It's the vegan vs. the butcher in this supernatural game of cat and mouse which begins with the question: What happens when the veggie-munching mouse starts stalking the bloodthirsty cat?
This dynamic is played out by actors Bradley Cooper (best-known for his role in the long-running television series Alias, and currently in the box office hit He's Just That Into You), and Vinnie Jones (best-known for his work with Brit crime director Guy Richie, and soon to be seen in a spoof-comedy called Not Another Not Another Movie). The two bring a believability to an otherwise very intense, completely over the top story which asks the viewer to swallow an awful lot (newly-popped eyeballs are extra).
Directed by Japanese hotshot Ryuhei Kitamura, this is one brutal movie. It's based on one of the stories from 1987's Books of Blood anthology and as I said in my theatrical release review of The Midnight Meat Train, it's the true return to form that fans of Clive Barker's most vicious horror have been waiting for, for years. (Check the review for plot details.)
When I first saw the film, I was a little put off by the ending because I'd forgotten that it's exactly how Clive Barker's short story finishes; soon after watching the movie, I revisited the printed page and was more at peace with the fate of the characters. Having watched it for a second time on DVD, and with a bit of added footage to give a hint or two, I really liked the conclusion a lot better. it seems wholly fitting.
Although the movie is available in a reportedly very grainy Blu-Ray version, I watched it on regular DVD and was just as taken by DP Jonathan Sela's cinematography and lush, popping color palette as I was when I saw it on the big screen. It looks and sounds (the screech of train brakes, the thudding of a meat tenderizer against human skulls, and the whoosh of spilt blood in the 5.1 Dolby Surround) appropriately amazing.
The Midnight Meat Train single-disc release features only three extras and a commentary, but each is very well worth a look and listen.
Commentary by Clive Barker and Director Kitamura
This yack-track is plenty candid. According to Barker and Kitamura, The Midnight Meat Train was purposely derailed by the studio, by releasing it quietly in just a few "dollar" theaters last fall. Both men are (rightfully) very proud of the film, and they talk quite a bit about not only the process of making it, but what was in their minds as they told the story. Barker had his own reasons for writing the tale of the silent butcher in the 80s, and Kitamura reveals an interesting personal fact about himself as to why he connected with the characters (particularly our protagonist Leon, played by Cooper). It's also interesting to hear them talk about the added characters and how the story took on a different shape for cinema's sake.
Clive Barker: Man Behind the Myth
This is a terrific extra that basically just follows Barker around his painting studio (in his home) and lets him ramble on about his process. And when I say ramble, I'm not complaining — he does a particularly long-yet-fascinating simple demonstration with a spiral that I think will help newcomers to his work understand why the movie's ending was (is) so polarizing.
Also on the DVD:
Anatomy of a Murder Scene
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Be sure and read our new interviews with Clive Barker, conducted on Friday the 13th of February 2009:
Clive Barker interview Part One
Clive Barker interview Part Two
Clive Barker interview Part Three