Midnight Meat Train (2008)

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Midnight Meat Train: Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura. With Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Vinnie Jones. A photographer’s obsessive pursuit of dark subject matter leads him into the path of a serial killer who stalks late night commuters, ultimately butchering them in the most gruesome ways.

“Clive Barkeru0026#39;s more sanguinary inclinations are paid tribute here through a hulking golem, a malevolent meat merchant in his dapper best, named Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) who smashes, eviscerates and cleaves through unsuspecting commuters on the last train home. Adapted from Barkeru0026#39;s seminal anthology, u0026quot;Books of Bloodu0026quot;, the similarly named u0026quot;The Midnight Meat Trainu0026quot; is more than just an opportunity for some sophomoric snickering over its title but one of Barkeru0026#39;s most revered short stories about a supernatural serial killer that ekes out fascination, fear and obsession from a lone photographer, Leon Kaufman (Bradley Cooper) stumbling upon the butcheru0026#39;s late night deliveries.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eDirector Ryuhei Kitamura (of u0026quot;Versusu0026quot; and u0026quot;Azumiu0026quot; fame) offers up one of the yearu0026#39;s most brutally alluring gore fests in his American debut. With the gritty and detailed hard-edge of early 70s horror films (why, hello there Lucio Fulci!), his flair for CGI augmented visuals and the intense seduction of experimental camera-work in a cinematic environment so increasingly sanitised of actual visceral terror, Kitamura refreshes the genreu0026#39;s ability to unsettle and provoke audiences and jolt jaded horror enthusiasts out of their PG-13 apathy.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eKitamura works with a modest but shrewd sense of space in the decaying subway, the claustrophobic train and the creeping gloom of the city. Thereu0026#39;s a certain simpatico between Barkeru0026#39;s distinctive tone and Kitamurau0026#39;s balls-to-the-wall film-making that compliments each other to the benefit of the filmu0026#39;s atmospheric resilience. The unvarnished horrors cooked down deep in the gallows of the tunnels, plunged into darkness form the basis of Kaufmanu0026#39;s terrible fixation on the disappearing passengers and that indescribably malicious man who stalks the shadows. Mahogany is the filmu0026#39;s myth, the legend of The Butcher. Prepossessing the exactitude of traits essential to the character, Jones has the nasty glint in the eye, the mysterious swagger of indestructibility and the imperative of consuming evil, as well as having the benefit of looking like the quiet guy in the corner of the bar who could take out an entire gang of hoodlums without spilling his drink.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eKitamurau0026#39;s modulation of the materialu0026#39;s emotional stakes and his slow-burn style of ratcheting up tension gives the story further layers to plunge into, not withstanding Cooperu0026#39;s unlikely presence as the filmu0026#39;s corruptible protagonist. Jeff Buhleru0026#39;s screenplay from Barkeru0026#39;s 25-year-old story is uneven at times but keeps an atmospheric dread of hopelessness. Supporting characters include Kaufmanu0026#39;s wife (Leslie Bibb), a counterpoint to the manu0026#39;s wavering sanity and a threadbare characterisation of his good-humoured pal Jurgis (Roger Bart) who stands to represent Kaufmanu0026#39;s humanity. But even if these emotional contrasts donu0026#39;t work, the film itself is a tidy and effective meta-slasher that resonates beyond corporeal carnage. Kitamurau0026#39;s subtextual ingenuity is shown through macabre imagery of animal carcasses hanging off meat hooks as Mahogany tenderises, disembowels and stores his victims just like the morsels of flesh they are.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eClive Barkeru0026#39;s fantastical and mad blend of visceral shocks and profoundly unsettling explorations of worlds coexisting and buried deep within the one we think we understand has become an important component of our contemporary literary and filmic universes. While u0026quot;The Midnight Meat Trainu0026quot; never hits the spasms of metaphysical despairs in u0026quot;Hellraiseru0026quot; or the diabolical mind-warps of u0026quot;Candymanu0026quot;, this is forthright horror – simple, powerful and unadulterated.”

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