I’ll be honest with you, the first time I saw CLIVE BARKER’S NIGHTBREED I didn’t really get it. I loved the beginning and most of the middle, but by the end the movie had lost me. I was simply unconvinced; sections seemed implausible or downright ridiculous. The whole thing was just too fantastic and weird for me. Some of the monsters were “cool” but a couple I thought were pretty damn lame.
The truth is, it was I who was lame. I just wasn’t ready to let go of my slasher expectations and go with the flow. CLIVE had created something so unusual and original that I automatically withdrew because it wasn’t what I expected. The sad thing is that the movie is pretty much about idiots like the one I used to be, who, rather than take a second to try to understand something, reject it outright just because is different.
The good news is that I eventually grew the hell up and my mind expanded. Eventually I became worthy of appreciating NIGHTBREED for the flawed but brilliant film it is. It was all there all the time (well, at least the parts that were not jettisoned by an apathetic FOX studios). All I had to do was settle the hell down and listen, rather than try to direct the film psychically from my theater chair.
Based on his novella CABAL, and adapted by BARKER himself, NIGHTBREED tells the tale of Aaron Boone (CRAIG SHEFFER), a tortured soul who has been having dreams of a subterranean hive of variant monsters and phantasmic ghoulies . Having been convinced by his cold as an ice pick psychiatrist that he is responsible for the death of innocents, Boone, rather than fearing the monster world, yearns to find solace amongst societal rejects.
Boone’s psychiatrist is played by, none other than, director DAVID CRONENBERG, and perhaps it is he who I should place the blame on for dampening the rest of the picture for me. Speaking in monotones that make the computer from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY seem emotionally hysterical and often slipping into an awesome button-eyed, zipper-mouthed bag mask, my fascination with this character was so fervent that anytime he was off screen I was basically twiddling my mental thumbs awaiting his return. Furthermore, his character’s name, Dr. Philip K. Decker, was a nod to the brain behind BLADE RUNNER so I was pretty much on cloud nine or should I say cloud nerd. Honestly, none of the other characters stood a chance with me.
Well there is a lot more going on in NIGHTBREED that I might have noticed if I did not have hearts in my eyes for the psychopathic main villain (who, by the way, is a total dickhead and whose mask of normalcy and blatant hypocrisy is the true evil presence in the movie). Many see NIGHTBREED as openly gay BARKER’s coming out story and he backs that idea as well (We’re here, we have extendable centipede arms, get used to it!). BARKER allows us access to a world of bizarre characters that, as it turns out, are not quite as monstrous as the accepted “normal” people who are bent on destroying them. In the end our pal Boone is required to embrace his differences in order to gain power from them (in other words, let his freak flag fly). Really this tale works for anybody gay or straight who at one time or another has felt different, like an outsider or somehow not complete (I’m looking at you entire world -don’t try to front!) Certainly all that is enough for a little monster movie but wait there’s more…
NIGHTBREED is a great love story (Clive’s CABAL even more so). Lori (ANNE BOBBY), Boone’s faithful girlfriend, in my opinion, is the real catalyst for all the action that takes place here. Her image might not be painted on the prophecy walls in the underground Oz, but it’s her and Boone’s mutual acceptance and regard for each other that is really steering this ship. Lori’s love is unconditional and she can give a crap about the weirdoes her man has been hanging out with lately, and Boone risks rejection by his new crew when he can’t stand by and watch her die at the hands of his hyper clinical, sick-o shrink. Aww shucks, I’m getting ferklemp again! Anyways, I was hoping these two knuckle head love birds would make it work. To quote my pal Nini, “Love conquers Biology!”
NIGHTBREED, thanks to studio interference (over 20 minutes of BARKER’s director’s cut was chopped out), a half-assed ad campaign (which reused an image from the poster from BAD DREAMS), and dumb-dumb audience members like myself, was a bit of a flop. It’s too bad because even though it is in no way perfect, it’s still a great tale. So I guess this review is really more of a public apology…
NIGHTBREED I’m sorry I threw you out, I’m sorry I sided with that dickhead Decker and if it’s not too late, I’m ready to embrace your wonderful, absolutely unique monstrousness!