Friday, 6 March 2009

The Midnight Meat Train...

I'm always reluctant to post about specific films for fear of turning this into a review blog, but this one deserves a special mention. I first read Clive Barker's short story The Midnight Meat Train when I was far too young to be doing so, squinting at the pages under torchlight as it was way past my bed time (always the best time for horror stories). It terrified me and excited me at the same time. I became an instant fan of Barker's work, but more relevant to this blog, it was one of the many things that made me want to be a writer. That mixture of fear and excitement - I wanted to do that to people.

The first I heard there was to be a film version was in a poster shop in LA that had a load of pre-release artwork on sale for films that were still in production. I was kind of excited by the thought, and a little frustrated - like Ghost Rider and Constantine it marked another of the adaptations I always wanted to write someday that would now be forever crossed off my list. Then I started thinking - in my imaginary version it would be part of a portmanteau film with my other favourite Books of Blood stories - it would never work as a standalone feature! Then I realised how easy it would be to get wrong. After all, on the surface it's a story about a killer on a subway train - cut the super-scary final scene, have him chasing a bunch of teenagers and it's ruined. The revelation that Vinnie Jones was to play the killer did not help matters.

Then I found out that one of my favourite Japanese directors, Ryuhei Kitamura, was directing it. This changed things. If you don't know Kitamura you should certainly check out Azumi - his masterpiece. And if you like that, go back and check out Versus, Alive, Aragami and Sky High (Godzilla: Final Wars I could do without, but I was never a huge Godzilla fan anyway - although the first film is really very good and much better than all the sequels). Anyway, now I was interested.

So I just finished watching it and...

...I really liked it. I thought it was ace. It's not perfect - it takes a while to get going and there's too much CGI among other things. But it does the story, faithfully, right to the end. The writer, Jeff Buhler, makes just enough changes to make it work as a feature, but ultimately everything from the story is there. Even the final scene that scared me so much as a kid.

It reminded me a lot of The Hitcher - just set in a big city instead of the desert. And like that film, the best thing about it was that it's a proper horror film, with a story and themes that make you think. The last two horror films I saw were Friday 13th and The Unborn - both terrible, the second one more depressing because of it. They were films about pretty people jumping at CGI shadows. Midnight Meat Train is a film about characters and ideas. It's about isolation and loneliness in a big city, and it's about two people finding each other in spite of that. I'm deliberately making it sound like a love story, because it kind of is really - a dark, miserable, gore-splattered love story but an effective one all the same.


drive2 said...

totally agree dude. much underrated film that go no love because everyone made up their minds it was gonna suck cause vinne jones was in it and its a 'hollywood' movie.
great, slick, moody horror that only gets a little silly towards the end. good stuff

Chris Regan said...

Cool, glad someone else liked it and it wasn't just me!