Why Clive Barker's Nightbreed Deserves a Second Chance

nightbreed Clive Barker€™s Nightbreed was released in 1990 and promptly died a death at the box office. Since then it has enjoyed cult status and is revered by its die-hard fanbase. The story revolves around the character of Aaron Boone who dreams about monsters and the place where they live called Midian. He consults a psychiatrist, Decker, about the dreams but unfortunately Decker also happens to be a serial killer who frames Boone for a series of murders. Boone goes looking for Midian and discovers that his dreams are true and the monsters really do exist. However the police aren€™t far behind him and he gets gunned down thanks to the treacherous Decker. Coming back as one of the Nightbreed Boone gets reanimated and returns to live in Midian. His girlfriend, Lori, not believing the story told to her by the police, starts investigating Boone€™s death and she too makes her way to Midian. She finds Boone along with his new €œfamily€. Decker follows her, intent on killing Boone and the Nightbreed with him. Enlisting the help of the local Sheriff and his gang of rednecks, he launches an all out assault on Midian, with guns, flame throwers, rocket launchers and explosives. The Nightbreed fight back but their home is ultimately destroyed. nightbreed2 The story is based on a novella called Cabal. Published a couple of years before the film it expands on the events portrayed therein. Clive Barker wrote the book and directed the film as he did with his other seminal horror film/book, Hellraiser/Hellbound Heart. Barker is very good at creating alternate worlds and realities. You only need to look at some of his artwork to appreciate that. These artistic sensibilities pervade his film work and you can see his dark imagination come to life in the world of Midian. One of the things that really stands out about Nightbreed is the sheer amount and variety of the creatures on view. Similar to Joss Whedon€™s recent Cabin in the Woods, which has practically every nightmare you€™ve ever had appear on screen, albeit briefly, the creatures that live in Midian may sometimes only appear for a few seconds but you€™ll certainly remember them and wish you could see them again. Each one is unique and, in the case of those that are developed into full characters, have their own distinct personalities. I would love to do what Lori does in the film and just go wandering from room to room looking at the various inhabitants. I don€™t know exactly how many monsters were created for the film, possibly up to 200, but the sheer scale of the production must have meant a lot of work for sometimes only a little payoff, but you do get the feeling that Midian is a living, breathing and vibrant place as a result. One other positive worthy of mention is the musical score by Danny Elfman which helps to evoke the tribal theme that runs through the film. The Nightbreed are described as the Tribes of the Moon, survivors of races almost driven to extinction by mankind. Elfman, responsible for composing some of the best scores out there, is perfectly matched to the air of anarchy in this film and his score, though hard to find, is well worth checking out. nightbreed3 The film suffered as it did for several reasons. First, and probably foremost, the film studio didn€™t understand what they had. Nightbreed isn€™t an easy film to pigeon-hole into a specific genre. Fantasy-horror would probably be most apt but even then that causes problems. The horror isn€™t caused by the monsters. The real monsters in the film are us €“ the human beings who destroy and persecute anything we don€™t understand or that€™s different from us. The Nightbreed are actually the good guys, only wanting to be left in peace. As a result of studio meddling, the film was hacked and butchered from Barker€™s original vision with approximately 40 minutes of footage cut. This lead to some very choppy editing and a lot of the story being removed, so the narrative sometimes feels rushed or doesn€™t make sense. When it came to promoting the film, again the studio made mistakes. They marketed it as a slasher movie which is tantamount to false advertising! The infamous poster showing a woman€™s wide-eyed expression coupled with the words, €œLori thought she knew everything about her boyfriend. Lori was wrong!€ would be fine if this were a film about a serial killer say, but there must have been a lot of confused and disappointed people who, based on that poster, went to see the film. The story in both the book and the film isn€™t resolved and in fact Nightbreed was intended to be the first part of a trilogy but due to its poor performance any sequels were shelved. The movie ends on a great cliff-hanger and it cries out for some sort of resolution that isn€™t likely to be forthcoming. There is currently an effort underway to get the film restored to Clive Barker€™s original vision. The footage that was removed has been found and put back into the film for what has now become known as the Cabal Cut. The found footage is unfortunately only VHS quality and so very poor but Morgan Creek could possibly be open to releasing a DVD/Blu-ray of the new cut of the movie if demand is high enough. Various screenings at film festivals have already taken place and there is a petition available to sign on www.occupymidian.com. With a bit of luck and perseverance, this neglected film may finally get the care and attention it deserves.
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