Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Midnight Meat Train ***1/2 (three and a half stars)

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. Stars Leon Bradley, Leslie Bibb and Vinnie Jones

Without a doubt, The Midnight Meat Train is one of the best horror movies in recent years. Adapted from a short story by horror maestro Clive Barker (of Hellraiser fame) and helmed by Japanese director Kitamura in his Hollywood debut, this film is bound to please horror aficionados who have gone too long without a worthy spine-tingler. Atmospheric and infused with a sly sense of foreboding throughout, TMMT eschews cheap scares in favor of a mildly stewing discomfiture that culminates in a violent potboiler of a train ride

When photographer Leon Kauffman (Bradley Cooper, TV’s Alias) is persuaded by a prominent art gallerist into exploring the naked underbelly of the city for grittier subject material, a foray into the subway offers him a glimpse of Mahogany, whom he begins to suspect of being a serial killer. Despite the vehement protestations of his sultry girlfriend (Leslie Bibb, Iron Man) and disregarding all sane options, Leon begins shadowing him to confirm his suspicions. Mahogany (the effortlessly menacing Vinnie Jones, Snatch) is a butcher by day, and as soon becomes apparent, does not entirely dispense with the tools of his trade at night. As Leon’s nocturnal peregrinations in pursuit of the butcher increase, his obsession consumes him and places his loved ones in jeopardy, leading to a nail-biter of a climax in the eponymous midnight train, which is the butcher’s base of operations.

As a horror film, it succeeds remarkably well. Vinnie Jones turns in a spectacularly chilling performance. Taciturn, ominous and brutal, he is the seminal slasher; eviscerator extraordinaire. There’s enough gore, blood and decapitations to satisfy your inner sadist, but not so much you’ll lose your lunch. The mood, oh the mood, that holy grail of the horror genre, is captured and distilled with consummate ease. The satisfying twist at the end hinted at great conspiracy, of vast hordes of things that go bump in the night. Highly satisfying horror! Stephen King, eat your heart out.

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