I am a gambling man. Every year I bet the Mariners will not only win the Series, they'll cure cancer and invent robots that will sweep our floors while other robots feed us grapes. Back in '79, when I was floating around the ether for the 12th straight millennium, I bet I'd be born within the next five years. Cleaned up on that one.
So I wasn't scared that I hadn't seen the latest adaptation of horror author Clive Barker before choosing it for this month's Big Awful Friday. I was more than willing to bet that Midnight Meat Train would be every bit as bad as Nightbreed and Hellraiser.
Bradley Cooper is a photojournalist looking to break into the art world. After gallery owner Brooke Shields tells him his work isn't dark enough, he starts prowling the city. Soon, he finds himself stalking Vinnie Jones, a butcher who kills people on the subways at night.
Midnight Meat Train, like most movies, starts out with the illusion of competence. But with the exception of the worst of the worst, the films that look like they were written and filmed by a team of chimps with severe management problems, anyone can tell in the first 20-30 minutes of a story. Despite flat acting and a general lack of narrative hooks, MMT doesn't start to crack until its final reel.
Not that it's any great shakes before that. About the only point in its favor is splattery, hammer-based CG gore, which is nice, because today's serial killer rarely goes for the hammer. These days it's all about the gunshot trauma, but I say what about the blunt force?
Meanwhile, Jones is wasted as the villain. Yeah, he looks bad as hell, but I don't think he says a single word until the end. That doesn't make him scary, that makes me wonder if he's a nice guy who's just really, really shy. And sometimes expresses that with killing.
You'll have plenty of time to contemplate the wrinkles of his character as he and Cooper chase each other around the city for the lifespans of several small mammals. As for all the vaguely supernatural business going on, as well as that whole meat train thing, that can best be explained by a 10-second monologue right before the credits roll, don't you think? Really? I've always been assured 10 seconds is long enough.
That understated conclusion probably worked in Barker's story, but a too-literal adaptation is poison for a 100-minute movie that demands some payoff for all its monstery nonsense. "Now serve, as we all do, without question," some jerk commands Cooper near the end of Midnight Meat Train. As my friend replied, "I think we were supposed to watch that without question."