Much of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN was filmed on trains, both real trains at several downtown Los Angeles County Metro Rail stations, and fixed train cars situated on stage at the film’s stage and office base in Sun Valley near Burbank.
Two Metro stations were utilized for the practical train sequences in the film, notably the ultra modern Los Angeles City College station underground at Santa Monica & Vermont, which provided the setting for the confrontation between Leon and a group of gangbangers on an escalator. In those scenes he rescues a young Asian woman played by Norika Sato, who is also the star of director Ryuhei Kitamura’s recent LOVEDEATH. The other stations was the MTA Redline station on 5th and Hill.
A warehouse with an old train platform in San Pedro was the location for the deserted subway platform located beneath the meat plant.
On stage in Sun Valley, the filmmakers brought in two full-size train cars that were placed on a rocking gimbal to simulate the train’s movement. As a note of trivia, these train cars were also utilized in scenes featuring Doc Ock in SPIDER-MAN 2.
For the train sequences, Oscar®-winning prosthetic effects designer Matthew Mungle (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA) was charged with creating all the prosthetic effects. For the three-time Oscar® nominee who currently does all the special makeup effects for “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” the allure of this movie was because it was creature-oriented. “I hadn't really done a creature movie for a long time, so I thought it would be a good chance to do something like that again,” Mungle notes.
For Mungle and his team, the main part of his job was to create the bodies of Mahogany’s victims on the train. “We did a lot of nude bodies,” Mungle says. “Initially, it was as if they were skinned down to the musculature. Then the filmmakers changed it, and the bodies were just nude, hanging upside down. So it actually became harder to do that than it would have been to just do the skinned and the musculature because we were just going to take regular bodies, foldable, pose-able bodies and just build them up with muscles. But they changed it to completely nude bodies, so we had to start from scratch, casting actors that production supplied to us, the bottom halves and then the upper torsos, so we could put them together and make them seamless. It became a little bit more difficult for us, but in the end it worked out great.”
One of the more intricate effects designs was when Mahogany decapitates a female tourist on the train. “You don't see the actual decapitation, but you see the aftermath of the head laying there, the body pumping the blood, the hand twitching,” Mungle notes. “So we took a stock body and added the neck and the twitching hand, and cast the actress' head to make a duplicate head of her with her eyes open and her mouth open in a screaming position.”
Emanating from a story collection entitled Books of Blood, it’s not surprising that the filmmakers used gallons upon gallons of fake blood in Mahogany’s killing train. “I honestly think that there is more blood in this film than I’ve ever seen in a horror movie,” Vinnie Jones states. “They’re just bringing in gallons and gallons and throwing it around. Every time in the fight scenes we’re hitting and there’s blood splattering everywhere and it’s really uncomfortable to work with. But you just got to keep telling yourself ‘it’s all for the fun of the end product,” because it’s messy as hell in there!”
In addition to the dark, sinister settings of Mahogany’s apartment and the various train stations, Mahogany carries with him a satchel embroidered with his name and filled with all kinds of devilish killing instruments. “He carries this briefcase around and that has his tools in it, but number one weapon is this big steel hammer,” says Vinnie Jones. “That’s how he starts everything off -- he whacks ‘em with that and then all hell breaks loose.”
Mahogany’s bag was designed by property master John Keim, based on its description from the Clive Barker short story. “The bag started its life as a US Air Force issue bag,” Keim offers, “and I redesigned it based on a veterinarian's bag from the 1800s.” According to Keim, inside the bag he placed everything the well-tooled psycho killer would have in his bag. “I've got the ankle hook with which you can pierce the victims and hang them up in the air. And then you just whip out your knife and carve their skin. Plenty of knives in here for any direction you want to go! We’ve got a real steel hammer as well as several rubber hammers of different weights with which to smash people and things. We even have hammers that don't have heads on them, so that when it goes through a person's skull, the visual effects guys will just add the upper half of the hammer. We've got the fingernail puller and a lot of different pulling devices. There’s even an eyeball separator puller-outer.”
A large artist’s studio in the mid-city area of Los Angeles served as the prestigious downtown art space where gallerist Susan Hoff, played by Brooke Shields, offers Leon inclusion of his edgy photographs into a prominent group show. For the gallery scene, many of the paintings hanging in the space are the works of Clive Barker. “The producers asked me if I would like to put some paintings into the gallery scene, and I said, ‘Hey, why not?,’” Barker recalls. The film’s art director chose the pictures from Barker’s seven hundred-picture collection based on which ones were tonally right for the movie.
Other locations included various city streets and alleyways in downtown Los Angeles, as well as the exterior of Main Street’s Hotel Barclay, that portrays Mahogany’s hotel in the film; Quality Café in downtown Los Angeles portrayed Otto’s restaurant, and Manning Beef, a meat packing plant in Pico Rivera provided the locale for the plant where Mahogany works.