Directed by Clive Barker, 1990
The ’80s/early ’90s were easily the glory days of horror. It was a time when true imagination was on the screen. Material actual felt original back then. It didn’t feel processed. It didn’t feel engineered. It felt right.
Even the sequels felt original. I’ll take a Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors over 98% of the crap that comes out these days. You can watch these movies 20 years later and its still blatantly obvious that the people behind these pictures really loved what they were doing. This was when horror was fun.
And Nightbreed is fun as hell.
Clive Barker has an amazing nack for blending fantasy with horror. I’m not a diehard fan of Hellraiser, but I love everything he did in that movie with the Cenobites and their mythology. He showed a real talent for creating very solid, full boned creature characters. But the Cenobites have got nothing on the ensemble mutant cast of Nightbreed. The nightbreed themselves are the mutated outcasts of society who have been shunned and murdered throughout all of history. The remaining freaks have formed an underground societ, located under a cemetery called Midian in the mountains.
Boone, who bears a weird resemblance to David Boreanaz, is seeing a psychologist, Decker, for his hauntingly realistic and repetitive dreams of Midian. Turns out the doctor, who is actually played by David Cronenberg of all people, is a closet serial killer who frames Boone for his spree of murders. Boone encounters another man in the hospital who also dreams of Midian and who knows how to find it. Before ripping chunks of his own face off, the man tells Boone how to find it. He flees the city, with Decker and police in tow and leads them all to Midian. Before the police arive and gun him down, one of the freaks bites Boone, transforming him into one of the nightbreed. He raises from the dead and escapes back to Midian where all chaos ensues as Decker leads the local police force/redenecks in a raid to kill all the freaks.
What makes the movie kick ass isn’t the outlandish (though respectably Lovecraftian) plot, but the impressive production design throughout the movie. The makeup effects and creature design are a pure riot. The set design of Midian’s underground is perfectly reminescent of the wonders of the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi. There is a very solid scene in which Lori, Boone’s girlfriend, arrives at Midian in search of her recently undead love and begins an Alice in Wonderland journey through the bowels of the city, bumping into all kinds of amazing mutants left and right. This movie is worth checking out simply for all the love that went into designing everything in the movie. I’m sure the budget wasn’t huge, but they clearly knew what they were doing and bled every penny dry and really got their dollar’s worth throughout the production.
Everybody looks awesome in the movie. Everything and everybody feels unique and true to the movie. Plus, Decker’s serial killer mask looks remarkably like that of the Scarecrow’s in Batman Begins:
The movie isn’t without its flaws. The motivation for Decker being so obsessed with killing the freaks is never really explained. Why Boone began having dreams of the horrors in Midian is never even touched upon, but then again this is the most Lovecraftian device in the plot and ole’ H.P. never gave explainations as to why his characters had glimpses of the beyond. All minor details that you really don’t care about when it comes to something so out there and fantastical as Nightbreed is.
This is the kind of movie I wish I had seen as a kid. I’d of fallen in love with it. But alas, I didn’t and I’ll have to settle with watching it as a 20 year old and being reminded of the imagination I had when I was 8. Though, this is still a Clive Barker movie, so I doubt I’d of ever imagined a man carving off his face as a kid.