Column: Cthulhu Eats the Movies: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

By Filamena Young

Midnight_meat_trainThe Midnight Meat Train (2008) Director: Ryûhei Kitamura. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields. Country: USA.

Oh, The Midnight Meat Train, you goretastic delve into Lovecraftian horror by way of Clive Barker! It’s like peanut butter and chocolate and madness. Three great tastes that taste great together.

First and foremost, it’s worth warning you – this is a gorefest! From the opening to the bitter end, there is so much beautifully-done blood and body parts that it is not for the faint of heart. It opens with Ted Raimi (YAY!) chatting with some other late night train-goers. The Butcher’s first action is to hit Ted so hard in the back of the head with a hammer that his eyeballs pop out of his skull. No, the camera does not pull away. It’s delightfully ghoulish and the gross-factor does not end there. The blood looks more real and realistic than I expect in modern movies and that might have something to do with the relative independence of the production. Bless their hearts; The Midnight Picture Company brought in director Ryuhei Kitamura and created something really sickening.

In the movie The Midnight Meat Train, we follow a plucky (read: depressed) young photojournalist (Bradley Cooper) on his quest to solve a series of murders the police don’t seem to even acknowledge on the subways of New York.

People are going missing, and discovering why and how becomes a point of obsession for our hero. In keeping with Lovecraftian macabre stories, the photographer cannot help but dig deeper. His obsession soon spreads, and draws in his girlfriend and her friend into conspiracy-hunting, putting them both directly in danger.

*SPOILERS COMING; WATCH OUT*

There are terrible dark things lurking under the city, at least according to the movie. Dark things that need to be regularly fed or else they’ll rise up from the subways and eat New York. A vast conspiracy has, for hundreds of years, protected this fact as well as fed the monsters. The politics and police are implicit in the murders in a sort of ‘ends justify the means’ plot. A plot that our hero has stumbled right into the middle of and risks destroying by his attempts to protect his girlfriend and bring the truth to light.

I loved it, the blood splatter, the butchered corpses, and the clandestine conspiracy even if it wasn’t anything new to me. I’m a long-time Barker fan, and adored the short story the movie came from. I felt like it was a decent adaptation and hit all the high points of the story without missing much. (I also feel like you can enjoy both independently of the other, which is a sweet deal to me. They’re just different enough that one doesn’t ruin your time enjoying the other. If you take my recommendation to watch The Midnight Meat Train, I hope you’ll also take my recommendation to read The Books of Blood.)

But how does it stack up as a Lovecraft movie? Considering it isn’t a movie based on any of Lovecraft’s stories, I’d say it rates pretty high. From our hero’s obsession with forbidden knowledge, to his own sad corruption and, of course, some over-the-top themes of ‘outsiders’ influencing human civilization. There’s not much Cthulhu here, and I’d put it firmly among the more Poe-esque macabre writings. Still, the form and function of themes make it so Lovecraft that I’d put it next to, but certainly not as close as, Alien on the grand scale of Lovecraftian movies.

Watch it, love it, tell me what you think. (And if you didn’t love it, tell me why!)

Verdict: tentacles up!

You can buy The Midnight Meat Train at Amazon.com.