Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Midnight Meat Train

I'm not a huge fan of getting sick and missing work but in the last two days I've played through eight levels of Dead Space, started reading Book of More Flesh, and watched both Session 9 and The Midnight Meat Train. It's been a pretty good sick week for this horror fan.

Anyway, MMT. Been looking forward to this one, as I mentioned earlier this year. I'm a big fan of the original short story and the hype around this movie has been pretty intense, what with all the drama around its release. I don't necessarily get the politics or the logic behind dumping the movie in favor of The Strangers, but I think people will seek this one out and it will have a life of its own.

MMT is about a photographer who finds himself obsessed with a serial killer who butchers the last passengers on the late trains leaving NYC. What starts as a game of cat-and-mouse becomes a tale of conspiracy, corruption, and the dark heart of the greatest metropolis of the country. I can get behind that ideal. New York City stole my girlfriend a couple of months ago. Of course it's secretly infested with demons.

Maybe it's the Theraful currently packed into my skull, but it's proving difficult to write a linear, coherent review on this one. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna load all my opinions in a shotgun, take careful aim at this blogadoo, and fire. Maybe something will stick.

I liked the photographer and his girlfriend. I liked the way, again, they're not stupid teenagers who wandered into something bigger than they can handle. I bought into their relationship, into their comfortable sexuality, and into all that weird secret language people develop when they've been together for a long time. The scene where she tries to turn him away from the path by undressing for his camera is absolutely heartbreaking.

I liked the fact that they incorporated the photographer's creative drive into the story. Director Ryuhei Kitamura did a great job bringing the audience into Leon's POV. I felt for him when his work got rejected, I understood the nervous itch he felt when he walked into the city at night, and I've had awkward conversations with very literal-minded people where I tried to explain the compulsion I've had to create and fallen silent, much like the scene where he goes to the (apparently) one police detective in the city. It's no wonder Leon makes Mahogany the subject for his study. The man moves through the city with purpose.

I liked the cold look of the movie. I loved the beautiful killing coldness of the stainless steel train station interiors. I loved the shadowed corridors of Mahogany's home and the isolating austerity of the art gallery. I really liked the clever way the gore was used in the movie, from the artfully prophetic blood spray to the intense POV murder. I loved the ending fight at the rear of the train, which was easily one of the most awesome fight scenes in horror. It's a genuinely beautiful film, make by someone with a strong command of the medium. Hopefully Kitamura hasn't been soured by the experience of working in the American film industry and we get more awesome genre work from him.

I like Mahogany. He was a great character in the story and he's really come to life in the movie. We see in the way he dresses and the manner he carries himself that he is first and foremost a professional. There's something hesitant and lonely going on in his head, but it doesn't diminish his effectiveness as a monster. The horrible conspiracy at the root of Mahogany's grim work is kept tantalizingly mysterious, and I hope Barker keeps to his promise to continue the story behind the secret masters at the end of the train line.

As to the stuff I didn't like, there was no sane reason for Maya and Jurgis to sneak into Mahogany's apartment. They knew he was a killer, they had proof to take to the police, and yet they chose to wander inside his den in search of Leon's camera. It was a tense scene, but it was so illogical it lost me.

Leon also descended into obsession too quickly. I suppose a case could be made that it wasn't entirely natural, that the city chose him for the role of watcher, but this notion wasn't entirely played up in the story. Either that or I've still got Session 9 on the brain, where the notion of external forces influencing behavior is much more obvious to the story.

Finally, the movie styles itself as a sort of detective yard. While we don't know the ends to which Mahogany plies his trade until the story's close, the movie has the characters fixated on his actions and not the result. The audience already knows what Mahogany is doing. We want to know why. Having the heroes chase after things the audience already knows is redundant and slows the pacing down considerably.

Quibbles. I really like the movie. If it had a proper studio advertising push behind it, it would have been a big hit. Creature wants more. Make it happen.


dragonmanes said...

Still looking forward to this one, just waiting for the price to drop! I have been reading excellent reviews lately, but I am glad to see you liked it man!

Creature said...

I dug the movie for the style and the characters. The pacing was kinda wonky, but I generally find that most major Clive Barker stories have that mystery structure, but they tend to suffer because the joy is in the solution, not the path they take to get there.