Friday, October 11, 2013


Every horrorhound's favorite month is upon us, and to celebrate, I'll be dishing out a personal pick from the genre for every day in October. Some will be obvious and rather unoriginal (sorry that I like movies other people like), while some will be a little more oddball and off-the-wall. Some may even challenge your idea of what constitutes a "horror" movie. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the month with some good movies, even if they aren't ones I recommend!

Today's Pick: Nightbreed (1990)

Horror and fantasy are some of the hardest genres to sell to the public, especially if the property isn't an established entity. Blending the genres together makes things even harder, but that's what visionary writer/director Clive Barker attempted to do with Nightbreed, an adaptation of his own novella, "Cabal." It's too bad that the people in charge of marketing Nightbreed didn't know what to do with it, because there's a very unique and artistic flare to this film that is fairly uncommon in the horror genre.

Boone (Craig Sheffer) is a social outcast who keeps having dreams of a hidden place called Midian, where monsters roam freely. His psychiatrist, Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg. Yes, the one and only) convinces him that these dreams are hallucinations that cover up murderous impulses that Boone has been acting upon. Eventually, Boone discovers that Midian is a real place and joins forces with the creatures that inhabit it, becoming a magically imbued beast himself. Decker, however, wants to find Midian and destroy the monsters living there. This can only lead to an all-out battle between the Nightbreed and the malicious forces of man.

The ideas at play in Nightbreed are beautifully elemental. The creatures of Midian are supposed to be the last of their kind, and their kind have existed throughout the centuries as vampires, werewolves and other supernatural forces from human legend. It's humanity's persecution and massacre of their brood that has led them to cowering beneath a cemetery. This immediately makes the monsters our sympathetic heroes, even though some of them are downright terrifying and vicious. The film also plays with our subconscious desire to be more than we are, or as the film says, to transform. It's primal stuff that feels exceptionally literate for this kind of picture. Guess that happens when you have an award-winning author as your writer/director.

If you look at Clive Barker's feature directorial efforts as a trilogy, Nightbreed definitely feels like his The Empire Strikes Back. It's much more expansive with its mythology, it's dealing with darker and meaner themes (believe it or not, this film is actually darker than Hellraiser, in terms of the worldview and character motivations it presents. Plus, there's a kid murder in the first ten minutes), and it feels like it wants to be bigger and better than what came before. It mostly works, but there is a fundamental problem with the film: the current available version is not Barker's intended cut. This makes a lot of the editing feel jumpy and rushed, and the plot and characters suffer accordingly. Thankfully, Clive Barker's director's cut will be coming to us next year (just a year short of the film's 25th anniversary), and that will reinstate almost an hour(!) of excised footage.

Even in its compromised state, Nightbreed is still outstanding in its field and deserves a viewing, even if just to compare it to the eventual director's cut. It's definitely flawed, but in all the most beautiful ways. The ambition and artistry of the film make it something special, and its obvious love of the things that hide in the shadows will make any denizen of the dark feel right at home. Much more than his other cinematic outings, Nightbreed feels like the best version of what goes on inside the horrifyingly beautiful mind of Clive Barker. Now, if we can just get that The Thief of Always film. Fingers crossed for a traditionally animated version!

What's on the horizon for tomorrow's pick? Well, I promise that you won't be able to "see" it coming *wink wink*.

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