Clive Barker, 1990
Starring: Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charles Haid, Doug Bradley
Written and directed by Clive Barker, Nightbreed is one of those magically nostalgic films that seeped its way into my consciousness at an early age. Though the film is far from perfect, it's a lovely, melancholic fairytale full of monsters, prophecies, and other worlds where gods and magic still exist. I think it's probably what Pan's Labyrinth is trying to be, but for an earlier generation. I love it. If you haven't seen it yet, don't expect insane wonders, because I am, at least a little, reviewing it through the rose colored glasses of childhood and those special formative film-viewing years.
Based on Clive Barker's novella Cabal, the film relates the tale of Boone (the Stephen Dorff-esque Craig Sheffer), a troubled young man with even more troubling nightmares. In his extremely vivid dreams, Boone looses all sense of time and visits a strange town called Midian, which is populated by monsters and bizarre creatures called the Nightbreed. Boone seeks out the help of a psychiatrist, Decker (the terrifying David Cronenberg), who is actually a psychotic serial killer slaughtering whole families at a time.
Decker pins the crimes on Boone, who flees, frightened and confused. Only his loyal girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) believes he is innocent. He runs to where he thinks he will find Midian, located underneath a cemetery out in the country. Followed by Decker and Lori, he finds something he only half hoped was real: the monster world of his dreams. He struggles to find a place among them and wonders why he has been called there, while trying to protect Lori and Midian from true evil at the same time.
When the film was released it was something of a disaster. It was given a large budget, five times that of Hellraiser, but it was poorly promoted and suffered from a lot of cuts to Barker's initial print. In the original trailer they took out all reference to the monsters and made it seem like some sort of slasher film. Apparently Clive Barker flipped a shit and I don't blame him. The original cut, which was allegedly about two and half hours long, was cut down to a scant hour and forty minutes after Barker went back in and shot additional footage to solve some continuity problems.
There are great effects for the time period, a magical set, a good Danny Elfman score and lovely costumes. As I mentioned, the script has some development and continuity problems, but character does comes through strongly, particularly the love story. It's full of wonder and sadness that I think is probably further developed in the full director's cut. A "lost" version was recently found on VHS that contains an hour of the missing footage. It was shown last year at a horror convention and I'm hoping sometime soon we'll get to see a commercial release of this, or at least something available to audiences. Some of this extra footage is up on Clive's Revelations website.
I'm reviewing the bare bones DVD release. Hopefully something new and wonderful will replace it in the next two years or at least they'll give it a proper plastic case and not that cardboard piece of shit I have on my shelf now.
Update: Shout Factory kindly released the Director's Cut on DVD and Blu-ray, which was also streaming on Netflix for a time. It's great to finally be able to see the complete film, which fills out much of the story, even if it doesn't resolve all the film's flaws.