The Midnight Meat Train

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
The Midnight Meat Train Movie Poster Image
Public-transit terror tale is beyond bloody. Pass.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Any possibly positive message is washed away in the crimson tide of bloodletting that it unleashes in the name of extreme "thrills."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character, a photographer, takes pictures of a group of youths
threatening a young woman before he acts to stop them. Another
character, researching a city's history of crime, contrasts her work
with the popular perception of the past as a kinder, gentler time by
noting "it turns out there never were any good old days." A security
guard checks a character's bag in the subway, noting that "Condition
Orange means I can search whatever I want."


Constant, brutal, and explicit violence, including endless buckets of blood. Brutal murders are portrayed in graphic fashion, with weapons including a butcher's hook, a hammer, knives, guns, and bare hands; other weapons include severed limbs, bones, and skulls. Multiple scenes of intense fighting, with characters punched, head-butted, slammed into windows, walls, the floor, and more. Deep and bloody wounds are created and shown. Throats are slit; multiple stabbings; a character's head is impaled with a long knife; a character's tongue is ripped out of their mouth and then eaten. A man is struck with a hammer so hard that his eye dislocates from its socket; a female character's demise is shown from her point of view, beginning with a hammer blow so fierce it severs her head -- viewers see her headless body from a distance through her eyes as she dies. Human beings are hung like meat, dangling upside down by hooks rammed through their flesh; their teeth, fingernails, and eyes are shown being removed post-mortem. A character removes (and then keeps) bizarre growths from his flesh by slashing at them with a knife. A heart ripped from a human chest is held aloft while still beating. Piles of dead bodies are seen; animal and human corpses are hung as raw material for butchers.


Some kissing; discussions of sex in the context of a committed relationship; some nudity, including a nude female murder victim. It's suggested that a supporting character is promiscuously bisexual. Brief phallic imagery. A young woman, threatened by a group of thugs, is told "You gotta pay on your knees, baby." Characters have rough sex, with the clear implication that this isn't the norm for them.


Some, including "f--k," "motherf---er," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Friends drink hard liquor in celebration; beer and wine are enjoyed at an art reception.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that horror-loving teens may want to see this movie based on a short story by Clive Barker, but there's enough here to test even the strongest stomachs. The movie is literally drenched in blood from the opening moments to the finale. It's also loaded with gruesome special-effects violence -- decapitations, eyes popped from sockets, hearts ripped from chests, and more. A sequence in which viewers witness a female character's death from her point of view is deliberately, deeply disturbing. The film's food-and-flesh subtext also involves multiple images of human and animal corpses hung in preparation for the butcher's art; there's also graphic and explicit surgical and medical imagery, some nudity, and strong language.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBrendan M. April 6, 2020

Excellent Clive Barker Adaptation Is As Brutal As It Gets.

Note: There are two versions of this movie. The R rated theatrical cut (98 minutes) and Unrated director's cut (103 minutes). The theatrical cut is practic... Continue reading
Adult Written byMovieReviews333 March 22, 2020

Haven’t laughed so much in a long time

Yes this film may have gore in it, but my family and I were crying with laughter the whole time as everything was so over the top and unrealistic! This film fee... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byFilms123 January 12, 2020

Some good ideas in a strange horror film

The Midnight Meat Train is a brutal film, that is shocking, grisly, entertaining and somewhat refreshing. Yet, the film can’t help but succumb to other modern h... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 18, 2015

I will give you two words to describe this film: bloody gory!

Parents need to know that this train flick is blood soaked and is unimaginably gory. This includes a man using a hammer to behead, smash and brutally slash his... Continue reading

What's the story?

Hoping to truly capture the huge city he lives in with his camera -- not to mention catch the eye of art dealer Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields) and justify the encouragement of his girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb), aspiring photographer Leon Kaufmman (Bradley Cooper) walks the city streets at night. Eventually he crosses paths with a silent, suit-clad figure (Vinnie Jones) who may be linked to a series of disappearances and murders that have occurred on the city's subway. As Leon gets closer and closer to uncovering the man's true role in a murderous conspiracy that has tentacles through the power structure of the city, he starts being pulled in to the murderous ways and horrible secrets of the carnage lurking under the city's streets.

Is it any good?

Based on a short story by horror author Clive Barker, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is a great example of how gore, carnage, and graphic effects are no substitute for an actual story. As Leon gets pulled into the deep psychic waters of the conspiracy he's uncovered and the terrors he's witnessed, there's never any sense that he can resist or change the flow of events; while the blood soaking the storyline is dark and thick, it can't camouflage an ending anyone can see coming a mile away. Talented character actors Shields, Bibb, and Roger Bart are either cardboard cut-outs or sacrificial lambs, and while Jones (best known from films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) cuts a striking figure in his retro-styled suit and tie, his character's a murderous cipher who's just there to kill and kill again.

Director Ryuhei Kitamura and his production team do a fine job of capturing the wonder and terror of a large city at night, but those moments are surrounded and drowned out by the never-ending series of grisly murders, dismemberments, and executions that The Midnight Meat Train has in the place of a plot. Dedicated -- and jaded -- grown-up horror aficionados may find something to admire and enjoy in Midnight Meat Train's go-for-broke visual violence, but any merit or message in the film is washed away in the crimson tide of bloodletting that it unleashes in the name of extreme "thrills."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the nature and character of bloody horror films -- why does Hollywood make them, and what purpose do they serve?

  • Do violent horror films release negative emotional energy or create it?

  • Can violent, graphic images in films like this desensitize viewers?

  • Does it matter whether the goriness seems "over the top"?

Movie details

  • In theaters: August 1, 2008
  • On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2009
  • Cast: Bradley Cooper, Brooke Shields, Leslie Bibb
  • Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 100 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: sequences of strong bloody gruesome violence, grisly images involving nudity, sexual content and language.
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

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