Lots of catch-up to play. My good hand is still in a stylish black cast but it’s getting easier to write with it, so let’s get right into the first item on the agenda.
MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is… awesome. Of course, all of us horror fans know we take awesome where we can get it these days and so awesome now is not JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN or even ROB ZOMBIE’S HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. Awesome is a bit diluted in the horror world of 2008, I mean 2009, yet still, when I’m in the mood to see necks a’breaking and guts a’flying, well, I’ll take what I can get.
And Midnight Meat Train is definitely within reason. Let me break it down (first person to beat-box gets a shovel through the top of their noggin).
Let’s start with what I didn’t like. MIND THE SPOILERS
CG blood. Ugh. What you might want to see if you wake up covered in it is not what you want to see when Vinnie Jones is hammering unsuspecting victims with a mallet hard enough to twist their heads around on their shoulders. The tone of the movie is that washed out blue/grey filter that is pretty much the four chord, verse-chorus-verse of horror today, but call me crazy, once in a while (like when the movie’s not total shite) I like it, and that was indeed the case here. Now, based on this visual tone I can say the choice for CG blood fit in with the visual scheme, but here’s the thing – it’s dumb. I hate CG anything for the most part, most esp. in horror*, but CG blood is just blekk!!!
Then there is the scene with the 360 reverse CG eyeball flying out of someone’s socket – booo! Matrix meets splatter is not a good thing. I was waiting for Joe Pantoliano to show up. Ugh. However, as bad as that eyeball is, that is the end of my complaints.
So now on to what’s good.
The actual Clive Barker short story of the same name as the film does not even hint at a filmable structure for the Hollywood horror market. Guy falls asleep on subway, guy wakes up and sees a whole lot o’ butcherin’ going on, guy discovers secret of lost subway stop and why these people are being killed. It’s short, ugly and kinda surreal – a chronicle of an event, not a story based on revelation. Which means it doesn’t fall into an ‘Act’ structure. So of course the first thing a filmmaker has to do is inject a three-act structure. So while the actual story is not changed hardly at all but used as the core of the events of the film (and in a rather clever way might I add) there of course needed to be a protagonist, a slowly unraveling story of suspense, etc. In Midnight Meat Train this is done without resorting to any of the conventions that seem to always be the fall back, i.e. what I was very recently saying about Mirrors – you know, protagonist is estranged from his wife/girlfriend and kid, trying to do good but fucking up, yada yada yada. Not on the Train man, uh-ah. The relationship between the lead and his girlfriend is the last thing you care about in this kind of splatter fest, but if it’s there it needs to work as motivation and momentum, again preferably without being cookie-cutter. I felt it did.
In the end, what was the best thing about MMT? Well, they didn’t fuck up the story and best of all Vinnie Jones is awesome with a mallet and a butcher knife, and in a film called Midnight Meat Train, based on a Clive Barker story, what else do you need to know?
* CG Werewolves being the thing I hate the most. After blood that is. Look at Van Fuckling and then Neil Marshall’s amazing DOG SOLDIERS or even the mostly overrated Ginger Snaps series and tell me if those folks can do such awesome werewolves the old school way, with modest budgets, why can’t the studios do it? I understand that’s a stupid question that we all already possess the answer to, but still. I mean, Dog Soldiers esp. – breathtaking.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey