The Midnight Meat Train (2008) Ryuhei Kitamura
Production Budget: $15 million
This is up there on the list of hilariously bad movie titles. The perfect way to lose all respect for your movie right off the bat. Snakes on a Plane (or Snakes on a Train) at least INTENTIONALLY made their title bad to show their movie was a camp fest. This is a movie that is really trying to take itself seriously as a legit horror movie and they kill that suspense with this freaking title. Clive Barker fans will respond with “well that’s the name of the story”. Then I would respond “Then the story has an equally sh*tty name.” And while we are being completely honest here: the title isn’t even accurate to the story. The writers make a significant effort to tell us the murders actually take place on the 2:05 train. So really the title should be “The 2:05 AM Meat Train”. Whatever, f*ck it.
TMMT has a rocky production, complete with delays, more delays, and multiple directors. The head of Lions Gate didn’t want to release their movie along side The Strangers so he pushed back release of TMMT. Clive Barker was pissed and proceeded to b*tch out the person who was signing his checks. Bad move. Joe Drake pulled advertising and pulled its theatrical release and only showed it on 100 Dollar Theaters across the country. The moral of the story is: don’t sh*t where you eat…or is it live?
The pitch for this movie must have been interesting. “Okay, we have Vinnie Jones killing people with a gigantic meat tenderizer! Why? Who gives a sh*t! We’ll work that out as we go along. It’s Vinnie Jones!”
The story (such as it is) is about Leon, a young photographer who is trying to capture the dirt of the city. On one of his night walks, he runs into a mysterious figure who may be linked to a series of missing persons. Later he finds out he is butchering people on the subway like cattle. Really, I think it is funnier to image it actually is Vinnie Jones slaughtering people on a subway. It actually would be great if they just made it a spoof of horror movies and made the movie about a film crew doing a piece on Vinnie Jones, who in his off time tenderizes people on a New York subway.
Anyway, the tone of the story is kinda half Hitchcockian wannabe thriller/half Halloween slasher film. Neither side works well at all. The writing is not strong to support the thriller side of it. The movie is trying to make some kinda statement about moral decay, crime, and public apathy. But the message is so muddled I don’t really know what they’re saying. Are they saying the public puts up with a certain amount of evil in order to keep the status quo? I dunno. Its hard to really make meaningful social statements with The Midnight Meat Train. The acting also fails in conveying the tension. You are having this serious story about a man’s descent into madness and the guy you get to play the lead role is the annoying guy from Alias? He is the same annoying photojournalist in this movie and is prone to major overacting. His subtle turn to madness is him screaming and blubbering and chewing the scenery so much he is crapping dry wall.
The slasher aspect also fails mostly due to the inept direction by Kitamura. You may know him from the 2 hour migraine of a movie called Versus. Kitamura takes his spastic direction to TMMT. He can’t help but try fancy camera tricks to ruin perfectly good scenes. In the final fight, he swirls his camera around a CGI subway train to show the fight from both sides. It is so crappy an effect and poorly shot you don’t see anything. Another crappy choice was the decision to use CGI blood (which looks like the liquid from a lava lamp). There was an awful scene where Joxer the Mighty (Ted Raimi) is riding the subway and he gets hit from behind by the tenderizer. You see a crappy CGI eyeball fly out from Joxer’s head and the lava lamp blood gush in every direction. You really have to see it to believe it. Then you have the WTF moments like when Vinnie Jones takes 5 minutes to cut melanomas from his chest and put them into jars with barbacide. Um…yeah. And we get the “twist” at the end of the movie that is absolutely re-damn-diculous. It’s not X-Files: I Want to Believe bad, but it still comes out of nowhere and is eye-rollingly stupid.
I can think of another reason why Lions Gate cut the theatrical release of the movie. It’s because its a monumental piece of shit!