tn_nightbreedI knew it. I fuckin knew Dave Cronenberg was up to something. All due respect to him as a consistently great and unique filmatist across three decades, but you gotta admit the guy is suspicious. I mean, CRASH had me wondering. And eXistenZ raised my eyebrows. Possessing in-depth knowledge of tooth-firing gristle guns isn’t a crime in and of itself, but you gotta wonder why he knows so much about the topic, right?

And then DEAD RINGERS. I mean, for crying out loud, DEAD RINGERS. So sonofabitch, why am I not surprised when I watch Clive Barker’s NIGHTBREED and there’s Dave Cronenberg as a masked “baby slasher” murdering families around Toronto?

It almost seems to me like there could've been a better poster for an epic horror fantasy featuring dozens of cool monsters
I don’t know, it almost seems to me like there could’ve been a better poster for an epic horror fantasy featuring dozens of cool monsters. But I mean, they’re professionals, they must know what they’re doing.

His name is Dr. Decker and he’s got a creepy mask with button eyes and a zipper mouth, but he wears a nice overcoat and chain mail gloves, he’s not wearing overalls or a mechanic’s jumpsuit. He wants you to know he’s higher class than Jason or Michael.

Sure enough his day job is as a psychiatrist, and he decides to frame one of his patients (Craig Sheffer) for the murders, basing the crimes on the guy’s bad dreams, recording him talking aobut it, and dosing him with hallucinogens to get him into trouble. I can see why he’d consider this guy an easy mark, too. His name is Aaron Boone but even his girlfriend just calls him “Boone,” like they’re in P.E. class or something. He’s kind of a brooding Kevin Bacon type in a leather jacket, and his answering machine message just says, “This is Boone. You know what to do. Add-i-os.”

But there’s one important piece of information Dr. Decker didn’t know about: Boone is not just some chump in a leather jacket. He’s some chump in a leather jacket who’s destined to be the Chosen One for the people of Midian, a secret town hidden beneath a cemetery where the surviving members of ancient monster tribes take refuge. They got weird lizard people, devilmen, a guy with a moon-shaped head like Mac Tonight, a woman who can turn into smoke, a fat guy who thinks it’s amazing that tentacles come out of his belly and likes to make puns about it. They got a statue-like demon god named Baphomet and a Moses-like dude who keeps telling them what the laws are and a fenced off area for “berserkers – mad bastards who’ll bite off your head and shit down your neck.” This is the rare case where that’s probly meant literally, but unfortunately you never do see the berserkers shitting into any necks. Maybe in the fabled director’s cut.

Boone heard some rumors about Midian being a place where sins are forgiven (what happens outside Midian stays outside Midian) so he tries to check it out and gets bit by some asshole monster who likes to eat “Naturals.” Turns out this is lucky though because then he gets set up and shot by the cops and the monster-infected bite brings him back from the dead sort of like a vampire. And I like how the guy who bit him is happy and claps for him at the ceremony where he’s accepted into the monster club. So that guy’s not as much of an asshole as you expect.

But oh shit, nobody shoulda let Decker find out about monsters. He saw himself as some kind of cleanser, killing off bloodlines of people he considered filth. Now he finds out there’s monsters, he joins a long line of witch hunters in oppressing these poor Nightbreed. I mean, I’m glad if it takes the heat off the working class Canadians, but you hate to see a guy getting off on genocide like this. Basically he lets the cat out of the bag about Midian and the monsters have to take a stand against redneck cops and local loonies. I don’t know what the cops thought Decker meant when he said “something’s breeding there,” but after they see a guy explode in sunlight the shit is on.

It’s a real ambitious horror fantasy, lots of scenes seem like the cantina in STAR WARS, just all different kinds of monsters, all in the pre-digital age, crazy latex makeup, occasional crude stop motion, and when somebody’s eyes or wounds have to glow you see that extra care that goes with painting it directly on the frame. Lots of mythology that they put lots of thought into, plus little moments that would only come out of Clive Barker’s perverted imagination (not even Cronenberg’s).

For example the porcupine lady. There’s this weird gal with no nose and a back covered in 10″ poison quills, but she’s supposed to be real sensual and erotic. When the cops are pulling a Waco on Midian she starts making suggestive tongue gestures to one of the officers, and he follows her. Barker’s point is that we all secretly yearn to explore the dark sides of our sexuality. My point is that nobody’s that hard up for a blow job that they’re gonna stop mid-siege to make it with a

Whaddya think, would you go for it?
Whaddya think… would you go for it?

porcupine monster. I mean at the very least he would stall for a while and act like he doesn’t want it and then wait ’til his friends are gone to hit it. But I guess that might be in the 50 minutes that I read the studio cut out of the movie.

NIGHTBREED’s biggest weakness is that its hero is the least interesting character. There’s not much to him except a bad boy pose, and he doesn’t have the Steve McQueen type of charisma to make that work. But his girlfriend Lori is more sympathetic, and alot of the movie is through her eyes. The movie also gets a little choppy as it escalates into full on human vs. monster combat, and I’m sure it would benefit from the longer cut.

But to me the uniqe qualities of this one make its weaknesses not all that important. I love this movie. These monsters have a genuine exoticness, they don’t seem like other movie monsters you’ve seen. Barker has one thing in common with Cronenberg and that’s that he seems to have some actual madness in there, and he’s not ashamed of it. So he does things (including the porcupine seduction) that you can truly say nobody else would think of. And the unpredictableness adds a real feeling of danger. You root for the monsters but can’t trust all of them, because you can’t honestly say they don’t bite. Some of them do, we’ve seen it.

Barker’s brain bubbles over with visual imagination like he left the burner on too long. The budget and technology are crude compared to most genre movies today, but he was able to get more imagery out of his head and onto film than in any of his other movies. He seems better at the designing than at moving the camera, but he does pull of a couple good tricks. I like the frenzied glimpses of the monsters in his nightmares, and they fit exactly with the busy Danny Elfman score.

And Cronenberg makes a great villain. I’m sure my knowledge of his movies adds something to it, but I think he really gives a convincing performance as a sicko. You gotta love the shot of him sitting in his office with a bunch of masks on the wall and a table covered in machetes laid out ritualistically. It makes you think – the Canadian health care system seems tempting, because you could actually get therapy and not have to do without it because your health insurance doesn’t cover jack shit. But then what if you get stuck with this nutball as your doctor? Doesn’t seem so great anymore, does it?

Man, what would be the closest modern comparison to NIGHTBREED? Would it be UNDERWORLD or something? They just don’t make ’em like this anymore, and they didn’t before. I wonder where those guys went, anyway? It was obviously meant as chapter 1, it’s too bad it’s probly too late to do a follow up. I mean, unless they skip forward a bunch of years, and the porcupine lady’s got a bunch of kids, they’re all fat and wrinkly, the moon-faced guy looks like he’s had work done. And then all the fans would complain if they used any CGI, they’d say Clive Barker seduced their childhood and shot poison quills at it.

Oh well. Barker was trying to make “the STAR WARS of horror,” but I guess it wasn’t meant to catch on like that. But it’s an interesting oddity and as long as we know about it that’s enough. We’ll always have it on a shitty no-extras DVD, a freaky outcast living under a cemetery avoiding daylight.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 24th, 2010 at 1:09 am and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Horror, Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

76 Responses to “Nightbreed”

  1. I’m just trying to imagine what an anthology movie with episodes from Cronenberg, Barker and Verhoeven would look like.

  2. caruso_stalker217

    June 24th, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Man, when I heard they’d actually dug up missing footage for this movie I think I shit a porcupine monster.

  3. I heard they showed a director’s cut of Night Breed that was 45-50 minutes longer. Upon further googles I found this site: http://clivebarker.info/morenightbreed.html

    This needs to be made available. This movie is tits.

  4. I’ve wanted to watch this movie for a while, but I’ve decided to wait to see if they’ll ever actually release the director’s cut, or at least give it a blu ray (I don’t like the sound of a “shitty no-extras DV”)

    and yeah, that’s a shitty poster

  5. I would go for it btw

  6. Do we get free therapy? Cutestory or someone, help me out here. I’m not sure. I’ve never been to a therapist, I never go to the doctor and I’ve only been to the dentist while I’ve had coverage from an employer. I know in my province that if I don’t have medical benefits I have to pay mandatory Medical Service Plan premiums, which are like 60+ a month depending on your income from the previous year. And the few times I’ve dealt with the MSP people I end up spending hours on the phone and filling out reams of paperwork. I don’t know how it all works. I know my Mom used to get all sorts of free shit: therapy, massages, acupuncture, holistic herbal medication, but that was all through her employer’s coverage. We don’t get charged $10,000 for a trip to the ER but I think it’s a misconception that anything health related is free up here. But I could be wrong, I am healthy as a horse. Somewhere, Equinas’ ears are burning.

    Great review. Goodnight lads.

  7. OH man I loved this movie when it came out, and have loved it ever since. The comic adaptation filled a few bits out nicely, but that fabled Director’s Cut is up there with Del Toro’s DC of Mimic as one of my 90s Most Wanted. Anyone who liked this and wants to see more of the Midians, I remember the comics doing a decent job of carrying on the story, until it got into silly crossover territory with Hellraiser.

    Is it me, or are there few other directors out there other than Richard Stanley who can have said to have directed so few movies that are yet so individual and stand up so well after this time? I mean, Hellraiser, Nightbreed, and Lord Of Illusions – I love all three and they all do things I’d never seen before and mostly haven’t since. Stanley’s the same for me with Hardware and Dust Devil, although I know he’s not to everyone’s tastes either. And with Barker you also have Candyman and now Midnight Meat Train, where his ideas and imagery shine through other directors. Barker worked with low-to-medium budgets, yet somehow never failed to push the boundaries in a way that other directors in the same budgetary arena rarely did (and I say this as someone who loves him some Glickenhaus and Pyun every once in a while). Frankly, it makes you wonder where things could have gone, and how the heck he ended up at Disney….?!

  8. I was an FX nerd, so I saw this a bunch of times in theaters and on video. But I never found it really satisfying, and I don’t think even the extra 50 minutes would really fix some of the basic problems I have with it–the biggest one being that it feels like two different stories jammed very awkwardly together. It’s like, Barker (who I honestly think is a deeply overrated writer anyway) had his crazed psycho therapist serial killer story AND his ancient underworld of fairyland fantasy monsters story, and then got stuck writing the psycho therapist story and was like, “Hmmmm, bloody hell, this is going nowhere, what can–I know! His patient will actually be king of those Nightbreed blokes! That’ll knock ten bells out of it, what!”

    You’ve got this very menacing and effective killer doctor villain (almost what you imagine Dr. Lector was like before Will Graham caught him) and then you’ve got the world of crazy, totally out there monsters–stick ’em together in the same story, it always seemed to diminish them both. I know, I know, he’s probably trying to make some kind of point about how humans demonize people just for looking or acting “different” and the normal-looking respectable human is the most evil, but still, it’s—imagine if NEAR DARK had been about the vampires breaking into Area 51 and then fighting aliens. We’d be saying, “Man, if it had been about this mad band of vampire outlaws rampaging around Texas and Oklahoma, that woulda been enough….”

  9. CJ :An anthology by those guys ? That’s fucked up , man , and an absolutely fantastic idea . Like Creepshow , but more gory/psychological . I also think that Barker , Cronenberg and Verhoeven have made the movies with the best wounds-gunshots-body alterations ever , so the potential of vomit inducing , creative special effects is off the charts!

    Like Vern , I love this movie and it’s really true that they never made movies like this , ever . There’s no real line drawn between Good or Evil , since our heroes are all monsters , in some cases crazy berserkers animals ! Maybe “Freaks” has a similar feel , but as a comparison is a little forced .
    I sure hope for the release of the new DVD edition , especially since some important scenes are missing , like Boone biting Lori and turning her into Nightbreed , and , of course , to see Barker’s original vision .

  10. Hugh K. David – I think I agree with Vern on the notion that Barker isn’t the most flashy or filmatic talented director, but what makes Clive Barker CLIVE BARKER is his sheer creativity, his imagination that his skills just refused to let it down.

    I know its not as many fans as HELLRAISER or shit even NIGHTBREED, but LORD OF ILLUSIONS was a rather pleasant surprise, a nicely effective horror/supernatural murder mystery that is Film noir-inspired without being too film noir referencing wink wink bullshit.

    The only thing I could knock at LORD is the climax, when some of the gas runs out. Also I dug how the movie didn’t bother really to explain* Scott Bakula’s backstory, which is refreshing in contrast to recent years. I know he’s a recurring character in Barker’s stories but either way I just like the idea that he just deals with this crazy magic shit for a living like a plumber fixes leaks and cracks.

    *=Why he did Playgirl to promote LORD, that could never be explained.

  11. I really liked this film, but as Vern points out the marketing was HORRIBLE.

    I seen this in video stores growing up, and never even considered renting it during my many adolescent horror binges. The marketing just made it look pitiful. Not so bad it could be good, just bad.

    And how sad. The film really did have a lot of crazy imaginative moments, it was a blast to get taken by surprise by the film when I finally did watch it.

  12. I remember reading somewhere that Jodorowsky liked this movie, called it the first truly gay horror fantasy epic (he was also into Starship Troopers). I really like it myself, but I think it’s one of the few movies that it might actually be ok to remake, if they expanded on the idea, rather than watered it down (and they should probably reuse the Danny Elfman score as well).

  13. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Vern: For a visual depiction of the community service that Cronenberg was required to perform as punishment for his family-killing activities, please see LAST NIGHT. I believe the judicial inquiry took into consideration the testimony of his profession’s regulatory body, including his valuable service in warning the world about the ongoing threat of freaky little blond girls, which resulted in a more lenient sentence.

    Gwai Lo: Each province runs their health insurance program a bit differently (but within certain federal guidelines). B.C. is one of the
    last provinces to still have those monthly premiums. Here in Ontario it is “tax based,” where basically funding for the services
    is taken from our paycheques. If you have a job, you get taxed; if you don’t have a job, someone who earns too much money gets taxed extra. I’m sure an American would be horrified to see 1/4 to 1/3 of their pay taken away every two weeks. But in exchange we’re given a card that we use instead of cash for a wide range of health services. Not everything is covered. Psychiatric services are pretty much limited to addiction treatment or hospitalization. Boone’s employer probably had supplimental insurance from a private company, which covered things not paid for by his government insurance, like dental care, eye glasses and porcupine woman STDs.

    Also, Gwai Lo, you’re really chomping at the bit to keep the HORSEFUCKER topic going.

  14. He acted in Jason X as well. Obviously his acting standards are a touch lower than his directorial ones.

    Either that or he’s buddies with these guys, he was in some odd Canadian film called Last Night directed by that d-bag Don McKellar.

  15. Oh yeah, this film was fucking awesome. I remember watching it as a kid and totally loving it. I actually think that a small naive and innocent part of myself is still waiting for the sequal.

    Also, I just simply remember how cool the underground characters were. From the fat monster guy being bathed (I remember hoping he’d have a bigger part) to that blue demon – part goat guy.

    Haven’t been a big fan of much of Barker’s other stuff, apart from Lord of Illusions and Dread. But man, this was THE FILM that every boy wanted to see when he was 14.

  16. But if you think about it, doesn’t it make sense that Cronenberg plays the guy who wants to keep Jason alive to study his flesh-regenerating capabilities? Totally seems like something he’d be into. If he hadn’t gotten impaled in the first five minutes he totally would have gotten around to studying how and what Jason fucks.

  17. Stuntcock: I think acting is for Cronenberg more a fun hobby, that he does whenever he likes the people who offer him a role. They explain in the commentary for Jason X, that the director was an old buddy of his, who made the FX for some of his movies. And how else do you explain other acting choices, like Russel Mulcahy’s (surprisingly good) Sesevenen rip-off “Resurrection” or a two-parter in season 3 of “Alias”!? I don’t think he does it to raise money for his movies (like Orson Welles), because otherwise he would act more and he can always rely on the Canadian Film Board to give him whatever he wants.
    I heard he is shooting a new movie here in Germany right now. Maybe I should try to track him down and just ask him.

  18. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 8:32 am

    CJ Holden: One of the reasons Cronenberg (and Sarah Polly) spoke out against the Canadian government recently is because they wanted to introduce content restrictions on what they would fund. The proposed legislation would make it impossible for “morally questionable” stuff like Cronenberg’s films to get funding.

    I’ve never actually seen the Arts Council logo on any of Cronenberg’s recent work, so I’m not sure if he’s taken advantage of the funding since the 1970s.

    Trivia: SCANNERS is considered a hit in Canada. It earned $14 million, which is more than what JONAH HEX made in its opening weekend. And VIDEODROME won the Canadian equivalent to the Oscar for screenplay.

  19. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Partial Cronenberg acting credits:

    “Blue” (1992), “Boozecan” (1994, directed by Nicholas Campbell), “Henry & Verlin” (1994), “Trial by Jury,” (1994), “To Die For” (1995), “Blood & Donuts” (1995), “Moonshine Highway” (1996, TV), “The Stupids” (1996), “Extreme Measures” (1996), “The Grace of God” (1997), “Last Night”(1997) and “Resurrection” (1999, directed by Russell Mulcahy and starred Christopher Lambert).

    And yes, I know all of this because it’s compulsory in Canadain schools. In Junior High science class we disect mugwumps with those tools from DEAD RINGERS.

  20. I just remember reading a story how the Canadian Film Board always started to panic whenever Cronenberg wanted to make a movie outside of Canada. (Like when he wanted to shoot “Naked Lunch” somewhere in the desert.)
    Haven’t heard of the changes they made. That sucks big time. (Although I still think it can’t nearly suck as much as the German Film Board)

  21. It’s weird. This sounds really familiar, and I think I’ve seem some of it years ago, but when I looked up the trailer, I didn’t recognise a whole lot from it.

  22. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 9:00 am

    The history of Canada’s Genie Awards is pretty much a long parade of tributes to Cronenberg CRASH won both Best Director and Screenplay awards), not so much because our industry loves his work, but because he is the only internationally recognized Canadian film director who hasn’t become an American (James Cameron) or who isn’t hopelessly outdated (Norman Jewison) or hopelessly weird (Guy Maddin).

    The Arts Council is probably glad when they don’t have to provide funding for scary stuff like CRASH, but they still want Cronenberg to make “Canadian” movies that place the country on the world stage (and thus benefit through association). Cronenberg pretty much carries the country’s reputation on his shoulders as far as international festivals go (NAKED LUNCH and eXistenZ did well at the Berlin festival), but back at home the Arts Council lives in fear of having to explain to taxpayers why their money is funding wound-fucking.

    Also, for a brief period of time, SHIVERS was the highest grossing Canadian film in the country’s history.

  23. Isn’t the highest grossing Canadian film now the Trailer Park Boys movie?

    Anyway, the German Film Board is pretty similar as you described it. One of their rules is to not finance violent movies (and they must be shot in German), but as soon as Germany’s star producer Bernd Eichinger needed money for Resident Evil, they gave him whatever they wanted, because they knew they would get their money back and could brag about “Hollywood in Germany”.

  24. CJ Holden – If thats so, how did Uwe Boll keep making all those flops of his? I know its some sort of tax loophole, but…I don’t get it.

    Jareth Cutestory – How can Guy Maddin be more weird than Cronenberg? That’s like saying Zac Effron is gayer than Elton John.

  25. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much if there were compelling arguments against the depiction of violence behind these decisions. But at least as far as Canada is concerned, it’s just pure squeamishness. They don’t want to have to face the embarassment of some bumpkin getting pissed off because CRASH received federal funding. And it goes without saying that these boards are staffed by government cronies, not by artists who can defend the artistic merits of the work being funded.

    But like you said, if Cameron came back and asked the Canadian government to fund some epic 3D extravaganza he planned to shoot the arctic, they’d give him every tax break imaginable just to be able to brag about it.

  26. RRA – It was a tax loophole, but now, since this has been closed (something that bothered everybody in Hollywood, because every big studio movie, from the Mission: Impossibles to LOTR was co-financed with the so-called “Stupid German Money”.) he does something else. Don’t know what. But the Movie Board has nothing to do with it and never had.
    BTW, doesn’t matter what you think of Uwe Boll, but he is totally right whenever he talks about the impossibility to make a movie in Germany, if you are not part of the “Eichinger/Film Board Mafia”. And again: Doesn’t matter what you think of him, but I, as someone who got his dream to make a movie crushed something like 10 years ago by that German Movie Mafia, applaud him that he just got up and find a way to make the movies he want without anybody telling him what to do. Yes, the result is questionable, but he lives every (not just, but especially German) Independent Filmmakers Dream.

  27. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 9:33 am

    RRA: Maddin’s weirdness is all on the surface. Many people simply cannot watch the narrative disjuncture, the arcane references, and the visual style.

    I agree that Cronenberg is actually more subversive because he couches his deeply troubling themes in conventional mainstream narratives, often with big stars in a (seemingly) recognizable world.

    Which isn’t to suggest that the pro-incest motif in Maddin’s CAREFUL isn’t transgressive. But it’s done with such wit that I doubt it will give any viewers nightmares.

  28. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 9:36 am

    CJ Holden: I wonder if I would be more sympthetic or less sympathetic to any mafia that would have Dr. Boll as a member.

  29. CJ Holden – Fair enough.

  30. Jareth, I doubt that Uwe would do anything to make them even less sympathetic.

  31. Bon Cop, Bad Cop is the highest grossing Canadian film in history?!


  32. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2010 at 10:39 am

    C’est une tragédie.

  33. Hugh K. David – I also like Richard Stanley. DUST DEVIL is a classic, and HARDWARE is pretty fun too. I also appreciate his involvement in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, when he was fired from the director’s chair he got made up like a cat-person or something and continued to hang around set.

    Jareth – that answers my questions, thank you. I should probably know more about this stuff since I like, live here and stuff. All I know is I once spent a year blissfully unemployed only to receive a bill from MSP after about 8 months for over 600 dollars. Hard to reconcile that with “free health care”. And neigh, I’m not trying to bring up the horsefucker again, pull back the reins on these wild accusations.

    The problem with the CFB and Telefilm is that they place the production of “Canadian content” above all other concerns, including what’s right for the specific filmmaker or story. It’s a kneejerk reaction to having the behemoth of Hollywood right below us, but it makes us kind of a joke on the international front. I’m not talking about Quebecois movies at all here, there’s usually a few good ones produced every year, often more than the other 9 provinces and 3 territories produce collectively. (Recently I’ve really like I KILLED MY MOTHER and THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE) French-Canadian movies don’t suffer as much because they’re already instrinsically more culturally unique because they’re in French. Same with a lot of other countries that have these cultural mandates that go along with government funding, if the characters speak German, Spanish, Hebrew or what have you that’s often good enough. But if it’s an English Canadian movie and it’s not immediately identifiable as Canadian product (features Paul Gross, curling or a superficial Terry Fox reference) then it doesn’t really conform to the mandate of propagating Canada’s unique cultural identity. But here’s the thing: The Canadian box office looks the exact same as the American box office 90% of the time. Most movies produced in Hollywood would be believable as Canadian stories. We’re not as culturally unique as the mandate would have us believe. And we’re not interested in sub-par product that tries to make the distinction. Recently the Alberta Culture Minister called Canadian TV “crap” and came under fire for it. CBC conducted a poll on its website and 2/3rds of the responses agreed with him:


    Our problem is not lack of talent, we have bragging rights for Cronenberg and Maddin, first of all. Our problem is that talent gets fed up and joins the brain drain by moving to Hollywood, like James Cameron, Ivan Reitman, and Bob Clark. OK, Bob Clark kinda rode the fence. But the point stands. We need a Canadian production company that runs itself like a business, a real studio instead of a public service announcement. Telefilm’s annual feature film budget is smaller than one Hollywood blockbuster’s budget. They hand out a million here, a million there to one of two groups: the Old Guard, who have been entrenched in Canadian media for years (that’s how Paul Gross gets garbage like PASSCHENDAELE and GUNLESS made), or the upcoming filmmakers who are experienced enough to have a few credits but not experienced enough to make the move to Hollywood yet (the filmmakers behind junk like CTRL ALT DELETE, YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING, ONE WEEK, etc.) So we pay for this stuff and then we can take credit for the shitty films that so and so made before they got big. When what we should be doing is developing really promising filmmakers like Jason Eisener (TREEVENGE, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) and letting them make whatever they want so that Hollywood seems restrictive in comparison.

    Rant over.

  34. Jareth – That “cultural mandate” sillyness reminds me of that classic anecdote about how when SCTV moved to CBC, the network demanded “Canadian content” so in response those guys created Bob and Doug McKenzie.

  35. If they did remake this, they could include the Rawhead Rex crossover story from the comics!

    I wish someone would push Barker’s directing career. Hellraiser has it’s problems, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get under my skin everytime I watch it. Nightbreed DC is needed, and LOI is pretty sweet too. Give that man some money and let him run! No more The Plague instances please.

  36. holy shit, his name is Aaron Boone? I figured he was another one-namer, like Prince or Vern or mink.

  37. Bob Clark was not actually Canadian. He just made some movies there.

  38. whoa, that is some fascinating shit about the Canadian film board

    I had heard of them, but had no idea that they only wanted movies with “Canadian centric content”, that’s pretty funny

    it makes me wonder what it would be like if America had a film board (probably pretty crappy)

  39. I agree with CC. I saw this with a friend — we were both horror and gore geeks, and it was Barker, so we were stoked. HELLRAISER was imaginative, but rickety — just imagine what he’ll do with a bigger budget! At a certain point, we turned in unison and gave each other “the look” — you know, the “can this possibly be as bad as I think it is?” look. Whereupon we both burst out laughing.

    I will admit that I haven’t seen it since then, and that maybe it’s salvageable and might make sense with the missing footage reinstated. But the film as it exists now is an almost unwatchable mess peppered with cool monsters and Cronenberg’s goofy/creepy performance.

    (I do have to agree with everyone who says The Scarecrow in BATMAN BEGINS is nearly a wholesale rip of that character. He always seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I guess it’s justifiable as Tarantino-style appropriation — take a good character out of a bad movie and recycle him — but credit should be given.)

  40. frankbooth – Perhaps only visually I can see that argument. That character otherwise pretty much was the TAS version.

  41. RRA- I never saw it but the bad guys in The Strangers looked like they were ripping-off Cronenberg’s look from this movie. I remember seeing one of the commercials and thinking Nolan should sue before I saw Nightbreed.

    Also the TAS version of scarecrow changed radically from week to week. He only had a simple burlap sack once I think.

  42. Actually i think Uwe Boll is an incerdible producer. Getting an 30mio budget here in Germany is nearly impossible and that even without the film board. On top of that he gets lots of recognisable Hollywood actors (most of them past their prime, but that worked quite well for Tarantino). But that guy is a horrible writer and director.
    He should find some young promising talented director and just produce and stay as far away from the creative process as possible.

  43. I somewhat respect that Uwe Boll at least has balls and is not afraid to have nudity or gore in his movies

    still that doesn’t make them good

  44. Barker is just an incredibly talented guy with so much still to do that I don’t see him directing again in the near future . Of course , maybe I’m dead wrong but with the Abarat series still going , the 3rd Book of The Art ( one of the stories with Harry D’Amour ) still to write and his paintings , I don’t see him directing anytime soon. Yes , there’s that Tortured Souls thing going on , but I will believe it when I see it .
    The guy just needs to focus on one project at the time , and he can be a fantastic writer and director . I don’t think they will ever remake Nightbreed and , I’m sorry , but I don’t like the idea of a crossover between this and Rawhead Rex . Best case scenario ? After finishing Abarat and The Art novels , give him some money to direct Imajica or The Great and Secret Show !

  45. I never said it was bad, I LIKE Nightbreed, I just think it’s has big, fundamental problems. It feels like two, seperate, good films instead of one, complete unified great film. I’d love to see Barker go back and do a director’s cut–it wouldn’t fix the basic issues I mentioned above but it still deserves to be the best film it CAN be.

    And yeah, the poster is infamously one of the worst ever–I’ve been told the studio, after hacking the film to peices, cutting nearly an hour, then decided the only way to market it was to literally fool people into thinking it was a slasher movie. But, I also remember that poster only lasted literally about a week before being replaced with the current image that’s on the DVD box–the one of Boone and the other characters in the kind’ve ghostly blue light. So somebody somewhere must’ve come to their senses.

  46. I love the fact that it has both a serial killer and the monsters. We get enough monster movies or serial killer movies, so smash them together and make an epic. I think it just wasn’t tied in well, but I bet the longer cut fixes that. I think mash-ups are generally interesting, Tarantino makes them, Evil Dead 2 was a mash up. You’ve seen the general stories of most movies over and over, and I don’t want horror movies to be more conservative.

  47. Here’s a couple points to add to this crowded comments section

    -FREAKED did this a whole lot better (“That’s a lot of milkmen on the same route. No wonder they fight.”)

    -The movie actually takes place in Calgary, not Toronto

    -I’m glad Vern made reference to Boone’s answering machine message, which had me and my friends on the floor convulsing with laughter when we rented this thing (the dude is obviously too cool for school)

    -The punk band Screeching Weasel wrote a song called “Nightbreed” based on the movie

    -Good Canadian films you might have missed: HARD CORE LOGO, FUBAR, MONKEY WARFARE, I KILLED MY MOTHER (easily the best film I saw last year — on a plane no less — watching it along with a comedy with naked Dave Foley called COOPER’S CAMERA — both heavy in the male nudity department — hats off to you Air Canada!)

    -The whole Canadian film funding debate is tired, and seems mostly regulated to frustrated would-be Canadian filmmakers — most films are funded privately in the US, if you want to make a movie, MAKE IT YOURSELF — there’s a growing trend in Canadian cinema that supports this ideal, and as a result, in recent years, the country has produced more exciting work than ever before

  48. Favorite Canadian films:

    -All Cronenberg

    -Mon Uncle Antoine (I’m part Franco-American and this is the only film I know of that really shows the French Canadian world of my relatives in New Hampshire and Vermont, even though it’s in Canada)

    -Away From Her


    -The Sweet Hereafter

    -Black Robe

    -The Map Of The Human Heart

    -The Snow Walker.

  49. And as long we’re on a Canada kick, don’t forget ALPHA FLIGHT!

    “Eh, Sasquatch, let’s go get Wolverine, eh, what aboot him and Northstar, eh?

    And Degrassi Jr. High.

  50. Y’know, Uwe Boll films a lot in Canada. And he also showed Dave Foley’s penis in one of his movies. It all comes together…

  51. Darnit, now I want to see David Cronenberg’s ALPHA FLIGHT starring Sarah Polley as Heather Hudson (whose costume, lest we forget, was a white jumpsuit with a big red maple leaf on it). And the guy from THE STATION AGENT as Puck, the midget acrobat member of the team.

  52. The final Degrassi episode(School’s Out) kicked all kinds of ass and featured completely inappropriate language and holy fuck downer subject matter, thus cementing it’s status into Canadian legend.

    “Tessa Campinelli? You were fucking Tessa Campinelli”?

  53. CC – isn’t it funny if they wanted to make it look like a slasher movie that they didn’t show Cronenberg on the poster? That is one of the more terrifying and original masked slasher looks since probly 1978.

    I’m not sure but I don’t think that’s even Lori’s eyes, I think I read somewhere that the picture was leftover from advertisements for a different movie.

    The logo’s pretty cool though.

  54. ALPHA FLIGHT sucked. Sorry CC, sorry Jareth. I mean the only notable thing about FLIGHT I remember as a kid was some shit involving Wolverine. And thats it. Disposable jobbers, nothing memorable really. OK maybe that gay member, but come on if I want to bother with a superhero team full of tokenisms, I would do X-MEN instead. At least they (sometimes) do memorable stuff.

  55. we don’t necessarily get free therapy.

  56. but if some of you do it’s better than my insurance. Still, the larger point is that I recommend against Dr. Decker.

  57. But do we actually know he’s a lousy psychiatrist? Having a few quirks does not necessarily make one bad at one’s job.

  58. Cronenberg welcomed the chance to act in some movies, and he claimed that it helped him being a better director, specially about directing actors.

    Cronenberg is really pretty good as an actor. He’s like that other director who is also very good at acting, even though he is not considered an actor. That guy being Martin Scorsese. Scorsese and Cronneberg are pretty good actors, and i would love to see the two acting more.

    Cronneberg in NIGHTBREED is just great, he plays a one hell of a very memorable villain. He’s scary both with the mask and without. He also plays a type of vilain i really dig a lot, which i call The Evil Badass Accountant. This guys, this evil dudes who you look at them and they look like accountants, and yet kick ungodly amount of asses. You know, like Agent Smith in THE MATRIX.

    OK, time for a little trivia: I beleive SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is the movie with the most directors playing parts in a movie ever made. Tom Hanks, Vin Diesel, Ed Burns and Adam Goldberg have all directed short and feature lenght films.

  59. I think that title goes to John Landis’ INTO THE NIGHT, which has parts for Cronenberg, Richard Franklin, Daniel Petrie, Paul Mazursky, Jonathan Lynn, Paul Bartel, Don Seigel, Jim Henson, Amy Heckerling, Roger Vadim, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Demme, and Landis himself. And those are just the ones I’ve heard of, not to mention all the other behind-the-scenes people in cameos, like Rick Baker and writer Waldo Salt. In fact, it’s easier just to assume that everybody in the movie is moonlighting from their day jobs in the film industry.

  60. For any reason I totally forgot that Into The Night existed. I really have to watch that one again. I remember that I liked it, but was also surprised by how violent it was at times. (To be honest, I think John Landis has a pretty dark half, if you look at Into The Night, American Werewolf or Innocent Blood. What are his Masters Of Horror episodes like? Haven’t seen them.)

  61. DEER WOMAN is just a goofy lark without much of a mean streak. It’s a lot of fun, though, and it was great to see Brian Benben playing a grizzled detective. I would watch a private eye show with that guy in a heartbeat.

    Landis’ other episode, though, FAMILY, I remember as being much nastier. Speaking of seemingly lovable dudes with serious dark sides, it stars George Wendt as a serial killer. That guys’ roles in the past ten years have all made me look at Norm in a whole new light. I would not fuck with that dude.

  62. Nightbreed is great. I like it better than the novel in some cases. The creatures are not very defined in the book. I guess we’re supposed to rely on our imagination, which is fun…By the way, i really would jump in the hay with Shuna sassi! I thought she was very very sexy. I have a picture of her in my room. haha.

  63. Read this article after looking for some chain mail gloves (you can thank google by the way) and stumbled upon this article. I just recently had the chance of watching this movie and thought that this movie had a lot of potential but never caught on as you said. Clive definitely had something going with this movie and it’s particular genre as you described as horror fantasy. The thrill of a mass murderer and the mystery of monsters was a nice touch. However dr. Decker aka Cronenberg was the creepiest mother fucker in a movie especially in the opening scene with the family. I plan on grabbing a Dr. Decker costume this year for Halloween in the spirit of the movie I probably won’t be the only one however but I know there won’t be many and the people who have enjoyed the movie can appreciate it.

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  65. I was excited to find out that directors cut of NB will be playing at Fantastic Fest this year. It is titled, NIGHTBREED – THE CABAL CUT.

  66. Anybody else see the director’s cut? I was really looking forward to it, and it’s good, but kind of underwhelming. A few scenes were obviously added, but I didn’t really notice most of the changes. Whatever problems I had with the film remained the same. I was hoping there would be more scenes at Midian before the shit hits the fan to give some sense of the monsters’ society and how Boone fits into it. Instead it’s the same as the theatrical cut, which seems to skip right from Boone escaping from the hospital to him being a full-fledged member of the community, which then skips right to him becoming a major pain in the ass to that community without anyone really giving him that much shit for it. That’s a problem with the source material, as I recall, as CABAL seemed to skip a bunch of shit, too. On the commentary track, Barker kept talking about all the themes the studio didn’t understand and made him cut out, but I don’t know, I thought it all came across pretty well in the theatrical version. The monsters being the victims, the humans being the real monsters, all that shit. He said they wanted it to be a slasher movie, which makes sense because Decker is far and away the scariest thing in it. So if you’re a Decker fan, you might be bummed that there seems to be less of him in the director’s cut, possibly as a fuck-you to the studios. I guess in the grand scheme of things the director’s cut is better, with a bit more room to breathe, but it’s not the total reinvention I think we’d all been led to believe it was. If you liked NIGHTBREED before, you’ll still like it. If you didn’t, the new cut won’t change that.

  67. Yup, saw the director’s cut. It was my first time seeing any version. I thought the terms of Boone’s belonging were arbitrary, too. He wants into the society for reasons that (initially) don’t seem to benefit the society (“C’mon, I always felt I belonged here, and now I’m undead – thanks, Mac.”) He goes through a majordomo-officiated hearing which underscores the risks of accepting him and the responsibilities of citizenship he’s expected to honor; then once they initiate him, he’s quickly trying to get special dispensations for his girlfriend and poking into forbidden chambers. For the new guy on the team everything seems to be me, me, me at the expense of the group he just pledged to fit into. But it’s all good because, you know, prophecy. Which I guess belatedly explains the majordomo’s lenience, but seems even more like Clive Barker took the easy path to justifying whatever Boone does or feels. And this indulgence of Boone feels misplaced, because Midian comes off a lot more intriguing and inspired than the story’s lead does.

  68. Yeah, for as many times as I’ve seen the original version of the movie I was surprised how hard it was to notice 40 minutes of new material. It’s funny that some of that is Laurie being in a rock band at the beginning. But actually I liked that because on this viewing I realized this is really a movie about Laurie more than Boone, so it works better when she is established as her own person and not just the girlfriend of the guy that turns into a monster.

    I think some of the stuff with the asshole police was new (definitely the press conference part) and I liked that. The Laurie-wandering-around-Midian part seemed more than ever like just a series of shots of monsters looking at stuff, with no geography or group shots. But I forgive it, it’s part of the fun of the movie.

    To me the one part that was really exciting was the new ending. I always wondered why (SPOILER) Laurie became a monster in the book but not in the movie. He had planned both as trilogies, and that seems like a pretty major difference to have to deal with in the respective part 2s (that never happened). It’s kind of a fucked up, maybe sexist and TWILIGHT-ish way for the romance to resolve itself, but it fits the story I think.

    I haven’t listened to the commentary track yet. I’m hoping to at the very least find out how “Narcisse” is pronounced.

  69. animalramirez1976

    December 19th, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Just saw the Director’s Cut. It is really baffling to me how they could’ve cut 40-50 minutes of footage and it would make any sense at all. As it is, the story seems like something a kid would write. It has a lot of what I would call “and then…” storytelling, where you just rush to the next cool thing without worrying too much about how it fits in with what came before or after. I honestly have no memory of why Boone went to the motel, where he got captured, so they need to break him out of jail to find out what Baphomet told him (in a scene we never see) so they can defeat the cops (who only left a couple of minutes earlier), only we never find out what Baphomet told him (if anything) and Boone doesn’t really have a plan, except letting the Berzerkers out, so we need to have another scene with Baphomet later.

    Anyway, that’s one example of what I’m talking about.

    The most memorable thing is the number of different of monsters they squeeze in here, all very distinct looking. I agree with the idea that Barker had a ton of visual ideas and he was determined to use each and every one of them. I wish their personalities could’ve been developed a little more and used to further the story. The dreadlocked guy that bites Boone, for example, seems like he should’ve been an antagonist who fights the idea of Boone joining the Nightbreed, says “You don’t belong here!” etc, but then they fight as brothers and he sacrifices himself so Boone can lead the tribe out of danger. Likewise the conflict between Boone and the old leader who means well but who’s rigidity is dooming the tribe to extinction. Also, a character who advocates for Boone when the others want to kill him rather than accept him. Also, shouldn’t there be a scene where Boone feels bad that he fucked and got all those Nightbreed killed? These seem like pretty standard story ideas to me, but they’re hinted at rather than developed.

    I liked the family at the beginning. They seemed so happy and loving. I wouldn’t have expected them to be portrayed that sympathetically, rather than piggy assholes whose death is treated as a joke.

    Also, when the doctor tells the police chief that Boone doesn’t have a pulse and his reaction is to throw a tantrum, like he found out someone keyed his car or something. That was funny, but a lot of the laughs in the films came from the completely inappropriate reactions like that to the crazy stuff going on around them.

    Anyway, I wish I liked this film better. As it stands, I’d put it on the positive side of “OK”.

  70. Finally took the plunge and watched this right after watching Dune this weekend and holy crap I had no idea how similar the two movies would be. Seriously, I love how Dune, Avatar, and Nightbreed have the exact same skeleton of a story and the only thing different is the insanely thought-out world-building the creators heap onto you so you don’t even mind the familiarity of it all. It’s like a crazy creative writing exercise handed to different geniuses, and I could watch movies like this all day. (disclaimer: I have no idea how Dune the novel ends so maybe I’m wrong there).

    Nightbreed is obviously the shoddiest of the three and there’s a ton of stuff that doesn’t work – the acting is questionable, it looks kinda bad, and the slasher scenes are tiresome and tedious, (even though Cronenberg’s performance is amazing and he’s easily the best part of the movie!). The broadness and over-the-top theatricality really feels like this should be a Repo! The Genetic Opera-style musical and it sorta plays just like one with the musical numbers cut out. But whatever, I kinda love this nutty movie and I wish I watched it sooner (and yeah I won’t say too much but Dune might be a masterpiece).

  71. Having watched the DC, I’ll agree with whoever said this one feels like two movies stitched together, but I don’t think the problem is with Decker, the problem is with the big whizz-bang third act featuring an army of evil rednecks, a sadistic sheriff, and a whatever-his-deal-is preacher, all of whom come out of precisely nowhere when the movie is over half done just for a big action climax. I kinda wished someone could’ve sat Barker down and asked him about it.

    “Hey, Clive Barker, big fan. Question: if Decker tricked all these cops and rednecks into attacking Midian by including the monsters in his framejob of Boone, aren’t they innocent? And so isn’t it a little weird to play them being killed as cool and badass?”

    Clive Barker: Yes, well, you see Kaplan, they were being misled, but look at how conveniently sadistic they’re being about killing the Midianites. I feel that’s enough of a ‘sin’ to sell them as the bad guys.

    “But aren’t the Midianites being all sadistic about killing them back? No one’s trying to call for a ceasefire or deescalate the violence except for the priest, and he turns into a villain!”

    Clive Barker: Mmm… look, a Cenobite!


    I don’t know, maybe I’m being too exacting, but it doesn’t add up to me, the whole “humans are the real monsters and they envy the Midianers even though they don’t know they exist and the Midianers are oppressed by them even though the humans still don’t know they exist, but the moment they find out, this quiet small town is going to turn into an angry mob determined to commit mass murder of these weird aliens THEY JUST FOUND OUT ABOUT”.

  72. Tl;dr I guess I just find it ironic that a movie about the evils of prejudice and discrimination has a plot that entirely relies on going “well, you know how those small-town hicks are.”

  73. Interesting analysis, Kaplan. I wonder if a bit of the subtext for Barker is the experience of being gay in the 80s and having particular empathy for the closeted gay experience. (Not that Barker himself was closeted, but that he surely would’ve been dialed into those sorts of social issues and attitudes, he would’ve personally known others who were closeted and gay, and he would have had broadly relevantly similar personal experiences with prejudice, othering, and the construction of “deviance.”). The reason I say so is that, when I read your imaginative narration of Barker’s perspective (the film’s subtext as you see it), it sounds like the viewpoint of someone who relates to closeted “deviants” who feel unwelcomed in a society that they have experienced as bigotted and unwelcoming. That doesn’t necessarily undercut your complaint that these nuances and turns were insufficiently developed and earned in the narrative.

    I’ve never actually seen the film, so, I can’t offer my own assessment, but it does seem like these aspects of Barker’s biography and the general zeitgeist in the Reagan-Bush/AIDs era could offer some useful context.

  74. I get the metaphor and I understand Barker’s impulse (probably) to not want to spend time with boring humans when we can be in crazy monster world and I’ll even cop that this stuff (I say, about the main theme) is probably better developed in the book. But I was really onboard with how the movie initially didn’t characterize the Midianites as simply poor innocent victims–they could be violent assholes too–but of course that doesn’t justify mass slaughter. So it felt like a bit of a betrayal when he made the bad guys a literal serial killer and a bunch of cartoonishly evil rednecks so the monsters would look good in comparison. Felt like a waste of some perfectly good nuance.

    Also, possibly worth noting is that if you think about it, it seems like the movie’s theme is pro-segregation. The Midianites can’t live with humans because at least some of them will try to eat people and the humans can’t live with Midianites because they’ll freak out and do a race riot. It really does seem like the best thing for both sides is just that the Midianites live off on their own and the humans leave them be. Which maybe was Barker’s attitude at the time, or at least a silly what-if premise he thought was worth writing–“What if gay people all got together and lived on their own and it was in a big cemetery and they were also kinda vampires?”–but I don’t know how well it’d go over now, even as a meaningless monster-people fantasy. Then again, Black Panther was a big hit, and I doubt we’ll see a bunch of Italian immigrants in Wakanda in the next seven sequels.

  75. Also interesting! Re self-segregating, I think that is pretty much how politically active (i.e., voters) college-educated urban/suburban Americans feel about non-college-educated rural Americans feel about each other. Probably in the 80s if you were gay and made it to a city and became part of a gay social network, you were glad just to have found people who shared some of your sensibilities and experiences, which brings a sense of empathy and connection that would be hard to find in the burbs in those days and certainly in rural America. I think it was very hard not to already feel segregated or marginalized in a lot of ways, and just having a like-minded community — even if still regarded as a marginal or even “deviant” community — was a positive step. So, in that sense, maybe segregating was seen as the best that could reasonably be hoped for, and even if you were part of segegrated communities, at least you had your community (and could maybe pass back and forth a bit if you were closeted).

    As for BLACK PANTHER, even though I didn’t love the movie, I definitely dig what it was trying for, which is to portray a kind of strong, regal, utopian non-diaspora blackness in a fictional African country. That said, a sequel that explores Wakanda struggling to absorb and acclimate to a bunch of Sokovian refugees actually could be powerful and awesome.

  76. Maybe Barker had something more up his sleeve, since it seems like a bit of a crock for there to be a whole saga that’s about Boone finding the Midianese a new Midian, which is just returning them to the same status quo they started out with. But who knows? Nightbreed is intended for adults; maybe he thought it’d be too juvenilely far-fetched for them to achieve more than living in peaceful isolation.

    Agreed on Black Panther, especially since the first movie burned through just about all the really good BP rogues, though I doubt the MCU would go anywhere in that direction. They’ve had so many cliffhanger endings over the years that get a follow-up of “actually, that wasn’t a big deal at all, here’s a throw-away line about it.”

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