The Midnight Meat Train
Introduction to the Special Definitive edition
Stepping back on board “The Midnight Meat Train” today, it’s clear that this brutal but lyrical short story retains a narrative power that has not been dimmed by time. Its cinematic incarnation, from the pen of Jeff Buhler and the vision of Ryuhei Kitamura, simply underscores its significance as a moment when horror fiction took a leap into new territory. Clive Barker, its author, had arrived.
It’s now three decades since another acclaimed author from England’s North Western city of Liverpool, Ramsey Campbell, set down his introduction to the first editions of the three Books of Blood.
Writing in May 1983, he issued an eloquent but heartfelt warning to curious readers:
If you like your horror fiction reassuring, both unreal enough not to be taken too seriously and familiar enough not to risk spraining your imagination or waking up your nightmares when you thought they were safely put to sleep, these books are not for you…
and, with particular emphasis on one story, he noted,
…it’s as well to keep that in mind while braving such tales as “The Midnight Meat Train,” a Technicolor horror story rooted in the graphic horror movie but wittier and more vivid than any of those.
“Ramsey’s a major influence in two very real senses,” Clive reflects, thinking back. “The first, obviously, is that he’s a fellow Liverpudlian, and the second is that he’s the first writer I met. When I was fifteen, he came to my school to deliver an informal talk on his passion for horror in the cinema and on the printed page. The talk was called, I believe, ‘Why Horror?’ The question needed no answer as far as I was concerned (except possibly: Why Not?).
“Ramsey was twenty-one then. That’s not such a big difference in age now, but at the time it seemed like a big difference: He stood in the outside world while I still laboured in the salt-mines of State-supplied education, and it was wonderful to hear somebody from that other world express such an unalloyed love of all things dark and disturbing. The pride he took in the genre contrasted forcibly with my own slightly furtive passion. Horror fiction has rarely been viewed as an intellectually credible area of endeavour and I – with one eye on Oxford and the other on Edgar Allan Poe – didn’t have the courage of my enthusiasms. I may say he changed that, simply by demonstrating that horror fiction could be spoken of with as much aesthetic insight as any other fiction – with the added bonus that it gave you apocalyptic visions. It was great and I was utterly intrigued... this is an author… Somebody who really did this, really the first guy that I’d met who actually put words on paper. For me it was completely a turning point because suddenly this seemed within reach… Ramsey’s presence in the world validated the possibility that I might try it.”
Ramsey himself recalled the school visit when introducing a later edition of the Books of Blood, saying, “I can’t now recall much of what I rather clumsily said, but I remember the delight of the sixteen-year-olds when I pointed out that one might take Machen’s ‘White Powder’ to deal with venereal disease, and the dismayed retreat of some members of the teaching staff when I played Zappa’s parody of Schoenberg from Absolutely Free. Inspired perhaps by having signed the contract for Demons by Daylight, I ended with a rallying call: ‘Horror is all we have not yet come to terms with.’
“One schoolboy was leading the laughter and applause,” he noted later. “Clive claims that he was bespectacled and overweight, but I remember him as he is now, wiry and bright-eyed and impatient to be astonished.”
Readers of the first Books of Blood who pressed on after Ramsey’s two page introduction, found that its author first offered “The Book of Blood” itself, a set-up story to explain the wide array of styles, genres and voices in the tales that were to follow, setting them as stories written on the body of Simon McNeal.
Then, on page 12, Clive hit them with “The Midnight Meat Train.”
Leon Kaufman was no longer new to the city. The Palace of Delights, he’d always called it, in the days of his innocence…
Twenty five pages later, as the Palace of Delights received Kaufman’s adoration without comment, the author whom the rear cover proclaimed was ‘rapidly establishing himself as one of today’s most stunningly original masters of the horror genre’ had set the bar high and challenged readers with perhaps the most overtly gory tale of all that were to follow.
“Ramsey says I write in Technicolor – I like things to come out and grab me, I like my horror in 3D. I like imagining horrors in detail. I like to be able to give the reader everything I can imagine on a subject. The kind of horror that is all suggestion, and undertow, and the ‘it’s what you don’t see that terrifies you’ kind of stuff, that doesn’t do a thing for me. My creatures are not shadowy, ethereal things – you can count their tentacles, you know where they’ve got snot running from their noses. That’s important to me, because I’m not the kind of writer who fades to black, just as the tentacle thing shambles out of the darkness…”
Thinking about the influence he wanted to exert on readers, Clive had set down some (ultimately unpublished) thoughts towards his own possible introduction. After recounting a true story about the impact he’d seen a book of tattoos have on others, he noted:
“And now you’ve guessed where this introduction’s going: from the tattooist’s needle to the writer’s pen, from making a mark on a body to making a mark on a mind…
“These three Books of Blood are a first stab at it. The stories contained in them are the worst things my mind could find to mark you with. There’s vicious tricks in here; there’s horny stuff, there’s sweet thrills and sour ones, there’s nineteen tales of sex, death and transformation. I wrote them because I love telling stories. A good story gets hold of you and won’t let go ’til it’s finished what it wanted you to do. It’s intimate, the way it can worm inside your head, and I love to do it and have it done to me.
“But more than stories, I love horror stories. They stir up the juices and the controversies. People respond to them: they love them or they hate them.
“Of course, some people say it’s easy, and it’s certainly true that telling a gross story does not require a Henry James. But telling a good gross story, that’s entirely different. That requires… precision.
“You have to match the ideas to the shifting anatomy of the human mind, you have to find the best places to hide the beasts, you have to learn the tempo of it, the geography of it. Just as a good tattooist places his dragons with care, so that the head gleams over the swell of a muscle, a wing flaps when a man raises his arm.
“It’s a delicate job, and sometimes I curse it. But when the tricks come off, when somebody tells me they’ll never forget a scene from a story, just an image maybe, I’m a happy man.
“Like I said, I enjoy giving people sleepless nights. Remember that: I wrote this smiling.”
In large part, the placing of “The Midnight Meat Train” right up front was an overt statement of intent.
“The thing about “The Midnight Meat Train,” Clive agrees, “is that it was positioned – through my editor’s good sense – in the collection so that it almost announces, ‘This guy will do anything to you.’ My feeling was, ‘let’s see what happens,’ you know, ‘how bad can this get?’ And there is, I hope, a feeling of relentlessness about it – that it’s picked you up and won’t let go until it’s finished. It is, in a way, a tribute to a kind of story which is very claustrophobic and very inevitable – the Robert Bloch short stories, for instance – and that’s the kind of horror fiction which I really enjoy reading. It’s the energy of that, the inevitability. I like to be excited. I like ghost train rides and bad Italian horror movies!”
The origins of the story date to a visit Clive made with his great friend William A. Henry III, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and, at the time of his untimely death, Time Magazine’s theatre critic.
“We went to a number of places together,” recalls Clive fondly. “He was an inveterate traveller – I think one of those people who liked to reinvent himself when he went places: he could tell monstrous lies about himself! But he had friends everywhere. He was one of those people who somehow managed to keep, uncannily kept up, almost intimate contact with friends everywhere, all his Yale friends knew and loved him.
“When I was penniless, he brought me over to America, on his own dime, which was incredibly sweet of him. He lived in Boston and he worked, at that time, for The Boston Globe. Boston was amazing… But I wanted to see New York. And I wanted to go – don’t ask me where this comes from – but I wanted to go there on a bus. I was 19, maybe 20 years old. It was a long time ago but I knew I wanted to get off an old Greyhound bus at Port Authority, which is what we did… Bill had lots of business in New York and I was on my own, which was wonderful. And a little scary. I got on the subway late one night and it took me to a place called Far Rockaway, the end of the line. I was asleep on the train, and when it ground to a halt, one of the guards shoved me awake and said, “This is as far as we go kid; get off.” It was midnight. A completely empty station. I was the only person on the train…
“I hadn’t begun to write the short stories at that point, but it made a huge impression on me. At the same time, this would be, 1971, something like that, there was some kind of slasher guy going around the trains. He wasn’t doing anything like the things that were happening in “The Midnight Meat Train.” But he was getting a little bit of press. And the two things: being delivered to Far Rockaway and getting out and not knowing where the fuck I was; and the story that was going around about this train killer, it was enough for my imagination to sort of start to play around. I made notes when I got back to Boston. It stayed in notes for the next eight years. I started, towards the end of my 20s, to put together some stories. And that was actually the first one I wrote… Those early stories were just me mapping out my own primal instincts about what the writing of horror fiction was really about. So that’s where it all began.”
The Books of Blood were not an instant success. In fact, the three slim books with their curious photographic covers made little initial impression on the general public but they did start to gain a reputation as something fresh and startling among specialist horror and fantasy circles. They didn’t break out to a wider audience, though, until they caught the attention of the biggest name in horror fiction of them all.
Stephen King’s initial ‘endorsement’ was made during a panel discussion at the October 1984 World Fantasy Convention in Ottawa at a time when he’d not read a single word of the books! Instead, it was part of a longer observation that others at the convention, such as Peter Straub and Douglas Winter, were talking in glowing terms about these new Books of Blood, an indication to King that something was about to happen… He said “Well, I haven’t read this guy, but from what I understand it’s like what [Jon Landau] said ‘I have seen the future of rock-and-roll, and his name is Bruce Springsteen.’ Sounds like Clive Barker might be the future of horror.”
Clive shakes his head even today with something approaching disbelief, “He said, God bless him, that I was the future of horror. Me! An unknown author of some books of short stories that nobody was buying...”
Having subsequently read the texts, King’s endorsement became stronger, more personal and snappier, telling Berkley Publishing in April 1985 for the US release of the Books of Blood: “I think Clive Barker is so good that I am almost literally tongue-tied. Yes, I stick by it: I have seen the future of the horror genre, and his name is Clive Barker… What Barker does in the Books of Blood makes the rest of us look like we’ve been asleep for the last ten years.”
King’s quote, stories like “The Midnight Meat Train” – and the simple connotation of ‘blood’ in the title of the collection – led to an early critical pigeon-holing of Clive as a simple purveyor of graphic violence, with sex and horror thrown in in abundance for good measure.
He was quick, though, to defend the accusation that he was only interested in a single genre – or of evoking a single type of reaction from readers.
“Obviously,” he argued, “the reputation doesn’t bear out on a reading of the books. Sure, there’s “Midnight Meat Train” and “Rawhead Rex,” but there’s a lot of stuff that’s less excessive in terms of the gross-out. The thing is, I don’t just push the gore, I push everything. When my stuff is bloody, it’s very bloody; but when my stuff is sexy, it’s very sexy; when it’s funny it’s very ludicrous. I don’t like half-measures. I think that the kind of fiction that I write is very much about the way that lots of different types of people deal with the invasion of the monstrous or the supernatural in their lives – and I don’t want them all to deal with it in the same way.
“What interests me is the idea of characters who confront the ordinary, and find new meaning in the extraordinary, rather than simply finding some creatures or some forces that they must eradicate or exorcise in order to return to the norm that they had on page one. I think of my stories as having happy endings, perversely enough, because they very often end with scenes of revelation of one kind or another: characters understanding themselves and realising why they need fresh meaning in their lives. In “The Midnight Meat Train,” Kaufman’s a real marginal, a disenfranchised accountant whose life doesn’t mean anything until he realises that there are greater forces at work than he had ever thought. And there, I think, is a story with a perfect happy ending – he goes through hell and he comes through on the other side, utterly changed, utterly transformed....”
True to his word, after the Books of Blood and a single out-and-out horror novel, he offered journeys through fantasy, metaphysics, childhood longings and man’s place on the planet as he gave readers Weaveworld, Imajica, The Great and Secret Show, The Thief of Always, Sacrament and other novels.
In film, though, horror was very much the order of the day – Hellraiser and its sequels made his reputation, Nightbreed’s siding with the monsters confused a studio but found a huge audience that demands a forthcoming director’s cut fully twenty five years later and Lord of Illusions is an underrated treatise on magic and illusion. Others worked with his visions, with Bernard Rose’s Candyman and Bill Condon’s sequel, strong early entrants to the canon. Bill Condon would subsequently enlist Clive’s help in getting his Academy Award-winning adaptation of Christopher Bram’s novel about James Whale to the screen in the shape of Gods and Monsters.
“The Midnight Meat Train” had earlier featured in Bernard Rose’s plans for Candyman 2, marrying the story to an updating of the Jack the Ripper story. In an inversion of Rose’s transplantation of the Liverpool-based story, “The Forbidden,” to Chicago for Candyman, here he swapped the subways of New York for the London Underground and Leon Kaufman became police constable Kathy Blake.
“I was originally going to direct Candyman 2,” Rose has been quoted as saying. “I wrote a sequel, but it was a cannibal movie and they were all horrified by it. I sent it to Clive and he said, ‘Pardon me for asking, but where is the Candyman in all of this?’ However, I love that script and I’d really like to make it soon. It’s a brilliant story and it ends with the Queen feasting on the body of prostitutes and throwing their entrails into the fire, while her corgis look on...”
With “The Midnight Meat Train” separated from the Candyman, David Campbell Wilson worked on a mid-1990s adaptation, The Red Line, but this too fell by the wayside. In the late 1990s, Mark Pavia and Jack O’Donnell put together a treatment but timings worked against it being made. In Mark’s words, “I did a treatment for Clive Barker, “The Midnight Meat Train,” but he thought it was too dark! At the time he had just done some children’s books that he had just set up at Disney, and he thought it might taint that situation a little. But, Clive was great, he was very supportive the entire time.”
By 2003, though, Clive had turned his thoughts back to the darkness with plans to produce a series of movies based on the Books of Blood from his company, Seraphim Films.
“Over the years,” he noted, “we’ve had a few of the stories turned into movies – Candyman came from a story in the Books of Blood – but the great bulk of the stories have remained unfilmed because I wanted to find a time when I had a team around me who would allow me to make a series of movies.
“My whole theory with the Books of Blood was, ‘I am going to try and prove that horror stories can be very various in tone: they can be comedic; they can be sexy; they can be psychological; they can be visceral.’ Now we have a chance to turn these stories into movies and prove, hopefully, the same thing for a cinematic audience.”
Noting a similar statement of intent that had shaped the story’s placement in the book, he said, “The Midnight Meat Train’s the first movie we’re going to do and it’s scary as shit. And the reason it’s the first movie we’re going to do is to sort of put our mark in the sand. It was always – from its title onwards – it was always, ‘Okay, here we go. I’m not here to make you laugh. I’m not here to reassure you.’ I always thought that was a strong horror title – you know, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: there are two words in that title, ‘chainsaw’ and ‘massacre,’ and the two words ‘midnight’ and ‘meat’ – they are words that signify you’re going to see some no-holds-barred horror.”
Jeff Buhler took the conductor’s seat for this journey of the Meat Train.
“I started working with Clive on the screenplay way back in 2004,” he recalls, “and we did at least four drafts before Clive formed the Midnight Picture Company with partner Jorge Saralegui.”
Noting the need to change the emphasis for the screen from the narrative in the short story – prompting the switch away from Leon’s profession as an accountant – he explains, “In the short we’re inside Leon’s head, so we know what he’s thinking and feeling as he observes the city around him. Film wouldn’t have easily allowed us that luxury, so I decided to reinvent the protagonist as a photographer, whose observations could be visually communicated to the audience through his work. I felt that it would also give us the visual tool to observe Mahogany, and what he does.”
Patrick Tatopoulos was the first director attached to the project. He had just worked with Clive on the TV movie, Saint Sinner, and Clive noted, “He was the special effects guy who did Independence Day and he’s a really cool guy. The movie isn’t special effects driven, but there are a lot of effects in the final reel – physical effects, not CGI effects. When they come up, they’ve got to be great, and Patrick has a handle on all that.”
A planned mid-2005 date to shoot in Montreal, though, came and went and Tatopoulos eventually dropped off the project and shortly afterwards made his directorial debut with the Underworld prequel, Rise of the Lycans.
Instead, at the end of 2006, Ryuhei Kitamura was announced as the Train’s new – and ultimate – driver.
Seraphim’s team on the movie of Anthony DiBlasi and Joe Daley remarked respectively that, “We really wanted to make Clive’s movies Clive’s way – hardcore, close to the mythology. We spent a lot of time [getting The Midnight Meat Train off the ground] independently and through other means. Lionsgate was set up to distribute, but our original plan to make the film fell apart – so they turned us to Lakeshore,” and, “We were told to make a list of Japanese directors to work with because that was the direction they wanted to go. Ryuhei then came recommended.”
“The first time I met him,” says Jeff, “I knew we were kind of like-minded people. He wanted to do what I wanted to do, which was to respect Clive Barker’s original material. I’m a huge Clive Barker fan. I read the Books of Blood in high school and I’ve always loved the story of “The Midnight Meat Train,” so it was an honour for me to be able to give it a shot. Working with Clive, he was a great mentor for me. It was the first time I had adapted someone else’s material and he was very gracious in letting me take some liberties with the characters, as long as I remained true to the spirit and the tone of the original short story. Ryuhei came in and did exactly the same thing. He’s a fantastic visual director. If you’ve ever seen Versus or any of his other Japanese-language films, he’s just an unbelievable director. It was just a good combination.”
Ryuhei himself was equally impressed with Jeff: “Twenty years ago I read “The Midnight Meat Train” and it left a real impression on me. I love the original story and admire Clive Barker and I said to them, ‘I would love to do this, but I cannot believe the script is going to be any good. I know that this is too good to be true.’ But they sent me the script and it was excellent.
“The first thing I told Clive was, ‘You've got to stop letting Hollywood make shit movies out of your great novels.’ Clive has a great imagination and it takes high motivation and effort to translate that imagination onto the screen. Unfortunately too many producers, directors and writers just want to do it the easy way. From day one, I was determined to make a classic – something that after 20 years people would want to watch. This is not only a horror film, it's a love story – a tragic love story. Even Mahogany; he doesn't say anything, but he has many stories we can see from his face, his every movement.”
He needed to overcome one initial misunderstanding in pre-production, as he recalls: “I changed the script and somehow Clive read an in-process draft and was very angry... I went to his house and acted out the scene and explained everything and after ten minutes he said, ‘I like it, you solved all the problems.’ I'm a fan so I know I'd be upset if someone messed up his great book, but I'm trying to make something better otherwise I wouldn't have come all the way from Japan to do this.”
Creative harmony restored, he set to work and the movie was shot in early 2007. As publicity, the press were given a series of on-set stills and the following details:
THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN
~ Synopsis ~
Next stop, death.
When his latest body of work – provocative, nighttime studies of the city and its inhabitants - earns struggling photographer Leon Kaufman (Bradley Cooper) interest from a prominent art gallerist (Brooke Shields), she propels him to get grittier and show the darker side of humanity for his upcoming debut at her downtown art space.
Believing he’s finally on track for success, Leon’s obsessive pursuit of dark subject matter leads him into the path of a serial killer, Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), the subway murderer who stalks late-night commuters – ultimately butchering them in the most gruesome ways imaginable.
With his concerned girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb) fearing for his life, Leon’s relentless fascination with Mahogany lures him further and further into the bowels of the subways and ultimately into an abyss of pure evil - inadvertently pulling Maya right along with him.
THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN
~ Press Release ~
The horror thriller, The Midnight Meat Train stars Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers, TV’s Alias), Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand, Snatch), Brooke Shields (Nip/Tuck), and Leslie Bibb (the upcoming Trick ‘r Treat, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby).
Also starring are Roger Bart (Hostel: Part II, TV’s Desperate Housewives), Peter Jacobson (Good Night, and Good Luck), Barbara Eve Harris (TV’s Prison Break), and UFC mixed martial arts fighter Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson.
Midnight Meat Train is directed by critically acclaimed Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi, Sky High) in his American debut, and based on legendary horror writer Clive Barker’s popular, eponymous short story from his classic Books of Blood collection. The screenplay was adapted by Jeff Buhler.
Lakeshore Entertainment’s Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright and Eric Reid are producing the film with David Rubin serving as executive producer, and Beth DePatie co-producing. The director of photography is Jonathan Sela (2006’s The Omen). Production designer is Clark Hunter (The Astronaut Farmer, All the Pretty Horses). Costume designer is Christopher Lawrence (Crank, S.W.A.T.). Special makeup effects are being created by Oscar® winner Matthew Mungle (Dracula, Schindler’s List).
Midnight Meat Train is a production of Lakeshore Entertainment and will be released in North America by Lionsgate.
About Lakeshore Entertainment: Founded in 1994 by Chairman and CEO Tom Rosenberg, Lakeshore is the Academy Award® winning producer of Million Dollar Baby and producer of such hits as the Underworld franchise, Exorcism of Emily Rose, Crank, She’s the Man, Runaway Bride and Arlington Road.
Vinnie Jones, playing Mahogany, commented, “It’s one hell of a movie... It’s just in your face, raw as they come. There is a twist at the end – it’s the reason why I’m doing it. Saw? Hostel? Halloween? The Midnight Meat Train, is so ridiculous, it’s the King of all horror movies... Look, you see me, right, and I get two passengers on the train, I hook them up and I skin them – you actually see me skinning them, pulling the skins off of human beings. You ever seen that? I just got fitted for these contact lenses which will drain blood out, so, you know, it really is going to look like my eyes are pouring blood. I’ve never seen so much blood... Literally, big gallons of blood. We’re on the train and I have to keep throwing it in there. That’s the part of acting I don’t like. I’m like ‘Don’t get too much blood on me!’ Ryuhei has been great, the man speaks good English – it’s harder to understand Bradley Cooper!”
“From day one,” says Ryuhei, “I've told Clive we have to create a new icon of horror heroes, ’cause there is none right? I'm a big figure collector myself but I've been buying the same thing you know? Freddie Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Pinhead, and that's it! That's it! No other movie in the past twenty years reached that level of an icon right? That's why I ended up buying twenty Pinheads…
“I told the producer and I told Clive, that we're going to have to create something. That's why I had a discussion with my costume designer Chris Lawrence, and with Vinnie himself. We ended up with this ’50s kind of cool suit and super-cool bag. He has this iconic hammer. We designed it – they showed me a bunch of hammers and none of them were... it has to be... A weapon is, you know it should be very iconic right? Like Freddie's claw, Jason's machete, whatever. So we kind of designed a super cool hammer and he kills with that. Very scary, oh so cool. So this Mahogany is... of course he's very creepy, very weird, very scary but at the same time he's very super cool. It's a very thin line because if he goes too cool, it doesn't work. But so far he's fucking scary, yeah, and visually he's great...”
Bradley Cooper, meanwhile, found himself immediately in the zone: “I was excited to work with Vinnie because I was a huge fan and very frightened of him – I was a fan of his from Lock, Stock and when they said he was going to be the villain, I was very excited because I love physical stuff and I knew we had a huge fight scene at the end.
“I remember the first night of shooting: I stalk him a lot in the movie and I was walking around and there’s a scene where I come round the corner and he stops me and, no kidding man, he grabbed me and I’m trying to act, he stops me and, first of all he’s very strong and he grabs me and just looks into my eyes – and I forgot I was in the scene, that we were doing a movie… All I thought was, ‘Shit, this guy is going to kill me!’ and they went, ‘Great. Cut!’ and I went, ‘Oh yeah… we got the shot…’ – meanwhile, I was terrified, and I ran over to the producers and said, ‘He’s it, he’s Mahogany!’”
Bradley, about to break as a huge Hollywood star, felt the pressure of carrying The Midnight Meat Train, not least as a result of his being a fan of Clive’s work. “It was the same amount of pressure as any job of that complexity would demand,” he says. “It being a Barker creation only made it more interesting and dynamic. Leon drives the narrative of the story, so in that sense, I felt a lot of pressure. I never wanted to drop the ball in terms of Leon’s journey throughout the film.
“I was the ideal candidate for this film, being a huge meat eater. I used to beg my folks to go to the zoo and watch the lions during their feeding time. I used to salivate watching the big chunks of red meat tossed out to them. I love the horror genre in film as well. So I was like a kid in a candy store any time we filmed the scary bits. The one thing that did make me cringe was the pierced Achilles tendons, having severed my own five years ago playing basketball.”
Clive saw a fully-edited together cut of the film for the first time the day before sitting on a Lionsgate panel with Vinnie Jones, Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb and Ryuhei Kitamura at 2007’s Comic Con in San Diego and proclaimed: “The three most important experiences for me as a writer of horror fiction were: my first autopsy; the first time I embalmed somebody; and the first time I went to a slaughterhouse – and the slaughterhouse experience – and this is thanks to Mr. Kitamura – informs powerfully, incredibly powerfully, The Midnight Meat Train. You won’t find any gentle, soft, entertaining, ‘just for the sake of it’ horror here. This is a very, very intense movie; there are no jokes in this movie: this is the real thing. This is the best adaptation – and I’m including my own work in this – this is the best adaptation of any of my short fiction that has ever been made.”
The film’s director responded about Clive’s films: “The best adaptation? You know, I think there’s only two movies that are good: Hellraiser; Candyman. That’s it. So my mission was extremely hard but it was also very simple: make something better than Hellraiser and Candyman. And with the great help of Clive, with my wonderful cast and great producers and my crew, I think I have.”
Personnel changes at Lionsgate though caused the eventual release plans to attract Clive’s well-publicised ire as the anticipated wide theatrical release became a contractual minimum of just 100 screens, appearing on 1 August 2008.
“The movie is fucking great,” he fumed, “and it’s not right to stop horror fans who’ve been looking forward to seeing the picture from seeing it on the big screen. I’ve seen it with audiences, and they go nuts... This is Kitamura’s first American release, and there’s no question that it works. I think he deserves to have it seen by the largest audience possible. I know it will be seen in huge numbers on DVD, but that isn’t the same as five hundred people in a packed theatre.”
Ryuhei mounted a stern defence of his cinematic offering, saying ahead of its release, “The film will speak for itself when it comes out, no matter where you see it. It is my best film to date and I am proud of myself, my crew, my cast and my producers.”
Clive’s appeal to Lionsgate – and the clamour from fans – for a wider theatrical release went unheeded but the DVD release went some way to appeasing his anger, adding two and a half minutes of additional footage as well as three featurettes and an audio commentary.
The enduring disappointment for Clive, though, was that the movie’s strangled release effectively ended a grander cinematic vision: “It frustrates me because we would have had a trilogy out of this. I set to work to develop, in note form from way back, the back story of the city fathers. The other movies were not just taking place in this city but in other parts of America. They were connecting up the story of underground activity which is America-wide. It would have climaxed with a meeting of all the stations, all of the lines. I had this massive plan in my head. The absence of a theatrical release was... not only were we losing the chance to exhibit the picture the way it should have been shown, but also we were killing the chance of getting a real horror trilogy that would be constructed picture by picture.”
What remains – to date – though, is a fiercely inventive and groundbreaking classic of short fiction that changed the horror genre in the early 1980s and continues to shock and inspire, and a work of cinematic vision that captures both the punch and undertow of the source material, while expanding it in fresh and original directions for a modern audience.
The long, arduous and often troubled, but ultimately celebrated, journey from Clive’s writing desk in 1981 to the big screen in 2008 is captured in the pages of this excellently conceived book.
Mind the gap.
And hold on tight…
Phil & Sarah Stokes, 2014
Movie File by Shawn Adler and Larry Carroll, MTV.com, 28 March 2007
Barker’s Midnight Meat Train On Track by Dave Alexander, Rue Morgue, No 47, July 2005
Bernard Rose talks Candyman 4, www.horror-movies.ca/horror_4396.html
Night Train To Terror, SFX, No 158, July 2007
A Little Bit Of Hamlet – A Conversation between Clive Barker and Dennis Etchison, UCLA Extension Writers Program, 25 February 1987
Jump Tribe Panel, San Diego Comic Con, 14 July 2005
Ramsey Campbell : An Appreciation, Essay by Clive Barker, 1986 World Fantasy Convention Programme
Speech by Clive Barker in Tribute to Stephen King
Weaving Words with Clive Barker by Leigh Blackmore, Terror Australis, No 1, Autumn 1988
Clive Barker Speaks Out About The Mistreatment Of Midnight Meat Train by Tom Blunt, AMC, 24 June 2008
Introduction by Ramsey Campbell, Books of Blood I, Sphere Books, 5 May 1983
The Barker in Darkness by Ramsey Campbell, Scream Press BOB
Weaver of Wonders by Ramsey Campbell, Shadows in Eden, 1987
The Crazy Train by Sean Decker, Fangoria, No 275, August 2008
Bloodletting by Elijah Drenner for The Horror Channel, September 05, 2006
Clive Barker by Nigel Floyd, Samhain, No 4, July 1987
Jeff Buhler Gets Crazy With Insanitarium by Brian Gallagher, Movieweb, 16 July 2008
The Cannibal Express by James Grainger, Rue Morgue, No 81, August 2008
Production Report: "Midnight Meat Train" by Jason Guerrasio, indieWIRE, 1 May 2007
It’s Only When He Talks About Hollywood That The Evil Comes Out by Paula Guran, The Spook, Issue 6, January 2002
Clive Barker by Nick Hasted, Creature, No 4, 1985
The Author of Blood by David Howe, Starburst Winter Special, 1987/88
Bradley Cooper Talks About His Role In Midnight Meat Train by Rizal Johan, The Star, 5 August 2008
Interview with Clive Barker by Johanna Juntunen for Book of Blood DVD featurette
Jones Rides the Meat Train by Patrick Lee, Sci-Fi Wire, 20 March 2007
Lionsgate ComicCon Panel, 26 July 2007
JoBlo Visits The Set Of The Hangover by Johnny Moreno, JoBlo.com, 1 May 2009
Jones Spills Mucho Blood in Meat Train by Ryan Rotten, Shock Till You Drop.com, 20 April 2007
The Midnight Meat Train Trilogy by Ryan Rotten, Shock Till You Drop, 13 February 2009
Meet Horror’s Heir Apparent by Matt Roush, USA Today, 22 August 1986
In Anticipation Of The Deluge: A Moment At The River’s Edge by Phil and Sarah Stokes, 1 and 12 July 2004
Interview with Clive Barker by Phil and Sarah Stokes, 26 March 2004
Gore Aboard The Midnight Meat Train by Ryan Turek, Fangoria, No 273, May 2008
Horror In Training by Ryan Turek, Fangoria, No 268, November 2007
Interview with Clive Barker by James Whittington, Horror Channel (zonehorror), 8 March 2009
A Meaty, Bloody Film by Kevin Williamson, Sunn Media, 1 October 2008
Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train - Exclusive From The Set by Staci Layne Wilson, Horror.com, 5 September 2007
Talking Terror with Clive Barker by Douglas E. Winter, The Twilight Zone, June 1987