Serious Clive Barker films were a thing of the '80s and '90s, it seems, not so much the '00s -- if that's what we want to call this decade. "Lord of Illusions", the last theatrical, serious, relevant Clive Barker film, hit theaters way back in 1995.
The other Barker-inspired film series -- "Hellraiser" and "Candyman" -- have long since gone straight to DVD. So it was with great excitement that a new, serious, Clive Barker-inspired film was announced. Based on a Clive Barker story, "Midnight Meat Train" was going to be a big theatrical release with name actors like Brooke Shields in its cast -- and a director, Ryuhei Kitamura, known for helming excellent foreign horror films.
Alas it was not to be. "Midnight Meat Train" had an uber-limited theatrical release but basically was direct to DVD. That's too bad. This is the best Clive Barker-inspired movie in a long, long time -- probably since "Hellraiser III" in 1992.
Bradley Cooper plays a New York City art photographer who has been having trouble finding buyers for his work. He thinks he may strike it as an artist after big city buyer and taste maker (Brooke Shields) tells him he could really make it big if he got some more "umph" into his gritty nighttime subway photos. So, after photographing a near-rape in the subway, she begs him for more.
When the near rape victim mysteriously disappears after (we the viewer) watch her being dispatched by a cold-blooded German-looking killer (Vinnie Jones of "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") wielding a massive hammer on the train, our protagonist becomes something of a police suspect. And he starts investigating the hammer killer he keeps spotting on the trains.
More killings happen and as our hero begins stalking the German looking suspect (who also happens to work in a meat factory), his obsession becomes a chief concern of his gorgeous waitress girlfriend (Leslie Bibb). His obsessive compulsive study has led to a realization that a series of disappearances in the city occurs along one train line -- one that we soon discover disappears off the tracks, with the assistance of a train conductor who seems to be in on the killings being conducted by an apparent hammer wielding killer.
Naturally, the truth behind the goings on is fantasmagorical -- and very Clive Barker-esque.
"Midnight Meat Train" is a very good Clive Barker film, touching upon many of themes in previous Barker-related movies. It's by no measure a "great" horror movie, however, and Lionsgate may have held back its release simply because they didn't see the potential for big box office in an era where most theatrical releases are remakes of well established eighties horror films.
Most of the performances are spot on -- even Brooke Shields as the art snob -- and the story is an interesting study of obsessions with evil and how it can lead people to actually become evil. The one weak link in the film may be character of the photographer's girlfriend, who was just a little too beautiful to be believable as the girlfriend of a struggling, mentally ill art photographer.
All in all, though, a good and very chilling horror film worthy of a rental if not a purchase. A must for fans who have been waiting more than a decade for a relevant Clive Barker movie.