17 October, 2010

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

The Midnight Meat Train is disturbing. And for a movie based on a short story by Clive Barker, I'd say that's just about right. I meant to see this film back when it was released in theaters (barely), since I had recently read the story, but I didn't get a chance on account of the distributors (or whoever was in charge) sabotaging it. Now that I've finally seen it, it's been too long for me to compare it to the original story, as all I can remember are the main details. But what's important is that the film successfully captures the essence of the story and channels Clive Barker's twisted imagination.

I don't remember whether this was part of the plot in the original story, but I liked the main character's role as a photographer, trying to make it in New York City. As a photographer myself (though not a street photographer), I could relate to his struggle to get the shots he needed - the really good shots, that would impress people and get his foot in the door, and that would fulfill his dream of finding the true heart of the city (a destiny he would fulfill in a most unexpected way). It was really palpable the danger this photographer put himself in the middle of, all for the sake of being in the right place and the right time, in order to get that magic shot. And that one shot of the gangbanger, it really was just as captivating as the plot required it to be. This movie really made me think about what it takes to be a good photographer, and the kind of risks you have to take. That alone is kind of scary, and we haven't even touched on the serial killer in the story yet.

The gore in this movie was pretty heavy. Some of the CGI was ridiculous, like the flying eyeballs. I'll admit, even as someone who can handle a gory movie (Cannibal Holocaust anyone?), I thought the gore was a little much. If you like that kind of thing, that's fine, but I could do without quite so much of it. On the other hand, there was only a tiny hint of nudity (I'm not counting the "meat" on the train, because that's just gross :p), and a really disturbing sex scene (pretty much fully clothed). But at least it was in tune with the Clive Barker aesthetic.

Spoiler Warning! Having read the story, I knew exactly where the movie was headed toward the end. And I'll say, it's a fantastic touch to the story. You got this mystery about a serial killer on the subway, and then at the end, there's this grotesque left turn into Lovecraftian horror. I was concerned about how the monsters at the end would be depicted in the movie, especially after seeing some of the ridiculous gore effects. I knew the depiction of the monsters would make or break the film for me. I'm happy to say that I was impressed with how it turned out. You didn't see a whole lot of them, so they weren't overexposed, but you saw enough to be freaked out, and they looked pretty convincing. And the ending itself, just gloriously horrifying, which is the way it should be.

This film is a cut above the standard modern dime-a-dozen horror fare, and I'm happy about that, as a fan of Clive Barker. As I've said, the gore is a bit heavy, but the most important thing is that this movie manages to get under your skin and freak you out, which is what horror films are supposed to do. Also, I think this is the first time I've seen a serial killer whose preferred killing tool is a meat tenderizer. Always points for originality. ;-)

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