What do you get when you cross Bradley Cooper with a Clive Barker horror story? The answer: 2008’s gory cult classic The Midnight Meat Train. Though a slashed theatrical release buried the film, this disturbing bloodbath has been unearthed on Paramount+.
Before Bradley Cooper broke out with The Hangover, he starred in The Midnight Meat Train, a bloody throwback slasher film.
Bradley Cooper leads The Midnight Meat Train as Leon, a photographer keen on capturing the grit of city life. After his portfolio is rejected by a high-profile gallery owner for being too safe, Leon ventures out in search of danger. Spoiler alert: he finds it.
Leon captures a brutal act of violence on a subway and becomes obsessed with tracking down a serial killer who has been enacting carnage on the late-night train for years. Leon spirals down a tunnel of mystery that slowly unravels a conspiracy that goes all the way to the bottom.
Bradley Cooper struggles to gain the support of the police and even his own girlfriend, portrayed by actress Leslie Bibb. The Midnight Meat Train speeds toward a sinister conclusion that is a must-see for horror fans.
This Bradley Cooper film is unlike any other. The Midnight Meat Train was adapted from Barker’s short story by Pet Sematary (2019) screenwriter Jeff Buhler and directed by Japanese filmmaker Ryûhei Kitamura. The result was a dark, tense, and revolting horror mystery, complete with the hyper-stylized sensibilities of 2008.
The film was originally set as the feature directorial debut of Patrick Tatopoulos, a special effects wizard and production designer who had cut his teeth on movies like Independence Day, I, Robot, and Underworld. It was scheduled to shoot in New York City in 2005.
Tatopoulos was replaced by Kitamura and, in an effort to cut costs, Bradley Cooper and the rest of the gang shot The Midnight Meat Train in the Los Angeles metro system. Production finally began in the spring of 2007.
Despite praise from fans and critics, Bradley Cooper’s performance in The Midnight Meat Train was buried by Lionsgate and never had a full theaterical release.
Lionsgate distributed the film but only opened the movie in the secondary theatrical market, limiting the release to about 100 screens. It was then quickly released on DVD, much to the filmmakers’ dismay. Clive Barker openly criticized Lionsgate’s Joe Drake for burying other films in order to venerate The Strangers, for which Drake was a producer.
Critics that saw The Midnight Meat Train generally liked it, praising the acting from Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Vinnie Jones, and the rest of the cast. The film carries a 73 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes on the consensus that it delivers the thrills, scares, and gore its target audience seeks.
Bradley Cooper’s Career Took Off After Midnight Meat Train
Bradley Cooper jumped from Midnight Meat Train into the following year’s breakout hit The Hangover. That film launched Cooper from a solid supporting actor to a bankable leading man. The Hangover spawned a lucrative trilogy of comedies that provided a steady stream for Cooper as he expanded his dramatic horizons.
Cooper has since led an exciting and successful career as an actor, director, and producer. His performance in 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook earned the actor his first Oscar nomination, which he followed up with nominations for his work in American Hustle, American Sniper, and A Star is Born. As a producer, his films Joker, A Star is Born, American Sniper, and Nightmare Alley were nominated for Best Picture.
Bradley Cooper’s horror background with Midnight Meat Train paired with the gnarly sensibilities of director James Gunn to bring about Rocket Raccoon in the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. The character may be Cooper’s most iconic, but it is easy to forget that such a high-profile actor lurks beneath the CGI surface of the lovable a-hole.
Bradley Cooper will be on both sides of the camera in his upcoming film Maestro. Directed by Cooper, the biopic chronicles the life of esteemed composer Leonard Bernstein. The film, like much of Cooper’s recent work, is billed as an awards season darling, which only makes his genre roots in The Midnight Meat Train more intriguing.
The evolution of Cooper’s career is a fascinating one, and The Midnight Meat Train is an important piece of the puzzle. It stands out among his list of comedies, dramas, and action films, and the film’s troubled release leaves it begging for discovery.
Now, 15 years after its release, fans of Bradley Cooper can head to Paramount+ and ride The Midnight Meat Train all the way to the end of the bloody line.