Nothing Can Save The Midnight Meat Train From Being an Unmitigated Disaster

If by “terrifying,” you mean “terrifyingly lame,” then absolutely, Midnight Meat Train movie poster:

midnight meat train wreck

It’s true that I’ve only myself to blame for sitting through this mess.  Shouldn’t I have known that, with a title like The Midnight Meat Train, it was going to be terrible?  Yes, I totally should’ve.  But, in my defense, there was quite a bit going for it.  For example, it’s based on a short story by Clive Barker, the man responsible for Hellraiser and Candyman, which are easily two of my favorite horror movies ever made.  Then there’s the trailer, and like all good trailers, it makes the movie look far better than it actually is:

This trailers says, “I’m stylishly directed, and although I’m just a trashy splatter flick, at least I’m trashing it up with style to spare.  Also, I’ve got Brooke Shields being a steel-faced bitch!”  While all of these things are essentially true, none of it adds up to being even remotely approaching good.  The performances range from whatever (Bradley Cooper’s obsessed photographed is a self-absorbed vegetarian douchebag that everybody inexplicably wants to help out despite his lack of any discernible talent; I guess these things happen when you’re really, really good looking) to failed camp (Brooke Shields tries to play vampy bitch and just comes off as awkward and stiff) to utterly abominable (Leslie Bibb, in the supportive girlfriend role, is egregiously annoying and a reminder as to why I’ll never bother to dabble in bisexuality).  Even Vinnie Jones, whose stern face and hulking size at least lend him some sort of presence, is left to do nothing but look threatening when he’s not killing people.  Then again, The Midnight Meat Train isn’t worried so much about characterization or performance as it is with staging the most over-the-top (and certainly inappropriate for the faint of heart and my mother) death scenes I’ve seen in some time:

Can violence scale the heights of such absurdity that it goes beyond simply being grotesque and becomes some sort of Grand Guignol camp?  If so, that scene did it, because–while certainly disturbing–that scene is also completely ridiculous.  You have a point-of-view shot from a decapitated head!  I rest my case, y’all.

This, of course, is the chief issue with The Midnight Meat Train: all the effort in the screenplay is focused chiefly on these elaborate deaths and finding ways to connect the narrative dots between such scenes.  The script is so sloppy that it cannot be bothered to name its setting anything beyond The City (and it’s damn well not New York, that’s for sure), and then there’s the ending, which frankly puts the French to shame in terms of being balls-to-the-wall asinine.  If you’ve for whatever reason still not been convinced to avoid this mess, then stop reading now and–by all means–go discover what it’s like to lose 100 minutes of your life.  Otherwise, spoilers, y’all.

So, in the final 10 minutes or so of the movie, we discover that we were actually supposed to be more concerned about Vinnie Jone’s motivation and where he disposes of the bodies as opposed to, you know, simply stopping him.  Why?  Because there’s a twist, and The Midnight Meat Train‘s twist is that there are humanoid creatures underneath The City that eat people, and Bradley Cooper is now doomed to be their new killer.  On a most satisfying positive note, Leslie Bibb’s in these underground caverns in an effort to save her boyfriend, and that means Leslie Bibb gets eaten.  I’m certain that Leslie Bibb’s a wonderful person in real life, and I really liked her in Popular, but this movie does her absolutely no services, so her death is in no way sad and in every way deeply satisfying.  On a negative note, though, this ending is flat-out fucking terrible for a feature length film.

I understand that this is the ending of Clive Barker’s short story, so it’s great that they’ve remained faithful to the source material, but therein lies the problem: it’s a SHORT STORY.  The Midnight Meat Train fails to realize that these sorts of stories work best when they told in an hour or less.  The whole point of this movie is essentially nothing about everything that’s preceded the “surprise” because it’s all about the “surprise,” and The Midnight Meat Train‘s in no way compelling enough for the first 90 minutes to make the last 10 worth it.

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t need such convoluted explanations for why a serial killer is serial killing, and if you want to have a movie about underground monsters eating people, just do the damn thing.  The Midnight Meat Train tries to have it both ways, and in doing so, achieves neither.  This movie may have no aspirations other than essentially being a highly polished splatter flick, but no lack of pretense can hide the fact that this is just a handful of well-staged death scenes wrapped around an otherwise vacuous waste of celluloid.  Or, in simpler terms:

bradley cooper

I think we can all agree that, when even Bradley Cooper’s abs can’t save you, you’re an unsalvageable mess.  Such is The Midnight Meat Train.

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