Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's He-ere: Midnight Meat Train

Good news for horror fans who didn’t make the pilgrimage to their local dollar theatre to catch Midnight Meat Train in its August dump release, you can now catch it via FearNet. I can’t speak for all cable subscribers, but Comcast customers can access it via OnDemand>Free Movies>FearNet. You can also watch some making of videos, which you can also watch on the website. Of course after you watch it, you may come to the same conclusion I did – Lionsgate didn’t slaughter Midnight Meat Train for shits and giggles, no, it was definitely a mercy killing.

But first, this is totally out of left field and unrelated, but something randomly triggered my memory while watching MMT and I remembered something I forgot to mention in my review of Mirrors back in August. At one point they had a character watching the news on television, totally standard stuff, until I hear they’re reporting on, of all things, the Peter Braunstein case. What the hell? First of all, I always assumed those background news shows in movies were fake, but if you are gonna go for verisimilitude, couldn’t you use something more standard, the usual b&e or traffic accident or whatever, something less distinctive? Using a news clip that’s real and about something so horrific really pulled me out of the movie for a good five minutes. I go to horror movies to escape the real horrors of the world, not to be reminded of them. And it’s even worse to give that monster any more attention than he’s already been given. Yuck.

Anyway, Midnight Meat Train. It was not as good as I expected it to be. I know, you’re thinking, “You had expectations for a movie called Midnight Meat Train?” But it should be clear to everyone by now that I am not particularly discerning when it comes to horror movies. I know what I like, and MMT seemed to have all the earmarks of something I’d enjoy. It has Bradley Cooper for one. It also has Leslie Bibb. And it seemed to promise fun times watching people get slaughtered on a subway. But the movie, while wobbly throughout, goes irrevocably off the rails in the third act. Pardon the pun.

It starts out well enough. Cooper plays Leon (which is not the worst name in the film – that dubious honor goes to “Jurgis”), a photographer who is told by a mentor-type-person (played by Brooke Shields) that his work is too safe and he must step out of his comfort zone. When Dan Humphrey got that advice earlier this week, he struck up a bromance with Chuck Bass. But Leon takes it as an invitation to follow an underground serial killer (the also-poorly-named Mahogany, played by Vinnie Jones).

[Warning: There is some spoilage for the movie’s ending after this point. If you care about watching Midnight Meat Train spoiler-free, I suggest you peace out now and check back later this week for my thoughts on The Glass Passenger and more fall TV reviews.]

Midnight Meat Train goes along entertainingly, predictably but entertainingly, in this vein for a while. Leon can’t get the police or his girlfriend (Leslie Bibb as Maya) to believe him, he falls further down the venisonhole and starts obsessing, blah blah blah. All is fine and well until we learn that Mr. Hack and Slash is not working alone – he’s got the train conductor on his side. Which does make sense because it is a pretty grisly and unsubtle operation to pull off by oneself, but it immediately shifted the kind of movie we were dealing with, and not for the better.

By the time we get to the end of the line, it’s veered off into a weird place populated by cult members and monstrous mole people. Suddenly there’s supernatural stuff and talk of destiny and, man, this is not what I signed up for. And okay, I can’t penalize a movie for being different than I expected it to be, but I can penalize it for having a wackadoodle ending that doesn’t mesh with the straightforward slasher first act.

There’s also a lot of disbelief requiring suspension. Of all the cops in the (unnamed, shot in L.A. but reads more generically NYC) city, Leon and Maya just happen to go to the one who’s in on the meat train conspiracy. Very convenient. And really, any large city has a transient population that can be easily picked off, people who wouldn’t be missed, so why go through all the trouble of commandeering the train and picking off assorted people who might be more easily missed? The connection – if any – between the meatpacking plant and the creatures getting fed the meat is never really explained. Is the plant a (bloody) red herring? There’s also some weird business with Mahogany picking something off his chest and putting it into jars kept in his medicine cabinet that is never really explained. There’s just a lot of weird shoehorned in and improperly explained. I think they could have made the straight-up slasher flick, or they could have made the creepy supernatural horror flick, but they tried to make both and wound up with neither.

Also, they interrupted the movie midway through, at “intermission”, to show a trailer for Saw V. I am so very completely over the Saw series, for the record. The first movie was okay, the second was really good, the third and fourth were largely incomprehensible. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably go see it, because I’m a masochist, but I’m more looking forward to Quarantine than I am more Saw dust.

I now understand why Lionsgate was so quick to dump Midnight Meat Train into second-run Podunk theatres. Despite an admirable job by Cooper and Bibb, who acted the hell out of their parts and made the movie more watchable than it would have otherwise been, Midnight Meat Train is the turducken of horror movies, trying to be too much at once and instead ending up a steaming pile of goo.


Sex Mahoney for President said...

With a great title like that and mole people, I feel like I have to see this movie.

Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

It's worth seeing if you know what you're getting into, I think I would have been less jarred and enjoyed it more had I known the supernatural stuff was coming, since I enjoyed a lot of it up to that point. But if you have any interest in mole people, you have to read The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City by Jennifer Toth, a great non-fiction account of the real mole people of NYC.