Nightbreed (1990)


(director/writer: Clive Barker; screenwriter: from the novel Cabal: The Nightbreed by Clive Barker; cinematographer: Robin Vidgeon; editors: Richard Marden/Mark Goldblatt; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Craig Sheffer(Aaron Boone), David Cronenberg (Dr. Decker), Anne Bobby (Lori), Charles Haid(Captain Eigerman), Hugh Quarshie (Detective Joyce), Debora Weston (Sheryl Ann), Malcolm Smith(Father Ashberry), Hugh Ross (Narcisse), Simon Bamford (Ohnaka), Doug Bradley (Lylesburg), Catherine Chevalier (Rachel), Oliver Parker (Peloquin), Bob Sessions (Pettine), Kimmy Robertson (Babette), Nina Robertson (Babette); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Gabriella Martinelli; Warner Home Video; 1990)

“The pic remains passable only as a work that is all style and no substance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a hodgepodge as a horror pic, but is lovable for its colorful visuals, creative monster designs created by the director himself and an imaginative depiction of sympathetic monsters as nicer than the so-called normal folks–a rational psychiatrist, an overzealous police chief and a hateful group of police. Too bad the main protagonists–Craig Sheffer and Anne Bobby– are so bland, the many monster are not fully developed as memorable characters, that the story line drifts into long dull stretches and never becomes fully involving, and the dialogue is so trite. British born but LA living noted best-selling horror author, writer-director Clive Barker (“Hellraiser”/”Lord of Illusions”),attempts to make an intelligent lyrical horror pic, a rarity indeed, showing how everyone has a freakish side and that the normals if hypocritical are even worse than those working for the forces of darkness. Barker fails to provide any convincing reasons for us to believe his questionable message. Also, the complexities of the subplots, stretching far afield into Old Testament turf, never become clear or fully drawn out and the pic remains passable only as a work that is all style and no substance.

Hunky twenty-something motorcycle black leather jacket wearing Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), seemingly a rock character out of the 1950s, is seeing a psychiatrist over his nightmares. Boone’s girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) suggests he tell his shrink, Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg, noted Canadian director), about the recurrence of his bad dreams. That turns out to be a bad idea, as the psychopathic Decker convinces Boone he’s the serial killer plaguing their Canadian town with a number of grizzly slayings, even though he can’t recall doing the killings, and to surrender to the police. The trouble is that Decker is the serial killer, who is on a mission to kill off the undead and Boone means nothing to him but a chance to get at his enemy. Boone in a panic escapes from the hospital and the police to the place of his dreams, the mythical city of Midian (mentioned in the OT as a place Moses said should be destroyed for being so evil). Boone finds there a cemetery, where below the ground live strange looking monsters who are undead and exist eternally as shape-shifters called the Nightbreed. They can only be killed by the sun light, which therefore means they are not eternal. When the police are about to recapture Boone outside the cemetery after he meets the monsters and is rejected by them as a natural (human), Decker interferes with Inspector Joyce’s (Hugh Quarshie) arrest plans and thereby causes the police to unnecessarily gun him down. But the Nightbreeders resurrect Boone as one of them, and when the racist police chief, pumped up by the hateful Decker, leads a genocidal police raid of the monsters’ subterranean lair it forces Boone to become the defender of the Nightbreed and he’s reunited with Lori–who still loves him, even if he looks like a monster.

With a more accomplished director, such asCronenberg, more trimming of story line and reduction of characters, and less interference from the studio (they did a hatchet job on the film), this could have been a much better pic. The pic’s disappointing box office removed any chance for follow-up films and the beginning of a series on the Nightbreed, as desired by Barker.