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The Midnight Meat Train

The Midnight Meat Train is far from the greatest name for a horror movie but this twisted tale based on a short story by Clive Barker is actually a lot of fun. The brutal action revolves around an aspiring photographer who stumbles into a conspiracy involving vicious murder on a New York subway train. This is well directed, tense and positively dripping with gore.

Leon is struggling to get a break as a photographer but when his girlfriend Maya talks to her pal Jurgis and gets him a meet with art collector Susan Hoff it looks like things might take off. She takes a look at his work but demands something more dangerous and so Leon hits the grimy streets of New York in search of an excellent shot. His quest leads him onto the subway where he encounters a model in trouble and rescues her from her would be attackers. A few days later he sees her picture in the paper and so he begins to investigate the subway where she disappeared.

Meanwhile we know that the subway train is taking an unscheduled detour every night so that a killer, called Mahogany in the credits, can mash up unsuspecting victims with a slaughterhouse hammer. Leon is dragged into the plot and begins to lose sleep as he follows the killer to his job at the abattoir and the seedy hotel where he stays. Things build to a fairly underwhelming revelation but with this film the fun is in the journey.

This movie wasn't really publicised and for some reason Lionsgate decided to give it a limited release. This is strange as it is easily better than most of the films they crow about and it is one of the best Barker adaptations I've ever seen. The main reason the film works is the direction. The talented Ryuhei Kitamura is the man behind the camera and he really knows what he is doing. The action sequences are very well choreographed, the gore is beyond belief and the CG effects are top quality. Kitamura also knows how to build tension and so the film achieves a sense of growing dread which is really effective. He is the man responsible for the excellent zombie caper Versus which I highly recommend if you've never seen it before.

The cast are also good here. Bradley Cooper is believable and sympathetic as Leon, Leslie Bibb is spot on as the girlfriend and support from Brooke Shields and Roger Bart is good. Kitamura also knows how to use Vinnie Jones, the secret is not to give him any dialogue and he plays a menacing nutcase here with ease. There is a terrific cameo from Ted Raimi which forms the most breathtaking gory sequence of the entire film.

The only misfire here is the conclusion but the action was so enjoyable I could forgive the weak finish. This is dark, suspenseful and genuinely quite chilling. It surpassed my expectations and thanks to high production values, a talented cast and a great director it proved to be the best uncomplicated horror flick I've seen for quite a while.

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