There's no doubt that print-based film critics are far more respected than their web-based peers.
This is, of course, partly justified. Print-based film critics tend to write for established publications, receive higher financial compensation and, generally, enjoy higher name recognition among the average reader.
With only a few exceptions, James Berardinelli among the most noteworthy, web-based critics are less established and a bit more "fly by night" than print critics.
While I'm certainly hoping to become one of the respected web-based critics, I can't deny that finding a print job would also please me greatly.
However, I must confess that there are certain tangible perks to being a solely web-based film critic.
First, I can (and do) enjoy a global readership with little to no extra marketing required.
Secondly, and I really love this one, I can use any language I choose in a film review and often do. It's not so much that I set out to use graphic language, talk about graphic subjects or use the occasional obscenity, it's just that sometimes a movie practically screams out for a good old-fashioned "FUCK" or similar expletive.
"The Midnight Meat Train" is such a film.
There's only one phrase to describe "The Midnight Meat Train," and it's not a phrase you're going to find in any print reviews.
"The Midnight Meat Train" is a horrifying, frightening, heart palpitating and chill-inducing mind fuck from beginning to end.
Based upon a short story by Clive Barker from the author's famed "Books of Blood" collection, "The Midnight Meat Train" stars Bradley Cooper (television's "Alias") as Leon, an aspiring photographer whose agent (Brooke Shields) challenges him to capture the true underside of New York City. Leon takes the challenge and finds himself wandering the streets of New York City and riding the city's subway in the wee morning hours, much to the chagrine of his girlfriend (Leslie Bibb, "Iron Man"). When he stumbles upon Mahogany (Vinnie Jones, "Snatch"), a mysterious and towering presence, Leon obsessively follows the man and quickly discovers his secret...Mahogany is a vicious butcher who finds his "meat" late at night on the subway trains.
The movie that follows is, quite easily, the best horror film in Summer 2008 and one of the most beautifully photographed horror films in recent years.
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura ("Versus"), "The Midnight Meat Train" is that rarest of horror film that is likely to please both gorehounds and fans of old school horror. Kitamura has fashioned a film that is relentlessly gloomy and intensely violent both physically and emotionally. In atmosphere and action, Kitamura's film literally envelopes the viewer's senses to such a degree that one only begins to grasp the film's intensity after having left the theatre.
Kitamura's production feels authentic, perhaps less shocking than an Eli Roth style film. Kitamura, as Barker did, grasps the idea that in order for the film to be truly horrifying we have to be at least modestly connected to the people involved. Most directors ride on one side of the horror fence or the other...ultra-gore or old school chills. Kitamura and screenwriter Jeff Buhler ("Insanitarium") accomplish both by creating authentic characters who endure and experience unimaginable violence.
Again, I say mind fuck.
Kitamura enhances all of this by photographing the film with a weathered graininess that comes and goes with the violence.
Cooper is perfectly cast as the rapidly deteriorating Leon, whose increasing obsession with Mahogany has his sanity teetering on the brink. By the time he decides to end his photographic stalking of Mahogany, Cooper's Leon has nearly lost his mind setting the stage for the final showdown as Mahogany discovers what has been going on.
As Leon's supportive girlfriend, Leslie Bibb gives "The Midnight Meat Train" its solid relational core. As she becomes more of a central player in the film's middle section, Bibb comes vividly to life as a woman trying to understand what is happening to her husband.
While he's not called upon to do much that he hasn't done in movies past, Vinnie Jones is simply unforgettable as the exacting and relentless Mahogany. It has been years since a murderer has been portrayed with such relentless and frightening energy on the big screen.
"The Midnight Meat Train" is easily one of 2008's most pleasant, if one dares to call such a film pleasant, surprises. Released in just over 100 theatres this weekend and likely headed for a quick DVD release, "The Midnight Meat Train" is a must-see for the intelligent horror film connoisseur and those who appreciate a filmmaker who goes above and beyond to create a horror film of uncommon artistic integrity and imaginative chills, thrills and "Oh my God, did that really just happen?" moments.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic