Midnight Meat Train Review
The FilmClive Barker's early writings were about discoveries of self and awakenings of the soul. His Books of Blood, which yielded the story of Candyman, and his novella Hellbound Heart, which gave us Hellraiser, were often about people following their urges and curiosity into unspeakable terriroies. Barker's early work capture a De Sade like sense of spiritual adventure, and the joy of going against orthodoxy and limitations. His transgressive monsters would tear human flesh, yet his human heroes would grow, become wiser and get lost in the subcultures they uncovered.
The original story has been translated Stateside, and flash harry Ryuhei Kitamura is making his American debut with this adaptation. Kitamura's previous films have left me a litlle cold because of some of the reasons that caused others to flock to them. His kinetic camera work, apparrent amoral approach, and rapid editing, have entertained me for about five minutes before I have realised that the work underneath is very hollow indeed.
Midnight Meat Train gets its underworld of shiny metallic trains and sleazy dark streets bang on. The world above ground is smoky and filled with potent shadows, and the underground trains below are too clean, sterile and chilling. This setting needs to be dirtied up and the film achieves its aim of demystification by delivering the final explanations of the plot as revelation. In the end, there are no easy escapes, there is no authorial wishful thinking or facile tying up of loose ends; there is only a deadly momentum which leads to awful and obscene truths.
This is this year's first excellent horror movie, made by a mature and thoughtful Kitamura enabled by Barker still mining the preoccupations of younger days. Midnight Meat Train is an intense and gory ride to a shocking destination, and my advice to potential passengers is all aboard!
Transfer and SoundThe high contrast and metallic aesthetic of the movie is well handled in its sharp 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer. The darker overland sequences yield good if not outstanding levels of detail, black levels are strong throughout and the strongest colour in a desaturated presentation is cleverly blood red. Edges look fine and film grain is minor but thankfully still present. Very occasionally, skintones lack some detail but this looks very good.
Discs and Special FeaturesThe transfer is given 18.8GB on this single layer disc which is Region B encoded only. The main feature includes a surprisingly good commentary between an appreciative Barker and a relatively humble Kitamura who discusses the issues in delivering a film to the producers' specifications. Barker sems genuinely surprised when Kitamura points out that the exterior of the train journeys are CGI and the two get on rather well.
Barker appears again in a featurette where he talks about his writing and Stephen King's famous backing, before going on to talk at some length about his paintings. Barker seems genuinely proud of his art but I was less impressed with work that seemed a bit of mix of Bosch and Munch.
He also contributes to a short piece on the character of the butcher. Other main cast talk about Vinnie Jones' performance as if they were reviewing the latest performance from a top British thesp, and thankfully Vinnie is more down to earth about being big and scary and carrying a heavy hammer.
The final extra examines the handiwork of the world's most unlikely Welshman in the film's second murder sequence. Kitamura revels in "blood, blood, blood" and the effects guys get to do some cool stuff with decapitated heads and fixed cams - the POV shot from the severed head as it roles to see its own spurting body is gloriously sick.
SummaryIt could all have gone so terribly wrong but Kitamura's relative restraint, a focus on the characters and some great scene setting help Midnight Meat Train to deliver(last pun, I promise). This is a fine treatment of a film dumped out of the cinemas, the Region A disc has slightly more extras but is also region locked.
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