Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Horrors of October - Nightbreed (#15)

Nightbreed (1990)

Since Shout Factory's much heralded release of the director's cut is coming up in two weeks, I wanted to check out the theatrical cut of Clive Barker's most troubled production. Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is framed for a series of mass murders, which were actually perpetuated by his own psychiatrist (David Cronenberg). Yes, the film director, not some similarly named actor. Boone's only hope for salvation is a place that has been haunting his dreams: Midian, an underground city where the monsters live. First things first, NIGHTBREED in this form is an editing nightmare. Characters jump all around, motives and current predicaments are underdeveloped, the mythos and customs of the titled race are barely explained, and despite being the protagonist of the picture, Boone is often tucked away for more scenes of his girlfriend (Anne Bobby). 20th Century Fox and Morgan Creek pretty much put a chainsaw to the project and then stitched it back up with loose threading and some dollar-store-brand superglue. Even though the producers wrecked its body, the film's heart still beats a mighty drum, hence why NIGHTBREED amassed a big cult following. The sheer scope of Midian is a massive delight, littered with a huge treasure trove of imaginative creatures, all of which get to be showcased in a lengthy walk through the community. Danny Elfman's score, though feeling a little like outtakes for a Burton pic, does expertly lift up the monster theatrics. But the true best features are Barker's own handprints. Similar to FREDDY'S REVENGE, Barker made the film to be an allegory about homosexuality, specifically the gay rights movement. Boone is clearly modeled to be James Dean circa REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (wink wink), and his main conflict is his tug-o-war between returning to "normalcy" with his girlfriend or supporting his new family of "freaks". When the police capture him later, not only is he routinely beaten and berated by the staff for his status, but even a priest taunts him for his indecency. And then, the film concludes with what best can be called a slight allusion to the camp classic JOHNNY GUITAR and a fantastical view of the Stonewall riot: a vicious war between the eclectic monsters and the redneck military force descending upon their home. NIGHTBREED deserves to be studied and more widely accepted by cinephiles; the later wish will certainly come true on October 28.


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