PLOT: Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is being blamed for murders he didn’t commit and eventually finds refuge in the underground city of Midian, a place where “monsters” go to hide. Thing is; who are the true monsters here? The freaks or us? We find out pretty damn fast...
REVIEW: With the advent of SCREAM FACTORY’s NIGHTBREED THE DIRECTOR’S CUT being blessed our way on October 28, 2014 I decided to re-visit the compromised theatrical cut of NIGHTBREED (based on Barker’s 1988 novel Cabal). It should be said that I hadn’t seen the film for at least 10 years if not more and it was a pretty groovy to experience it again with fresh eyes. MORGAN CREEK advertized NIGHTBREED as a slasher at the time (with a poster that ripped off the one from BAD DREAM...idiots) and the mainstream critics tore the movie a new poop-shoot upon its initial release in 1990; and looking at it now, I still don’t get it.
Putting the post production woes of the film aside (i.e. the Studio snipping the flick down and having Barker re-shoot some stuff); the theatrical cut as-is is still a solid movie. The flick sported likeable lead characters (well acted by Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, a dubbed Doug Bradley etc), a mucho chilling villain (director David Cronenberg aced it and that mask was killer) and an endearing mix of horror and fantasy. It is said that Barker’s goal was to create the “Star Wars” of horror films and in my useless opinion he succeeded. I believed in the unique world he created here, the slew of likeable “monsters” that populated it and the gripping mythology that came with all of it.
Here the outcasts, the “freaks” if you will were the more humane ones and the ‘regular people” were the true monsters. That particular theme hit hard and acted as a biting metaphor for the varied forms of discrimination we find in our fairly pathetic, insecurity driven and judgemental society. Technically; Barker gunned out an atmospheric film, with often kinetic camera moves (props to DP Robin Vidgeon for his fine work). The score by Danny Elfman was ideal and captured the wonder, horror and sadness found in this tale. The practical FX were on the money as well even by today’s standards (for the most part that is, some haven’t aged well, like that dude in a blubber suit) and the creature designs were novel to say the least.
Add to all that some moments of circumstantial humor that hit the spot (mostly from Narcisse, brilliantly played by Hugh Ross ), a last act that I always find really hard to watch and some interesting connections to Biblical text (for example in the good book Midian was the place Moses exiled himself to and chit-chatted with that bush) and you get an ambitious and always compelling film. Dare I say that this one was ahead of its time!
On the flipside; come the second half of the picture, the chain of events was fairly rushed which lessened the impact of some of the turns. The film also sported a handful of plot holes (with the glaring one being; Why is Boone still hanging at Median if he got booted out for breaking “the law”?) and was it me or did Decker disappear during the final act just to reappear for the end mano-et mano? Moreover, gore was lacking here and I don’t blame Barker for that one. In the late 80's and the early 90’s the MPAA was going chop-chop happy on horror films (see Friday the 13th Part 7 or 8 for other examples) and they made it hard for Barker to nab that R Rating. How things have changed...lol! Lastly I didn’t care for the ending when I saw the film in theaters in and I didn’t care for it now. I have no idea how the Director’s Cut caps off but I have a hard time believing it can worse than this.
All in all; NIGHTBREED made for an ideal October watch and should hit the spot for y'all this Halloween. It’s a shame it didn’t do better at the Box Office as I would have loved to dig into more cinematic Nightbreed adventures (at least we got the comic books and them two videogames). I am ready to see the Director’s Cut now! BRING IT!
BEST TNA SCENE: It would have be to the bit when that Breed gal (who can change into smoke), reveals herself (topless) to a cop to seduce him and then kill him.
BEST GORE BIT: Like I said, the flick was severly trimmed down in terms of the graphic violence. But even as-is, I always wince when that dude starts cutting his face off and I dug that severed head.
HALLOWEEN DRINKING GAME: Have a shot every time somebody says Midian. You’ll be hammered in no time!