Midnight Meat Train is a very interesting film. While it was a limited release film last year, it certainly got the attention of horror film buffs. It was widely speculated and hyped, in part by Barker himself, as the most faithful adaptation of a Clive Barker work in years. Ryûhei Kitamura seemed certain to handle this difficult task with aplomb.
The story is ripped from the pages of Barker’s seminal short story trilogy The Books of Blood, and this is one of the most evocative pieces in said collection. So there was a lot to live up to, and for the most part it does. This film owes much of its success to its faithfulness, both in narrative and tonality, to the short story – which is a rare feat. Seldom, if ever, has Barker’s knack for mixing the mundane and the preternatural creations of his nearly unparalleled imagination been so deftly captured on celluloid. Fluorescent, washed-out lighting and long dialogue-free sequences also add greatly to the film’s impact.
The creative use of flashbacks in sync with the sound of the shutter closing as Leon (Bradley Cooper) has his breakdown in front of his girlfriend (Maya- Leslie Robb) is the cinematic apex of the film. A close runner-up is the first kill which is shocking, literally jaw-dropping and thus, great. Mahogany played stoically by Vinnie Jones is one of the better horror villains to hit the screen in quite some time and proves a silent villain is always most effective.
The ending is as shocking in its reveal and nearly as well-executed as it was in the text, and for that it deserves kudos and watching. The only real issue I had was that the mood and overall impact of the film, not just the kills, were dampened by the repeated use of CG blood, which made those scenes more like comic books and less like film. I just wish a few shots were framed or blocked differently so that they didn’t feel CG was necessary or better yet had they gotten creative and taken a risk with practical effects. Typically, CGI does play better on DVD but blood it seems will never work.
Ultimately, it is a very effective piece which is why any undercutting of the effectiveness and sheer brutality of it is hard to forgive. Its grade would be much higher without the two or three instances of digital blood.