Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Midnight Meat Train = holy f'n shit!

Yes, I must preface this movie-reaction entry with this truth: I am a bit tipsy right now. Was boozin' and liq-in' it up earlier. I'm not hammered, or shit-faced, by any means. But a bit coming-down-from-drunk, I am, though this declaration doesn't mean much in terms of critical response. But still, I'm a stand-up kinda dude, so I feel the need to be upfront, and truthful, and all that jazzy bullshit.


I actually began this film before cracking open my first beastly-can of oversized Coors Light (seriously, these mutant cans my friend brought over last weekend and left here, shits are like steroid-injected beer cans, pop-our-tops-you-about-to-be-drunk-asshole sin portals that are double the size of your basic give-me-a-buzz brew can. Tough stuff, I say). On this site, I'd heard that this hard-to-find American-made horror joint called The Midnight Meat Train is playing, free of charge, for a month or so, and it's the only place to see the film, for the time being. A DVD release is impending, though not solidified just yet, but pussy-ass Lionsgate company put the film into brutally-limited release a month or so back, and nobody say it. I guess chump-style Lionsgate feared the film's commercial success prospects, opting to churn out the latest Saw film, dumbing down and polluting the American horror film system rather than bettering it. Fuck you, Lionsgate brass.

The Midnight Meat Train (which I literally just finished watching on moments ago) fucking rocks, hardcore. And of course, audiences won't get to experience it's awesomeness in deserved-theaters. At best, they'll either watch on, or catch it on DVD in the sometime-future per friend's (most likely a friend such as myself, in the know) recommendation. Damn, damn shame. This could quite possibly be the best American-produced horror flick in a long-ass time. Real talk.

Which is a huge, immense surprise to yours truly. Because, really, The Midnight Meat Train has been so hyped and talked-about on the various horror websites I frequent, I was ready to christen it "overhyped," and "a martyr for stateside horror, despite its probably mediocre pedigree." After watching the trailer and reading it's plot premise, I unfiarly figured, this shit is just another run-o-the-mill affair riding the rapid-fire-edits/heavy-metal-scored coattails of Saw and other ADD-friendly genre fare.

How wrong I was. The Midnight Meat Train literally sucker-punched me, just now. I just watched it's final 15 minutes in wide-eyed awe, in disbelief that a film produced here in the states would so far off the deep end, so heavy on the gore and anti-happy ending. So honest and comfortable in its full-blown horror. I guess a good part of the reason for such rawness is the fact that it's directed by a foreign filmmaker, a stylish dude named Rhyuhei Kitamura, a fella who's previous flicks have been touted as cutting-edge though I've never seen any. May have to Netflix his catalog now, though, because The Midnight Meat Train has flash and panache to spare.


For clarity's sake, I should explain the premise here. Basically...this struggling photographer named Leon (played nicely by Bradley Cooper, an on-the-rise thesp who you'd know as the confident, athletic boyfriend of the sister whom Luke Wilson pines for in Wedding Crashers...dude who spears Vince Vaughn something fierce) is told by a respected professional (randomly played by Brooke Shields) that his photos lack heart and/or soul, shots of New York City life that need a bit more heatbeat-ing. So Leon, at the urge of his loving girlfriend (played by cutie Leslie Bibb), immerses himself nose-deep into the seedier side of the city. Which leads him to shadowing Mahogany (played by the scary-as-hell-just-looking-at-you Vinnie Jones), a serial killer who slaughters and butchers poor folk riding a subway car late at night. Leon, now intrigued and captivated by Mahogany through a series of small-world-killings that link to Leon somehow, begins his own self-appointed investigation, which of course leads to tragedy, twists, turns, gore, and sadistic glee.

First off, this is one of the few films in recent memory where when people are killed, as a viewer you can feel the force, the skull-and-bone-crushing. It's how Kitamura shoots the carnage inflicted by Mahogany, in semi-slow-mo, but with enhanced sound effects every time Mahogany's massive mallet (which looks like a hammer that must weigh a solid 50 pounds) crashes into a victim's head, or knees, or back, or sternum. Each hit is cringe-worthy, and impactful. The heartbeat-like percussion score used here adds to the feeling, too, and the overall effect of each killing is potent...namely, an early slaying scene where Mahogany drills an unsuspecting subway-rider in the back of the cranium, which Kitamura shoots from the front of the now-dead-dudes face, catching his eyeball popping out in slo-mo, bright-red blood shooting onto the camera. Gore galore, my droogs.

Perhaps the most "wow"-inducing moment, though, comes when the camera's POV switches suddenly to a Mahogany victim's eye-sight, as he's hanging upside down in a subway cart, and our stone-cold, truly terrifying villain slits his throat, and we see the victim's face in a reflection gleaming from a pool of blood, blood pouring off our (or the victim's, whose point-of-view, or POV, we're looking through) slashed throat. Raw dog, without protection, this scene is.

Again, I'm eating my initial thoughts regarding The Midnight Meat Train. I expected it to be whatever, a standard American-churned horror entry that favored style over substance. But really, it's a well-constructed piece, that moves along swiftly through solid acting, believable characters and relationships, and geniunely intense and vice-gripping scare setpieces, that show face frequently and effectively. And the gore is top-notch, and unflinching. The script goes in directions I never saw coming, introducing twists and monkey-wrenches, and concluding in a bit of creature-feature insanity that had my eyes reeling and my jaw dropping. So relentless, so vicious. So un-American, by horror's standards, which means I salute director Kitamura and the icon who wrote the original source material, horror legend Clive Barker.


All of my praise, for those horror heads aware of how Hollywood terribly and un-justifiably treats US-distributed terror cinema, should render it understood, then, that The Midnight Meat Train has been treated like a red-headed-stepchild by H-wood, a disrespected and how-do-we-market-and-promote-such-a-well-made-and-unhappy-and-brutal-horror-film piece of wonderful nastiness that was destined to be slapped around. In late summer, vagina-like Lionsgate released this shit on like 30-something screens nationwide, to the minimal point where I---a dude notorious for seeking out obscure cinema in any stretch of NYC---couldn't find a theater showing it. The whol ordeal has been a heated talking-point for horror know-whats and lovers nationwide, and rightfully so. A quality, skillfully-made horror film like this gets a raw deal, while a purely-made-for-financial-means-and-devoid-of-any-original-or-genuine-thought piece of feces like Saw V gets put on like 3,000 screens. Fuck it, America sucks in terms of horror treatment.

The Midnight Meat Train deserved, or still even deserves, much better. It's a film that may disinterest you by its off-putting title alone (it does kinda sound like some X-rated male porn, huh), and by plot description and trailer-viewing offers little new or worth spending an hour-and-a-half of your life peeping.

And sure, it's not perfect. I could nit-pick and point out a flew moments that seem contrived, or bits of dialogue that reek of cow-hand-jobbed cheese. But I went into this film simply hoping for a good time, and hoping to see some tense shit that had me excited and pulse-pounding. And this accomplished enough for me. And if you're a true horror head, or just somebody who enjoys a nice dose of risky, dangerous filmmaking and off-the-wall, brave storytelling, The Midnight Meat Train is one to seek out. Hell, it's still playing on, so if my praising interested you at all, log on to the damn site and watch for yourselves.

And yes, again, I'm coming down from a drunken night, but don't let this fact deter you from seeing this movie. If anything, such mental corruption that I'm currently feeling has my film-loving side on higher alert, and spewing out more typed-passion tha normal, but a passion that's in fact real and vehement.

Hopefully this post made some sense. I'm off to slumber now, so I'll read this shit back in the morning, when I'm well rested, clear of mind, and in a post-drunk state. Odds are, I'll even rewatch The Midnight Meat Train tomorrow, because it's sickness has me honestly questioning that I really just watched such a kick-ass movie. Of course I did, and of course this glowing reaction is legit. I'm just so accustomed to mediocre American-bred horror, that I'm in disbelief. This time, I should've believed the hype. Sorry, Chuck D.

[here's the flick's trailer....not the greatest trailer, but it'll hopefully give you all a feel for the film]

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