Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: Nightbreed


Following the obvious success of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II Clive Barker brought audiences a very different film with his second feature as director, Nightbreed. Based on his novella, Cabal, Nightbreed is a unique, interesting and underrated film.

The late 1980's saw the rise of the modern horror franchise. Movie monsters like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees had become heroes of sorts. The audience went to see them do what they do. Clive's own Hellraiser (and later Candyman) had already begun heading in this direction. Nightbreed, however, does things differently. In Nightbreed, the monsters literally are the heroes.

There are some very fantastic, very imaginative creatures on display in Nightbreed. Truly striking visual designs, but with a master at the helm, there is obviously far more to the film than that. This film plays brilliantly with the established connections of "good" and "evil". In Nightbreed, the more monstrous looking characters are generally the most innocent and kindhearted. Generally. But there are humans in this film capable of far worse than many of the Nightbreed.

The film focuses on a man named Boone (Craig Scheffer) who dreams of a mysterious land called Midian. He knows nothing of this place, only that he has to find it. But, it confuses him, leading him to doubt himself. His psychiatrist, Decker (played brilliantly by astounding director David Cronenberg) has him convinced that he has committed horrific murders, that he is losing his mind. In reality, Decker himself is the killer, also pursuing Midian. As the film goes on, Boone is shot down by the police. His pursuit continues, eventually finding Midian and the creatures (called Nightbreed) that inhabit it. He is their leader. He is Cabal. Essentially, the police catch up and find Midian out, leading to a sort of war between the humans and the "freaks".

Nightbreed is a truly imaginative, completely original film, at times incredibly frightening (thank you, David Cronenberg). The human characters can become incredibly vicious, in particular the sheriff and Decker, who believes he is cleansing the world by removing the physically abnormal. The Nightbreed often look nightmarish, but the audience can much more easily connect with them. This is in part due to the fantastic visual/make up effects and obviously due to the writing and directing of Clive Barker. Doug Bradley is also noticeable in a non-Pinhead role.

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