This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
I rather fondly imagine that the pitch for this film went along the lines of “Vinnie Jones batters Ted Raimi’s eyes out with a hammer!” and nothing else. I’d certainly commission a film on that basis alone. However, you could add in some flavour information, such as it’s an admittedly very loose adaptation of a Clive Barker short, which carries some weight in the horror world, or that hot young Japanese directorial talent Ryuhei Kitamura is attached to the project. But really, the draw here is that Vinnie Jones hammers Ted Raimi’s eyeballs clean out of his skull.
The plot setup for this, although perhaps excuse for this would be a more appropriate term, forms around young Noo Yawk photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper). Charged with photographing the dark heart of the city, he winds up photographing and intervening in an attempted mugging of a young girl in a subway station. A few days later he stumbles on a newspaper article telling of her disappearance, and on checking the photographs again there’s a suspicious Vinnie Jones looking fella hanging about who just has the look of someone who would hammer Ted Raimi’s eyes out. Investigating further, Leon sets a new record in going from ‘normal’ to ‘obsessed loon’ as he tugs on the strands to uncover what’s going on and why it’s going on, all the while trying to keep his eyeballs unhammered.
Interspersed with all of this is bouts of Vinny Jones not just hammering out the eyeballs of Ted Raimi, but anyone else foolish enough to travel alone on the subway late at night. When not hammering out eyeballs for fun and recreation, Vinnie’s a butcher. He seems to be more than happy to take his work home with him, leading to lots of really quite gory, bloodsoaked nonsense that’s hardly scary, but quite refreshingly uncompromisingly brutal in an age of fifteen certificate friendly horror.
Okay, I’m not saying throwing enough buckets of blood around to make a subway train look like an abattoir is big or clever, but then it is sort of the point of the film. The clue is in the title, really. It’s just refreshingly honest to see a slasher film these days that actually makes good on the slashing, rather than cutting away from the cutting, if you’ll pardon the pun. These days it seems most of the brutality in horror is reserved for the likes of Saw, which attempts to dress its bloodletting up with a cloak of satire. Not that it fools anyone, of course, but Midnight Meat Train feels more like a throwback to the eighties than something that belongs in cinemas these days.
Which is not to say that it’s not fun, at points. It is, of course, exceedingly silly, with a last act revelation that I think puts it over the edge into the comedy category rather than horror. However, the unrepentant violence that’s on display most of the way through sort of compensates for the largely disinteresting character based investigation stuff, which never feels like anything other than obvious padding.
Now, I don’t think I could live with myself if I described this as good, but I’ll say this: given the standards of horror films we’ve been subjected to lately this is a cut above the rest. It’s silly, bloody, entirely tasteless, barbarous, and has Vinnie Jones knocking Ted Raimi’s eyeballs out with a hammer.
What more could I possibly ask for?