The Midnight Meat Train

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The Midnight Meat Train
Midnight meat train ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRyuhei Kitamura
Produced by
Screenplay byJeff Buhler
Based onThe Midnight Meat Train
by Clive Barker
Music by
  • Robb Williamson
  • Johannes Kobilke
CinematographyJonathan Sela
Edited byToby Yates
Distributed by
  • Lionsgate[1]
  • Lakeshore Entertainment[1]
Release date
  • July 19, 2008 (2008-07-19) (Fantasia Film Festival)
  • August 1, 2008 (2008-08-01) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.5 million[3]

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 Ryuhei Kitamura and stars Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Roger Bart, Ted Raimi, and Vinnie Jones. 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 and Clive Barker's production company Midnight Picture Show, which was responsible for Book of Blood, the next film adaptation from the anthology of short stories that spawned The Midnight Meat Train.


Leon is a photographer who wants to capture unique, gritty shots of the city and the people who live in it. He is crushed when, instead of giving him his big break, gallery owner Susan criticizes him for not taking enough risks. Emboldened, he heads into the city's subway system at night, where he takes pictures of an impending sexual assault before eventually saving the woman. The next day, he discovers she has gone missing. Intrigued by the mystery, he investigates reports of similar disappearances. His investigation leads him to a butcher named Mahogany, who he suspects has been killing subway passengers for the past three years.

Leon presents his photos to the police, but Detective Hadley disbelieves him and, instead, casts suspicion on his motives. Leon's involvement quickly turns into a dark obsession, upsetting his waitress girlfriend Maya, who is as disbelieving of his story as the police. After stalking Mahogany and barely escaping, Leon follows Mahogany onto the last subway train of the night, only to witness a bloodbath. The butcher kills several passengers and hangs their bodies on meat hooks. After a brief scuffle with Mahogany, Leon passes out on the train's floor. He awakes the next morning in a slaughterhouse with strange markings carved into his chest.

A concerned Maya and her friend Jurgis examine Leon's photos of Mahogany, leading them to the killer's apartment. After breaking into the butcher's home, Jurgis is captured, though Maya escapes with timetables that record over 100 years of murders on the subway. Maya goes to the police but finds Hadley as skeptical of her story as Leon's. When Hadley presses Maya to return the timetables, Maya demands answers. At gunpoint, Hadley directs Maya to take the midnight train to find Jurgis. Leon, unaware of Maya's involvement, heads to a hidden subway entrance in the slaughterhouse, arming himself with several slaughterhouse knives and wearing a butcher's apron.

Leon boards the train as Mahogany has completed his nightly massacre and has cornered Maya. Leon attacks the murderer with a knife, and the two fight in between the swinging human flesh. Human body parts are ripped, thrown, and used as weapons. Jurgis, hung from a meat hook, dies when he is gutted. Finally, Leon throws Mahogany out of the train. The train reaches its final stop, a cavernous abandoned station filled with skulls and decomposing bodies. The conductor steps into the car, advising Leon and Maya to "please step away from the meat." The true purpose of the abandoned station is revealed, as reptilian creatures enter the car and consume the bodies of the murdered passengers. Leon and Maya flee into the cavern. Mahogany, battered and bleeding, returns and fights to the death with Leon. After Leon stabs a broken femur through Mahogany's throat, Mahogany grins in his dying throes, saying only, "Welcome!"

The conductor appears and tells Leon the creatures have lived beneath the city since long before the subway was constructed, and the butcher's job is to feed them each night to keep them from attacking subway riders during the day. He picks up Leon, and with the same supernatural strength as the deceased butcher, rips out Leon's tongue, throwing him to the ground and eating it. The conductor brings Leon's attention to Maya, who has been knocked unconscious and is lying on a pile of bones. The conductor forces Leon to watch as he cuts Maya's chest open to remove her heart. When he is done, he tells Leon that, having killed the butcher, Leon must take his place.

Finally, Detective Hadley hands the train schedule to the new butcher, who wears a ring with the symbol of the group that feeds the creatures. The killer walks onto the midnight train and turns his head to reveal himself as 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. Shooting was moved to Los Angeles, due to the prohibitive cost of shooting in New York City. Various locations, including the L.A. Metro subway system, were used instead.[4] 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.[5]


Initially, The Midnight Meat Train was set for a May 16, 2008, release but was delayed.[6] Ultimately, the film's release on August 1 was limited to the secondary market, of which only 100 screens showed it, with plans for a quick release on DVD.[7] The world premiere was on July 19, 2008, at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal, in the presence of director Ryuhei Kitamura.[8] An internet campaign was started by several horror websites to draw attention to the scaled-down theatrical release.[9]

Barker was angry with Lionsgate's treatment, believing the studio's president Joe Drake to be shortchanging other people's films to focus more attention on films 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 The 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."[10]

The Midnight Meat Train was released theatrically in Australia on February 19, 2009. DVD and Blu-ray releases followed on July 14.


Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes has a 72% approval rating based on 32 reviews. The site's consensus states: "A creative and energetic adaptation of a Clive Barker short story, with enough scares and thrills to be a potential cult classic."[11]

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."[12] 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. 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 of quality material that Kitamura's going to deliver in Hollywood, I hope he stays there."[13]

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."[14] 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 it into an action-packed bloodfest. It has been a long time since a major horror film has been given such loving treatment by its director."[15] 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.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "The Midnight Meat Train". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  2. ^ "THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
  3. ^ The Midnight Meat Train at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Clive Barker website Archived 2008-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Justin Lassen website
  6. ^ Official: Midnight Meat Train Knocked Out of May, March 25, 2008, retrieved on August 1, 2008
  7. ^ 'Midnight Meat Train': Lionsgate Nearly Butchers Its Own Horror Film, August 1, 2008
  8. ^ Ubisoft Presents Fantasia 2008 | Films + Schedule|Midnight Meat Train, retrieved 1 August 2008
  9. ^ "BD Horror News - A Letter From the Editor RE: 'Meat Train', Help Save Horror!", August 2, 2008
  10. ^ MTV - Clive Barker Blasts Lionsgate Chief Over ‘Midnight Meat Train’
  11. ^ The Midnight Meat Train at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Review IGN, July 31, 2008
  13. ^ Review Archived 2008-10-21 at the Wayback Machine Twitch Film, July 28, 2008
  14. ^ Review Cinematical, July 26, 2008
  15. ^ Review Bloody Disgusting
  16. ^ Review DVD Talk, August 3, 2008

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