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The Midnight Meat Train

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
Produced by Clive Barker
Jorge Saralegui
Eric Reid
Richard Wright
Tom Rosenberg
Gary Lucchesi
Written by Screenplay:
Jeff Buhler
Short story:
Clive Barker
Starring Bradley Cooper
Leslie Bibb
Brooke Shields
Roger Bart
Ted Raimi
Peter Jacobson
Barbara Eve Harris
with Tony Curran
and Vinnie Jones
Music by Johannes Kobilke
Robb Williamson
Cinematography Jonathan Sela
Editing by Toby Yates
Studio Lakeshore Entertainment
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release date(s) August 1, 2008
Running time 100 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15,000,000
Gross revenue $3,282,151

The Midnight Meat Train is a 2008 horror film based on Clive Barker's 1984 short story of the same name, which can be found in Volume One of Barker's collection Books of Blood. The film follows a photographer who attempts to track down a serial killer dubbed the "Subway Butcher" and discovers more than he bargained for under the city streets.

The film was directed by Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura and stars Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Vinnie Jones, Brooke Shields and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Its script was adapted by Jeff Buhler, the producer was Tom Rosenberg of Lakeshore Entertainment, and it was released on August 1, 2008.

Producer Joe Daley, a long time friend of Buhler's, brought the two writers together and helped develop the script, along with producers Anthony Diblasi and Jorge Saralegui, for their newly minted horror factory The Midnight Picture Company. As of this entry, The Midnight Picture Company was busy shooting Book of Blood, the next film adaptation from the anthology of short stories that spawned Midnight Meat Train.



The film opens as a well dressed, barrel chested man stalks the late-night passengers of a subway train. He kills several people with a meat hammer and a butcher's hook. He dispatches his prey with unnatural strength. He wears a ring on his finger, adorned with an eight pointed star. We are then introduced to Leon (Bradley Cooper), a photographer who heads into the city's subway system at night to take photographs and saves a woman from a group of guys harassing her. The next day, he discovers the girl has gone missing. Leon is intrigued and begins to investigate newsreels about similar disappearances. His investigation leads him to a butcher named Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), whom he suspects has been killing subway passengers for as long as a hundred years.

Leon attempts to turn some of the photos he has taken of Mahogany in to the police, but they become suspicious of Leon's motives. Leon decides to take matters into his own hands and goes to the subway at midnight, where he witnesses the butcher killing several passengers and hanging them on meat hooks. Leon passes out on the subway floor after being attacked by the butcher who then strings him up like the other dead bodies and passes out when "something" begins to attack him and awakens the next morning in an abandoned subway platform with strange markings carved into his chest. Maya (Leslie Bibb), Leon's girlfriend, and her friend Jurgis (Roger Bart) examine the photos Leon has been taking of Mahogany, leading them to the killer's apartment. After breaking into the butcher's home, Jurgis is kidnapped. Maya goes to the police, but they won't listen to her. A police official, who seems to be involved with the unfolding conspiracy, directs the misguided Maya to a trip on the midnight train. Leon, unaware of Maya's involvement, decides to put an end to the butcher's crimes and heads to the subway entrance. Leon arms himself with a butcher's apron and several slaughterhouse knives.

Leon enters the train as Mahogany corners Maya. Leon attacks Mahogany and finally throws him out of the train. Eventually, they enter an underground cavern filled with bones and decomposing bodies. The train engineer enters the car and advises Leon and Maya to "Please, step away from the meat." The true purpose of the underground station is revealed as reptile-people enter the car and consume the bodies of the butcher's victims. As they exit the train, Leon and Maya discover they are in a station underneath city hall which is littered with the bones of hundreds of victims. Mahogany returns in a battered and bleeding state and charges at him, Maya is tossed aside. Leon engages him a final time ending with Leon driving a sharpened bone through Mahogany's throat in which Mahogany whispers with his dying breath "Welcome." At which Leon impales Mahogany's skull with a butcher knife. The train engineer explains to Leon that the reptile-people have always existed and the butcher's job is to feed them every night, in order to keep them "separate" and prevent them from having to come to the surface for sustenance, a scheme which the police are also in on and have helped to continue. The engineer rips out Leon's tongue with the same superhuman strength as the butcher and eats it, then he forces Leon to watch as he kills Maya on a altar of bone with one of the butcher's knives and rips out her still-beating heart. When the engineer is done, he tells Leon that he will become the new meat train butcher, replacing Mahogany.

In the final scene, the police official who was involved hands the train schedule to the new butcher, who wears a ring with the same eight-pointed star. The killer walks onto the midnight train and turns to reveal that he is a now-mute Leon.


Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb, and Bradley Cooper at San Diego Comic-Con International promoting the film in July 2007

The film's original director, Patrick Tatopoulos, originally planned to shoot the film in 2005 in New York City and Montreal. Tatopoulos left the production in 2006 and was replaced by Ryuhei Kitamura. The story's setting was changed from New York City, due to the prohibitive cost of shooting there. Various locations in Los Angeles, including the L.A. Metro subway system, were used instead.[1] Shooting began March 18, 2007.

The "official" soundtrack from Lakeshore Records (only containing two remixes of the separately available actual film score) was produced and remixed by Justin Lassen and includes the bands and artists Iconcrash, Breaking The Jar, Blind Divine, Manakin Moon, Three Dot Revelation, Apocalyptica, Slvtn, Alu, Robert Williamson, Johannes Kobilke, Second Coming, Illusion of Order, Jason Hayes, Gerard K Marino, Penetrator, and Digital Dirt Heads.[2]

Release date

Initially, The Midnight Meat Train was set for a May 16, 2008 release but was delayed.[3] Ultimately, the film's release on August 1st was limited to the secondary market—of which only 100 screens showed it—with plans for a quick release on DVD.[4] The world premiere was on July 19, 2008 at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal, in the presence of director Ryuhei Kitamura.[5] An internet campaign was started by several horror websites, including Bloody Disgusting, to draw attention to the scaled-down theatrical release.[6]

Clive Barker was angry with Lionsgate's treatment, believing that Lionsgate president Joe Drake is essentially shortchanging other people’s films in order to focus more attention on movies like “The Strangers,” where he received a producing credit: "The politics that are being visited upon it have nothing to do with the movie at all. This is all about ego, and though I mourn the fact that ‘Midnight Meat Train’ was never given its chance in theaters, it’s a beautifully stylish, scary movie, and it isn’t going anywhere. People will find it, and whether they find it in midnight shows or they find it on DVD, they’ll find it, and in the end the Joe Drakes of the world will disappear."[7]

The Midnight Meat Train released in Australia on Thursday February 19, with a rating of R18+ for High level violence, Blood And Gore and was released on July 14 on DVD and Blu-Ray.


Critical reaction to The Midnight Meat Train has been mostly positive. IGN said, "Director Ryuhei Kitamura ... brings an incredible level of polish and visual sophistication to what is essentially a mid-range script. ... There's an energy to the film's final 10 minutes that's unmatched in recent horror films, and Kitamura's penchant for hard-hitting action, while suitably controlled, is always just below the surface. ... Overall, The Midnight Meat Train is a simple, bloody, hardcore offering certain to satisfy fans of the genre."[8] Twitch Film said, "On most counts, The Midnight Meat Train succeeds. It's visually engrossing, the acting and story are (mostly) solid and it has a great lead villain in Vinnie Jones.[9] It only falters in an illogical last act. No matter, the gore factor is selling point to the genre crowd and they don't have to worry. No punches are pulled. If this is the kind quality material that Kitamura's going to deliver in Hollywood, I hope he stays there."[10]

Cinematical called the film "easily the best Clive Barker adaptation since the first Hellraiser film," saying that "screenwriter Jeff Buhler manages to maintain the sly sense of dread that permeates the best of Barker's horror tales."[11] Bloody Disgusting said that "Clive Barker fans will rejoice in what director Ryuhei Kitamura has given them. In the Japanese director's first English-language film, he has taken his visual genius from Alive and Versus and translated into an action-packed blood fest. It has been a long time since a major horror film has been given such loving treatment by its director."[12] Conversely, DVD Talk said that while the story is "an interesting concept," it's "subpar" compared to the rest of Clive Barker's work, and criticized the film's "melodrama" and computer-generated effects.[13]

The movie was rated 70% on the Tomatometer on the Rotten Tomatoes website, with the Consensus "A creative and energetic adaptation of a Clive Barker short story, with enough scares and thrills to be a potential cult classic."


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