Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Leon (Bradley Cooper ) is an aspiring and struggling photographer, who’s looking for his long awaited big break. Leon lives with his girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb) in a big city, and with some help from Maya’s best friend, Jurgis (Roger Bart) Leon is introduced to Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields), a stern media proprietor, who’s known for her taste in pictures. Susan pushes Leon to be more bold and take a chance to capture a real captivating moment. Leon takes Susan’s advice, and he’s able to kill two birds with one stone. Leon captures a group of muggers during an attack, and in the process, Leon saves the victim, a young model.

The next morning, Leon pays a visit to Maya’s diner (Maya works as a waitress at the diner) for his routine morning chat with Maya, and her boss, but Leon notices the model in a missing person’s article in the newspaper. Leon’s investigation for the prime suspect leads him to Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), a silent and well-dressed man, who works as a butcher during the day. During the night, Mahogany lurks inside the subway station, waiting for the late train. Here, Mahogany brutally murders unsuspecting victims, using the subway train to store and carve the victim’s carcasses like mutilated cattle in a meat locker.

Leon’s cries for help are ignored by a local detective named Lynn Hadley (Barbara Eve Harris). Meanwhile, Leon unravels a history of brutal murders orchestrated by Mahogany during a killing spree dating back to the early 1900‘s. Fueled by frustration and paranoia, Leon vows to take matters into his own hands to put a stop to Mahogany’s crimes, but Leon discovers a darker secret beneath the subway station during a one on one final battle with Mahogany……..

Bradely Cooper is a solid leading man. The Leon character is kind of dull at first. He’s the typical struggling artist, who’s trying to make it and find his way in the big city, while his girlfriend works a dead end job, and they’re staying in an apartment together. But Cooper shows off his talents during Leon’s descent into madness, as his obsession with Mahogany causes a distressed breakdown. Vinnie Jones is spot on as the primary antagonist. Mahogany is a silent and deadly killing machine, and Jones brings the necessary menacing and creepy presence to this character. Plus, Jones’ scrunched scowls really pull everything together.

Leslie Bibb is reliable as usual, providing a believable performance as the supportive girlfriend, who’s willing to do anything to help Leon and fight Mahogany. And it’s a shame Brooke Shields screen time is limited to sporadic appearances. Shields is fun to watch as this powerful and demanding businesswoman with a superior ego. Oh, and a little message for MMA fans. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has a little cameo here. He plays some random thug, who insults Mahogany on the train with a Forrest Gump wisecrack. Guardian Angel (Jackson) taunts Mahogany with “Life is like a box of chocolates” (Mahogany has a striking resemblance to Gump, including his posture), and of course, Mahogany attacks him. Yeah, Rampage’s screen time might last three minutes before the conductor (more on that later) pops out of nowhere to kill Angel with a shot to the head.

So Mahogany is a cold blooded killer. It’s painfully clear after you witness the intro, but why is Mahogany hacking innocent people on a subway train to bits every night? During the final showdown between Leon and Mahogany, it’s revealed Mahogany possesses superhuman strength as a supernatural being…and there’s more. The conductor is helping Mahogany in his mission to murder every night. Why? Because as The Butcher, Mahogany must kill and feed his victims to cannibalistic creatures, who live beneath the subway station. Mahogany continues to feed the creatures, because without “meat,” the creatures will invade the real world to hunt and attack humans, so Mahogany is trusted to control the separation between both worlds in a never ending mission. And Detective Lynn Hadley is apart of the conspiracy, as a crucial key player, who conceals a lot of evidence.

As a helper, The conductor also possesses superhuman strength, and after the battle with Mahogany, the conductor forces Leon into an inescapable decision: Leon must take Mahogany’s place as the next butcher. After a hundred years of service, Mahogany can’t carry the burden with weakened powers, and after murdering Mahogany in the fight, Leon becomes “The Chosen One.” The conductor rips out Leon’s tongue, he bites and eats the severed tongue (groooossssss!), and the conductor rips out Maya’s (Maya joined Leon on the train to find Jurgis) heart in front of Leon. The conductor offers Maya’s beating heart to Leon, and during the final moments of the movie, we see Leon dressed in a suit. Leon resides in Mahogany’s old apartment, taking control of Mahogany’s signature ring, and Leon quietly boards the late subway train at night to start his new life, as the next butcher.

Great shocker. At first, you’re lead to believe Mahogany is this lone nut, who’s killing for fun, or a need to feed his sadistic desires. But as the film progresses, you can see Mahogany isn’t normal. He uncharacteristically runs out of gas (i.e. coughing up blood) during his fight with Angel on the train, and The Midnight Meat Train drops another suspicious hint, when the conductor pops out of nowhere as a helper to murder Angel. And the reveal of Hadley helping Mahogany and the conductor completely caught me off guard. After a while, you know there’s some big secret surrounding  Mahogany’s slaughterhouse, but it’s hard to guess or pinpoint the details behind the truth. Amazing swerve, because unless you’re a psychic (either that, or before watching the movie, you read the short story this film is based on, written by Clive Barker), it’s IMPOSSIBLE to guess the big surprise at the end.

The Midnight Meat Train is an electric and tense horror film. Director Ryuhei Kitamura delivers a plethora of brutal and sickening violence, bloody and stylish gore, gross out scenes that are guaranteed to pull a reaction out of you, and Kitamura provides the perfect eerie atmosphere for The Midnight Meat Train. Leon’s investigation to uncover the truth behind the massacre concludes with a shocking and diabolical finale, as a gruesome tale of blood and guts ends with a sinister new beginning. Bottom line, if you’re looking for splattery blood-soaked mayhem and jaw-dropping kills, The Midnight Meat Train is a must-see.

Rating: 8/10

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