A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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"?
- 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.
For kids who love thrills and chills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.