#31: The Midnight Meat Train
Happy Halloween! Happy 31st Day of Horror! Let's take one last ride. I promise, it'll be quick.
Step away from the meat.
There is no arguing for The Midnight Meat Train on anyone's "Best Of" list; it offers nothing new, nothing overwhelmingly special. If you've heard of it at all, it probably took you a moment to remember what it was about, or where you saw it (probably on Chiller). But I bet you remembered that title. That title is to the point.
The Midnight Meat Train is an adaptation of a Clive Barker short story. You know the name Clive Barker from films like Hellraiser, Nightbreed, and Candyman. His fiction is as "genre" as it gets: where Stephen King might sway into the mainstream, Barker stays in the darkest shadows of the horror section. His work is seedy, sometimes awful, often mediocre, sometimes so bizarre, it works. This is a pretty run of the mill little story. But it's tightly sewn up. It has a job to do, and it does it. I wanted to end on this one because frankly, it's my favorite kind of junk food. I don't really feel a deep need to analyze it. But I also feel really satisfied by it. It's a very nice romp in the park. Or, really, through the New York City subway system.
I like unapologetic horror. Horror that doesn't need to dally in a lot of explanation or logic. It doesn't require much of me to suspend my disbelief, so long as I'm asked nicely, and given beautiful imagery to pass the time. In this way, I am immediately drawn to the premise of Meat Train - there is a man abducting late night train riders and slaughtering, then butchering their bodies, on the train. A photographer (adorable Bradley Cooper) obsesses over capturing his image, at first for a series that will get him a gallery show, and then for some sort of sick, undeniable pleasure (a theme Barker just can't get enough of).
The gore here is plentiful, but there's an art to it. It's not the bright red of the Italians, or the corn syrup splatter of Craven, but a shiny, blue-tinted, dare I say, glittery, blood. There's a definite CGI indulgence here (which I normally could do without), but it's played for what it is. And I think it looks quite good. Sloppy, bodies mopping it across the floor good.
There are meat hooks, and teeth removal (do you know anyone who can really watch this?), and fingernails ripped from their beds (or that?). There's a man who doesn't speak, throwing around a mallet, tying people up and disposing of them before he heads home and hits the hay. He even pulls some creepy little growths off his chest and keeps them in a jar. Don't worry, you can thank me later.
Is it wrong to tell you, after spending weeks showing you some of the best written, best shot, best movies in general, that this is sometimes the horror I prefer? The kind that unabashedly carves up jerks on the subway and feeds them to... something at the end of the line?
I suppose I'm a little like Bradley Cooper's photographer. I don't enjoy watching, but I do. I do enjoy the hunt for that moment, that great scene, that incredible shot, that thing that's just too good. And I sit watching these films and I know, if I just wait a little bit longer, I'll get that shot. I'll get that idea. And I'll know just what to say about it.
How adorable that Bradley Cooper plays a vegan. And how gross that after following a butcher through a meat factory full of dead steer, he suddenly develops a craving for steak. Diner steak, no less. Watching him lick the juice off his fingers is pretty good, too. I can't think of a vegetarian/vegan that wouldn't be horrified by this all by itself.
Other Things to Notice:
Barker's writing may not be the best, but his themes do resonate. There's something Lovecraftian about him, and this story is really one of the better ones. The notion that "everyone is in on it" is paranoid, delusional, and, well, even better for being correct. And the use of the subway as a delivery system to some kind of New York-specific Hell is immensely satisfying. Like Pinhead and the Hellraiser world, this is another successful mythos from the King of deranged, oddly sexual, fantasy horror.
Brooke Shields makes a great full-of-herself gallery owner. Love her.
Yes to Leslie Bibb, who turns in a good performance, as always. If you can stomach more serial killing, her stint on Fox's The Following was a light in a duller season. She's also in The Skulls, which is like, the horror version of Cruel Intentions. Go for it.
And that's it for October, new friends!
But that's not it for this blog.
If there's anything I can hope to give you in the 31 days we've spent watching horror movie after horror movie, it's this: important ideas lurk in the unlikeliest of places.
Horror may seem a lowly genre, but it is in the depths that you're most likely to find the truth. When you watch a scary movie, good or bad, psychological or torturous, I hope you'll look for a theme, a motif, an image, a look, and say to yourself, that means something to me. Then tell somebody about it.
That's the power of film. Even the most base, despicable, grisly spectacle has something to say. If you take the time to critique it, you may understand something about people that you didn't yesterday.
In the coming weeks, I'll be branching out from horror, because, seriously, I do like other things. And additionally, I hope you'll find this blog a resource for reading, analyzing and talking about film in general.
My goal in creating One Critical Bitch is to teach and foster visual literacy, be that in a Kubrick film, a Bruce Nauman video installation, a Peter Paul Rubens painting, or the latest Judd Apatow comedy. Because changing our perspectives is the very tip of what art can do. I hope I can give you a reason, and the tools, to incorporate it into your daily life.
Thank you so much for being here every day of October. Here's to November and all that's to come!
Don't forget! There's a GIVEAWAY going on. Visit yesterday's post to take home your copy of It Follows - just scroll to the bottom to leave your comment (What's your favorite scary movie?).
Still didn't get enough horror? Me neither - so instead of the usual recommendations, here's a list of the movies I didn't get to this month:
A List of Horror I Couldn't Get To, But Sure Wish I Did:
- Only Lovers Left Alive
- What We Do In the Shadows
- The Fearless Vampire Killers
- Rosemary's Baby
- The Birds
- The Bad Seed
- The Manitou
- The Blair Witch Project
- The Leopard Man
- Village of the Damned
- Many more that I will inevitably think of in the coming days and add to this list - so keep checking back if you need your fix :-)