon on the subway despite what you nay have heard). He eventually makes it to the connecting door and spies a shadowy figure pounding a human form with a meat hammer. Unfortunately the shape observes him as well.
The film then jumps to a credit sequence before focusing on out hero-Leon. He's a self obsessed photographer who is anxious to make a dent in the Soho art scene but spends most of his time selling ghoulish accident photos to the New York Post. Luckily his girlfriend Maya is looking out for him and has asked a mutual friend to set up a meeting for him with a pretentious Gallery owner (snootily interpreted by Brooke Shields). The meeting goes fairly well but the Gallery owner wants more drama in the photos so Leon opts to prowl the city after midnight.
The plan works out well and gives Leon the opportunity to gets some shots of three hoods terrifying a fashion model. He also manages to save the woman by pointing out to the thugs that they are in the eye of the station's video camera. He hangs around for a thank you kiss from the model and gets more shots of her boarding a train. The pics land him a potential gig at the Gallery as long as he can produce a few more shots of equal power. That proves easy enough when he notices a hulking figure in the background of the pictures he took on the subway platform. Despite the fact that he model was never seen again after boarding that train Leon decides to stakeout the subway and begins following the strange man he glimpsed on his other photos.
Leon becomes obsessed with the guy and tracks him to his day job as a butcher in the meat-packing district. Leon refuses to back off of the guy despite warnings from Maya and the tables are soon turned when the butcher (Mahogany) becomes aware of Leon and begins stalking him right back. It all leads to a thrilling right on the titular vehicle that sees Leon go 'Mano y Mano' with Mahogany. That would be a good enough movie right there but this one has a few more tricks up its sleeve and we soon learn why there is a meat train and who it's feeding. It's a startling revelation and makes for a slam bang finish that brings us all the way back to the opening scene with a new and chilling perspective on who is now slaughtering New Yorkers that venture out after dark.
This is easily the best Barker adaptation by another filmmaker since Bernard Rose gave us "Candyman." The director here is Ryuhei Kitamura (the visual stylist that directed "Versus") and he proves to be the right guy for the job. The scenes of Mahogany hacking up the straphangers who venture onto his train are more visceral and disturbing than anything since Hannibal Lector's attack on his guards in "Silence of the Lambs." The film gets an awfully big assist from actor Vinnie Jones (The Condemned) who is cats as Mahogany. The character is basically mute but Jones imbues him with a palpable menace based on an economy of movement. When Mahogany does strike it is with cat like grace but his regular movements are precise and controlled like he could go off at any time. The ending is a head kicker that stays true to the original story and serves up a finale way beyond what you'd expect from such a humbly titled story. Catch the Meat Train and let those goons at Lions gate know that they missed an opportunity to franchise the heck out of this flick when they failed to give it a theatrical run despite heavy advertising on television. Somebody ought to make sure that he board of directors at that studio get primo seats on this engine of terror.
Best Line: "He butchers them like cattle. I saw it. I took pictures."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.