The Midnight Meat Train 2008 Movie Scene Vinnie Jones as Mahogany holding a bloody butchers hammer in the train

The Midnight Meat Train [2008]

Now here’s a title that’s hard to forget. A title that makes you wonder what the fuck is going on in this movie. And what the fuck is a midnight meat train. The Midnight Meat Train is a very graphic, bloody, and nightmarish horror movie based on Clive Barker’s short story of the same name. If that name rings a bell it’s because Clive is the guy behind the eighties classic Hellraiser. In this movie, we will be following a photographer who begins to suspect a strange man he saw in a subway one night is a serial killer. His quest for answers will soon lead him to a nightmarish world full of mystery. In the lead role, we have none other than young Bradley Cooper.

It was a bit surreal to watch him in a horror movie as visceral and gruesome as this one but he did okay. However, the star of the show is Vinnie Jones who plays the butcher Mahogany. His imposing presence instantly creates a sense of tension and unease. And when he starts swinging that shiny butcher’s hammer, things will escalate even more. The Midnight Meat Train is an unflinchingly brutal movie to the point of being downright disturbing. Not only will people die in the most ferocious way, with blood squirting everywhere, but they will also be literally butchered. The main bad guy, Mahogany will pull out their teeth, fingernails, and other body parts.

Now, I watched this movie some 16 years ago and forgot almost everything about it apart from one scene. There’s one scene that hit me so hard when I first saw it that I still remember that shock. It’s the scene where Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) starts cutting off some strange growths that look like warts off his chest. While it’s not explained why he does this or how these barnacles appear, it’s assumed that the reason is because he’s been doing this job for a very long time. And that takes its toll. This scene is utterly disgusting and frightening, the stuff nightmares are made out of.

Director Ryûhei Kitamura excels at these gruesome scenes giving us a kinetic and menacing chaos you can’t look away from. Basically, every scene that’s taking place aboard the train is oddly gripping. I think he drew his inspiration from Fincher, particularly his two movies Se7en and Panic Room. You can see this in the creative camera angles and movement. And the atmosphere is pretty much the same. It’s eerie and ominous, just as it should be. The cinematography also helped with that immensely. Saturated colors and sleek visual style only enhance the horror we’re about to witness. 

However, where The Midnight Meat Train utterly fails is logic, plausibility, and reason. Characters will be stumbling from one scene to another without much motivation. I felt like I was watching a television show compressed to the ninety-minute format. Like, character development was totally in the background forcing the focus on the slaughter. It also didn’t help that our leads are this stereotypical movie girlfriend and boyfriend. It was all just so predictable. I kept hoping that he was going to hook up with Brooke Shields’ character Susan but that sadly didn’t happen. Brooke was excellent by the way.

Most of these issues are relatively well taken care of in the short story. We find out why Leon, played by Bradley Cooper, is plagued by these horrific visions and why he’s so drawn to that damned train. These transitions from the “regular” world to the world of the midnight meat train had to be better. This brings us to the uneven pacing luckily somewhat covered up by visuals and short running time. Speaking of explanations, the movie keeps its cards close to the chest until the very end. However, during the excellent finale that somewhat redeemed almost everything that came before it, we will find out what’s really going on.

I feel like this story has a lot of potential and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw another adaptation pretty soon. Fans of the horror genre are going to like The Midnight Meat Train while others might find it a bit too grotesque. And yet, I feel that the metro setting might entice a lot of people who normally wouldn’t watch such a movie. I don’t know if you ever found yourself in such a situation, alone in a midnight train. Even if you’re almost falling asleep, there’s always this sense of unease. A sense of claustrophobia and no way out, if you will. Add to this a supernatural element and you’re already wide awake.

Finally, I want to add that The Midnight Meat Train belongs to the Cosmic Horror AKA Lovecraftian Horror movie subgenre. I don’t want to go into details because they will most certainly include spoilers, I’ll just say two words and leave it at that: Eldritch Abominations. If you’re looking for movies like this, I suggest you check out Venus and No One Gets Out Alive.

Director: Ryûhei Kitamura

Writers: Jeff Buhler, Clive Barker

Cast: Vinnie Jones, Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Roger Bart, Tony Curran

Fun Facts: Some of the paintings you see during the Susan Hoff’s exition are the works of Clive Barker who wrote the short story The Midnight Meat Train back in 1984.


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