For those of you who are unaware, this film is based from a short story by the same name written by Clive Barker and featured in his short story collection Books of Blood Vol 1. If you haven’t read his work…do yourselves a favor and just…read it. So I knew this film would be a delight even before I pressed play. Unrated, starring Bradley Cooper as the protagonist photographer Leon who is a starving artist obsessed with his craft and getting the perfect shot no matter what the cost. It sounds like my life.
So like I said, this is about Bradley Cooper trying to get the perfect shot of the city he lives in at its most raw and unforgiving filthy state. Every city is a hellhole after dark, am I right? And he takes photos of things, that he maybe should have left alone, and before he knows it, he is hot on the trail of a serial killer known as the butcher, connecting his crimes with photos he is taking. He becomes obsessed and begins to follow him, and even goes as far as to following him to work. Can you guess where? A meat packing plant! How clever! Because he’s the butch-…oh forget it. Anyway, he notices a pattern: the butcher always goes on the late train, the first one after 2am (although it’s called midnight meat train, let’s try to forgive this little detail, huh?) and then he sees it, the bodies. Turns out he has been killing train riders who are just out way too late, and hanging their bodies from meat hooks upside down on the last train car. The more Leon follows the butcher, the more he is grooming himself to become the butcher. You can try to go to the police, Leon and his waitress girlfriend Maya do, but whaddaya know, even the police are in on it. Very nice use of that unreliable narrator. Now all the characters think they’re going crazy.
Anyway, eventually Leon forgets about his photography career and goes to the late train to meet the Butcher, whom we find out is called Mahogany, to fight him or something. But, as they’re fighting we have to start to ask ourselves the fundamental questions. Why is Mahogany/the Butcher butchering stragglers? Why is he hanging them on the train? Where is the train going? Why him? Well, to feed the sewer-dwelling monsters of course. How else can you keep a horde of creatures who have resided there since before any other human thing at bay? They’ll take over the city and destroy it if you don’t give them their offering every night.
It’s also one of those things where if you kill the butcher, you become him. You are forced to take his place. Because if you don’t, the end of the world will be all your fault. Overall, though, a fabulous story, always a treat to watch one written by Clive Barker, one of the darkest authors I’ve ever read.
From the beginning I was loving Bradley Cooper’s character. He ate tofu and was obsessed with his art, constantly trying to catch a break, but also funny and charming, with a stroke of crazy. There is a transformation that happens with his character, and he pulls it off flawlessly. At first, he simply becomes obsessed with following and taking photos of the butcher, following newspaper clippings and breadcrumbs to try and piece together his string of murders. That’s all fine, even his girlfriend is open minded about his insanity. He’s an artist, artists get fixated on things. But then he starts to do strange things. One of which threw me for a loop was when he wanted to eat meat, rubbing his hand on his friend’s plate and licking the meat juice from it. Coming from a vegetarian, just going back to eating meat like that, it’s not a smooth transition. It was just creepy. Well done, too! Huehuehue. He just begins to act more animalistic, all the way down to when he has (rough, maybe anal) sex with his girlfriend turned fiancee in the diner where she works, which surprises even her. Later, Bradley Cooper is totally gone, sick in the head, and his eyes are filled with darkness. His transformation is (almost) complete.
The butcher is fabulous. He is staggeringly tall but completely unassuming in a suit carrying a black doctors bag of sorts. He never speaks, and if you make eye contact with him, consider yourself dead.
All of the long shots in the film are stunning. Most of the shots are done artistically as if they are set up for a photographer to take them. Also, another great shot is when we first see the butcher, he holds the subway doors open for the girl (before killing her) and you see his body up to his shoulders, but the shot cuts off his head. Anyone watching will sit up and say “Okay, that’s the killer.” No head, no big deal. It just means the guy is inhuman is all.
Let’s talk about the kills. The butcher uses a metal hammer and a meat hook, of course, to kill with. There are no cutaway shots, so when he hits someone in the back of the head with the hammer, you see that person’s eyeballs pop out. It is unrated, so if they didn’t do that I’d be concerned. The gore is great, and there is just a gargantuan amount of blood after each kill, and it’s so red and shiny, but it doesn’t matter, it gets the job done. It’s incredibly satisfying. And don’t forget his large bag of tricks. What’s in there? Tools of course. After he kills someone, he removes their teeth (which is cringe worthy, even for me) their nails, and lifts out their eyeballs. Then he shaves them and hangs them upside-down with a meat hook through their ankles. Because he is the butcher after all.
Not very realistic regarding the whole premise of killings that happen to feed unearthly creatures living at the end of the line of the night trains of a big city. However, the idea behind this film is entirely realistic, it’s uncanny.
This film tries to shine a light on the fact that evil is right outside your door, it’s down the street, sitting next to you on the train, it’s close to home. If you go further than you are meant to, start to seek it out, you’ll get its attention and you’ll wish you hadn’t. It’s a story about not meddling where you know you shouldn’t, minding your own business, and understanding that there is danger out there, and respecting it enough to keep it at a distance. Don’t go out too late, don’t ride a fucking train by yourself after 2am, and don’t become obsessed with a serial killer. You’ll end up with no tongue and a dead girlfriend, cursed to kill until someone kills you, coming full circle.
Overall, I give this an Awww Yeah that fucked me up, because it’s Clive Barker, of course, it did.
Thanks for reading.