Monday, 13 October 2008

Midnight Meat Train

I couldn't wait to see this movie. I searched all over the place for a good quality stream or dl but they were all in Russian. And then I happened to be watching TV one night and learned that Fearnet was showing MMT.

I expressed my excitement out loud. Embarrassingly, my roommate overheard me.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he asked.
"Meat...want...Fearnet..." I explained.
"Yeah I could go for a steak right about now."

After clarifying what I was actually talking about, Tahir told me he was pretty sure we got Fearnet. I checked, and sure enough there it was, Midnight Meat Train listed in free movies. Despite not wanting to wait, I had to wait because I was determined to watch it alone, in the dark, when everyone was out of the house.

And so it came to pass that it was 11:30 on a Friday night and I was sitting on the couch in my pajamas with a big piece of chocolate cake. I was ready.

And then the phone rang.

"Dan, piss off."

I started the film, which was introduced by Clive Barker himself, and lost myself in the horrific New York subway system.

I wanted so much to love this movie. There was so much hype. The initial announcement, the rumors of extreme gore, the delay in release. I read the story ages ago and it was one of my favourites. I could have dug it out, read it again before watching, but I decided not to, reveling in the nostalgia of my decayed memory, not being able to recall specific details but remembering that I liked it. And that it was about a guy who butchers people on the last subway of the night, hangs them and shaves them, and feeds them to underground monsters.


But I didn't love this movie. I only liked it. There's blood, oh my is there blood, but significantly less gore than I had been led to expect. Okay, so I did do that thing where your mouth hangs open and you shake your hands in front of your face--there are a few squirm-inducing moments. As well as Ted, my favourite Raimi. All told, sounds like it should be a winner, right?

Leon is trying to make it as a photographer. He scores a meeting with Brooke Shields who tasks him with capturing the dead heart of NYC. So Leon heads out one night, camera in hand, and ends up photographing some thugs roughing up a girl. He saves her from the thugs, she gets on the subway, and is never seen or heard from again. Leon takes his story to the police but they don't seem to care much and suspect him of maybe having something to do with the girl's disappearance. Meanwhile, Leon keeps up with his late-night excursions and ends up on the subway at 2am, bearing witness to unspeakable horror perpetrated by Vinnie Jones. Leon begins obsessing over Vinnie and makes the connection between him and the girl's disappearing act. He takes up stalking Vinnie, follows him to work, breaks into his home even, and eventually winds up back on the meat train to undergo further psychological as well as physical torment.

All this is good stuff. The problem lies with the film's apparent need to force Leon's obsession. It feels like the movie's in a big rush to get Leon to the point at which he loses all sense of well being both for himself and the people he cares about. After casting off the double burden of conscience and common sense, Leon can then fully devote himself to stalking Vinnie Jones. But why is it necessary to so overtly divorce Leon from reality? The film's lack of sublety and nuance reduces the tension that would otherwise engage its audience. Instead of being afraid for ourselves, we're only afraid for Leon, for what horror will come his way. Were the story to take a different approach, were Leon to maintain his sanity while his experience on the meat train slowly eats away at him from the inside, we would watch with mounting dread for our future, and not Leon's shortlived experience.

I don't want to come off as being overly harsh, or that I'm downplaying the film's ability to shock and amaze. Like I said, I was totally grossed out at one point, and I did tense up a couple of times. Midnight Meat Train is a good movie but, due to an unfathomable need to force Leon's descent into madness in order to get to the gore, it is not a great movie.

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