28 July 2012

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Warning: This is not the film for you if the thought of an eyeball's CGI trajectory from socket toward camera is beyond the tolerance level for your stomach to handle. However, if you can tolerate this and other rather gory images, and get beyond them to see the (dare I say it?) beautifully textured visual landscape director Ryƻhei Kitamura has created, then you are in for a real treat.

The film's deeply disturbing, horrifying premise is a somewhat typical descent into an atypical hell for the unwary White male who lets his curiosity and desire for fame carry him away. Vegan photographer Leon (the ever intense, engaging, and slightly menacing Bradley Cooper) is set on capturing more gritty images of the city in order to gain a coveted showing in the elite gallery of Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields), herself a slightly creepy chick. To this end, he spends more late-night hours hanging out in the film's anonymous mega-metropolis subway system than anyone would find smart. This angers and causes problems in his relationship with Maya (an effective Leslie Bibb) who is  oddly and annoyingly unwilling to believe anything he says, even when it involves ongoing serial killing. 

On one photographic evening foray, he witnesses and photographs a man (Vinnie Jones) who we learn is a maniac of particular viciousness and brutality, who turns the train's passengers/victims into cleanly shorn swinging buffets for some unknown reason. One can imagine the negatives of following and photographing a serial killer. 

Ultimately if the film suffers from anything its too little attention. The color palate and photographic angles alone merit at least one viewing. Stark, hospital grade stainless steel subway seats and simple opening and closing doors mark a descent into evil and act as a cautionary tale for those unobservant on their late night commute. No one will win any oscars for acting, but set design alone deserves a nod, forget about the filming of a fight scene where the camera goes in and out of the subway car as it rockets along, giving the viewer impossible to see but thrilling perspective.

Other reviewers have claimed the final third of the film, where the reasons for both the murders and Leon's behavior feel ridiculous, but no more so than any other horror film. I felt that Leon's behavior suddenly felt less nutty by the end, and the horror of why the killer was butchering people felt better than other serial killer's reasons. As a city dweller, and frequent late-night party girl, I was frequently frightened by the notion of being killed on the way home, and yet challenged to consider the fact that the system too often doesn't believe the most extreme stories until too late.

Genre: A truly terrifying
Epidermal/Ethnic Variance: D albeit with a quite small cast, so....
Visuals/Audio: B+
Gender Rep: B+
Narrative: C

Overall Gut: B-

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