Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Clive Barker's Nightbreed

The real monsters were the humans we met along the way

What's it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Nightbreed" also known as "Clive Barker's Nightbreed" (Morgan Creek Entertainment, 1990). Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is just your all-Canadian boy, eh? What a giver: He works at a garage in Cowtown welding all day, then comes home to his smoking hot girlfriend Lori Winston (Anne Bobby).

Yah, they knock boots, eh?

But he's been having problems lately, eh? He's been having dreams of strange creatures cavorting in a land called Midian. He's so out of it when he wakes up that even his Timmy Ho's double-double can't make his mood skookum.
Boone's dreams.

His hoser of a psychiatrist, Dr. Phillip Decker (Davide Cronenberg), shows him photos of families that have been killed by an as-of-yet unidentified serial slasher, then accuses Boone of being a strange brew!
So damn creepy.

He gives Boone some pills and implies that they're an antipsychotic, but really they're hallucinogenic. In a stupor, Boone gets hit by a truck and hospitalized, where he meets Narcisse (Hugh Ross), a real strange brew who keeps talking aboot Midan. He tells Boone where Midian is, then cuts part of his face off like a hose-head while Boone pitter-patters. Soon Boone is at the gates of a cemetery called Midian, where he meets its occupants: A diverse collection of monsters who call themselves "The Tribes of the Moon," or "Nightbreed," various species of creatures who have been wiped out by a hateful humanity. They call Boone a keener then pitter-patter chase him out of the gate after biting him.
Man, Mac Tonight really let himself go, eh?

He's confronted by Decker and the police, whereupon Decker sets Boone up to get shot, eh?
Ooh, tough luck, eh?

Thanks to the monster bite the "late" Boone is soon upright and skookum, and joins the other monsters in Midian.
They even have a cute ceremony for him and everything.

Lori, still smitten with Boone, follows the trail that leads to Midian, closely followed by Decker, who alerts the police. The discovery of Midian soon leads to the threat of its destruction. Can Boone save the Nightbreed from the hateful humans and the psychotic Decker? Can he, eh?

Some background

This film was directed by British horror author Clive Barker, and was based on his "novel," "Cabal." I use the word novel in quotes because I have read the book, which is an anthology and the story "Cabal" is more of an extended short story rather than a standalone book. Apparently he decided to make it a movie (that he would direct) right after writing the novel. Clive Barker is notable because he had already written and directed the horror film "Hellraiser" to great commercial success. The studio, Morgan Creek, however, put heavy restrictions on Barker to produce a "rated R" film rather than an unrated movie. This meant that the amount of gore and violence in the film is considerably less than his previous film. As such it didn't get as much commercial success, and only became a cult film after coming to VHS and cable TV.

Full disclosure: I've read both the book and seen the theatrical version of the film before.

The bad

Let's get the bad out of the way first: The story is incredibly simple. From a dialogue and scripting standpoint it's nothing overly spectacular (it is, however, entirely serviceable).

Also, Lori gives out intense "Karen" energy.

The creature designs seem a bit lazy overall, but this is more because of the time restraints put on the design crew and the limited budget.
Most are just body paint and facial prosthetics.

It's not going to dazzle you with amazing effects, but there is some imagination present. There are changes from the book, and the book's description of the monsters is much more creative and exciting than anything you'll see here. The original theatrical version is especially truncated and feels less developed, and it seems that's because a great deal of the incidental character scenes were left on the cutting room floor.

The good

Now for the good. I like this film. It's certainly cheesy, but not insulting. The version I watched tonight is either "The Directors Cut" or "The Cabal Cut," which restores much of the dark humor, and some minor changes which make the story a bit more cohesive. The body-horror creature effects range from bland to pretty good, and despite the limited budget there's quite a lot to see here.

Lori finds a baby shapeshifter. "Can I keep her? Huh?"

There's even a few stop-motion monsters, but only for a few seconds.

The acting is good enough for the type of movie that it is, but the show is really stolen by the film's villains, namely Decker -- the filmmakers seemed to find a way to make director David Cronenberg even more creepy (quite the accomplishment).
The mask is both spooky and as described in the book.

Charles Haid plays police captain and illegal militia leader Captain Eigerman with sadistic aplomb.
He seems less Canadian and more American, if I'm being honest.

Malcolm Smith plays the troubled Reverend Ashberry, who is a sympathetic character until… well, the less said the better. Care was put into the design of the Midian set, and there are some impressive composition shots even if the matte paintings are obvious.

This graveyard comp shot even has a few moving elements.

The set seems really large.

The last third of the film is a giant battle between monsters, militiamen, and berserker hulks where much of the budget is devoted to pyrotechnics, so despite the faults it's still an exciting time.
Huh. The real monsters were the humans.

No, wait... The real monsters were the monsters. Remember kids: It's okay to be sadistic if the other person is mean.

The soundtrack was written by Danny Elfman, fresh on the heels of Tim Burton's "Batman," so it's prime meat for Elfman fans.

Not for kiddies

This is a rated R film, and that's a rather hard R, I'm afraid. Young children shouldn't watch this in any capacity, as there is lots of nudism, gore, and nightmare-inducing body horror.

Ugh. Monster boobies. ...   ...  ...  What was I writing about?

In fact, if you're an adult without a stomach for these things and can't get past it, you should avoid it as well. There is some strong language, but that's far from the most significant aspect of this.

Where can you watch it?

As of this review, various cuts of the film are currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Peacock, Plex, Pluto TV, Shout! Factory TV, The Roku Channel, and Tubi, so if you're curious, you can check it out.

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