Monday, March 31, 2008

What's In a Name?

As any half informed cinema goer know, there are a lot of big movies coming out this summer: Indy 4, The Dark Night, Speed Racer, and Hellboy II just to name a few. So what's a smaller budget, low star wattage film supposed to do to stand out in this crowd of eagerly awaited sequels and highly anticipated mega-budget franchise starters? Why not try having the most ridiculous title of any film in recent memory? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Midnight Meat Train

The world of horror films has a rich tradition of long and/or overly descriptive titles. Titles like The Brain The Wouldn't Die, Night of the Living Dead, I Spit On Your Grave, The People Under the Stairs, Frankenhooker and most notably The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which is seriously high in the running for my favorite movie title of all time). It's been a while since a horror film has played to that tradition. The Texas Chainsaw remakes aside, most horror movies these days opt for titles that are only one or two words long. Saw, Hostile, The Descent. Evocative words, sure, but they don't tell you much about the movies themselves. Granted Frankenhooker is just one word, but I'm pretty sure that even if you haven't seen it, the movie you're concocting in your head right now is a close approximation. All I have to do is fill in the details that Frankenhooker is trying to be a black comedy, and there isn't nearly as much sex or nudity as you might think/hope, and you'll probably be able to describe entire sequences to me sight unseen. On the other hand, try telling me what the movie Saw is about without seeing it. Is it a horror film about two men chained to pipes in a gross basement who have to saw their own limbs off if they want to escape or is it a touching drama about gay lumberjacks in the Yukon? Fuck if I know. The title isn't telling me anything. Rocker turned director Rob Zombie had been on a roll with his first two films. Say what you will about their overall qualtiy, but look me in the eyes and tell me that House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects aren't great titles. But then Zombie went and remade Halloween, the movie that probably did more than any other to popularize short, vague titles for horror films.

I appreciate the effort on the part of the makers of Midnight Meat Train to give their film an inventive, memorable title (which I believe comes from the original Clive Barker short story on which the film is based), but come on. Midnight Meat Train isn't so much descriptive or evocative as it is silly. It gives me giggles instead of chills. "Midnight Meat Train" sounds more like the name of a locomotive themed gay bar than a horror film.

In other news, MMT was directed by Japanese filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura. Among other genre fare, he is known internationally for directing Godzilla: Final Wars. I leave you today with this clip from Final Wars in which classic, rubber suit, Japanese Godzilla fights shitty, CGI, American Godzilla. Three guesses who wins.

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