An Exclusive Interview with Clive Barker


On Midnight Meat Train and more!

There was no greater supporter of last year’s Midnight Meat Train than Clive Barker. And when he sensed this Ryuhei Kitamura-directed adaptation of his “Books of Blood” tale was edging precariously close to an unceremonious limited theatrical run through Lionsgate, he ran to the frontlines, with a bevy of vocal supporters, to fight for a wider release. Alas, roaring right back at the lion did very little to help matters. The film’s squeaked into bargain theaters late last summer with a whimper.

This week it will finally be seen on a wide scale when Lionsgate Home Entertainment releases Midnight Meat Train on DVD and Blu-Ray uncut boasting a commentary with Barker and Kitamura and an array of featurettes. Barker was kind enough to recently take a break from his duties on the latest “Abarat” book to talk with Like all of my conversations with this artist, our chat is a frank one that winds through many tangents (did you know he’s a huge fan of Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead”?).

Shock: In an interview on this DVD you state “There is one God in heaven, one captain of the Pequod and one director meant for this movie.” Why do you believe Kitamura’s the only man to direct Midnight Meat Train?

Barker: He’s steadfast. He’s a man who has an opinion and keeps to it. I like that. He’s an honorable man and that means a lot to me. And he’s a very straight-forward, straight-talking man, even if you don’t like the opinion he has. If you have an argument with him, at a certain point – and this is where the Pequod quote comes in – he’s the director. This is your movie, go for it. The quote actually came from Charlie Haid. Charlie came on the set of Nightbreed and said, “Only one God in heaven and one captain of the Pequod” which is, obviously a reference to “Moby Dick.” I said, “What do you mean?” And he told me, “You’re the boss, I’ll do whatever you say, man.” You know what? Charlie is willful man, but he stuck to his bloody word. That has been my attitude as a producer, that if I’m going to produce a picture for somebody, or executive produce a picture, I’m not going to try and direct it for them. If the picture is as superb at Mr. Kitamura’s is I’ll do everything I can to make sure that picture is sold properly. I had a very, very vicious exchange with Lionsgate about their theatrical f**k up regarding this picture. I remain furious and Joe Drake, the man responsible, will remain on my voodoo hit list.

Shock: Well, you had plenty of support from the horror community…

Barker: And you guys were amazing in that.

Shock: Thanks. But I have noticed the film has taken on a life of its own. People are finding it and watching it and talking about it, like an urban legend…

Barker: [laughs] The legend of the movie that would not die. That is awesome to hear. It means a lot. Now with the Blu-Ray coming along, people can find it. And this disc has an amazing, pristine image plus it’s the cut the director and myself wanted. We were able to make our comments on the commentary without being censored which was very open-hearted of Lionsgate given how uncharitable they were – well, I’ll take that back, let me say one individual within the company.

Shock: What makes this cut different than its theatrical counterpart?

Barker: I don’t want to give too much away. There are some really nice juicy things which, there is one CGI gag, is fun. I do think it goes as far as it should. I think it’s the movie that the title promised it would be. It’s called “The Midnight Meat Train” for f**k’s sake. [laughs] The first sign that something might be wrong with Lionsgate was when they asked if they could call it “The Midnight Train.” Excuse me? What was strange is that these were the people who gave us “Saw.” I assumed they would jump on this ride which was so superbly honed by Mr. Kitamura and take it for what it was worth.

Shock: You have championed this film publicly through its tough times, but what has Mr. Kitamura’s feelings been?

Barker: He moved his whole family here, Ryan. He relocated his whole life under an understanding. He threw his whole life into this picture. His passion. His knowledge and love of the genre. I think he knew damn well he made something special and when people saw it, they went nuts. We all had every reason to believe that May [of last year] was the first date they dangled in front of us. On that date, he would be the new horror guy which I think he deserves to be and hopefully when this DVD comes out, he will be that guy. I’m going to read into something, and this is me being a pop psychologist, I think his anger goes so deep he just doesn’t unleash it. If he started he wouldn’t know where to stop. I went through that.

Shock: Now we’re tripping down bad memory lane…

Barker: You’re right and that should maybe be the end of it. It’s said, it’s done and we’re now in a whole new world.

Shock: What I’m surprised is not on this solid DVD presentation is some of the early concept art I recall seeing on the set.

Barker: I don’t know why they’re not there. Those might have been choices made by Mr. Kitamura. I’m now in “Abarat” land and have been for a while. I went in and saw the cut with him and did the commentary. Our interview is the first I’ve talked about the DVD. I think they did a great job packaging the picture. The box looks great, everything is right. I want to support it.

Shock: With the advent of Blu-Ray, everything is being freshened up and Anchor Bay is prepping a Hellraiser Blu – did you have anything to do with that or are they allowed to run with it without you’re involvement?

Barker: Oh, they can run with it and all of those things. I would hope they would be able to refresh it. I’d be interested in seeing what’s in the vaults – the early cuts of Hellraiser. No one has ever investigated that.

Shock: I was on the set of Dread last fall and things were looking superb on that.

Barker: I’ve seen the movie and it’s still in progress but, God, [director] Anthony DiBlasi’s style is as different at Kitamura’s is. They’re stylists in their own way. But DiBlasi’s style is almost documentarian. He’s invisible and you feel like a voyeur. The performers are just in the moment, the scene with the girl and the meat is just…I think something very special is coming down the track and I’m glad you were able to witness it first-hand. The closest thing I can say about DiBlasi’s style is Friedkin. I’m talking William Friedkin of The French Connection, of The Exorcist. The actors are not acting, they’re being. All I know is he made f**kin’ immaculate calls on the casting. Nobody looks movie perfect. There’s no prettification, there’s a dirty frame to every scene. Nothing’s clean. And again, you’re the voyeur and I’m bloody impressed.

For more with Barker, click here to read what he has to say about a Midnight Meat Train trilogy.

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor