Nightbreed (1990)

Action, Fantasy, Horror
Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charles Haid
A troubled young man is drawn to a mythical place called Midian where a variety of monsters are hiding from humanity.
  • WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 16 Feb 1990 Released:
  • 01 Jun 2004 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Clive Barker (novel), Clive Barker (screenplay) Writer:
  • Clive Barker Director:
  • N/A Website:
Intrigue, mystery and monstrosity.10/10

It is interesting to see what people think of this movie, since it is, in fact, quite unique (though it bears some of the trademarks of Clive Barker's writing). Even though it might seem a bit cynical to say so, the movie is just intricate enough to deflect those that need standard Hollywood plot hooks, and layered, so that if you expect to be fed, you will see a normal monster flick with lots of monsters and a disjointed plot.

Those who need a linear, specific and untangled plot line will hate this movie, because the story lies, like in the novella, partially between the lines, or in this case, partially off screen, in comments and the imagination.

Another possible hang-up is the ending, of which I can say, without spoiling it, that it is not entirely good and not entirely bad. It is, in fact, not very defined at all, which I know sends some people into raging tantrums about that they didn't get to know what happened, but to me, and to many others, I'm sure, just adds another dimension to the story - the dimension of speculation, and, in addition, the point that great disruption has a tendency to cause ripples that extend quite far.

There is definitely moral here, but of a rather different kind than the standard Hollywood in-your-face-at-the-end-of-the-movie sort of display. Summing that moral up is simple, even though it is not quite that simply displayed; prejudice and the human tendency to hate the different.

I love this movie, even though, as many of the reviewers have noted, the expressions of the actors (with the exception of David Cronenberg, who does a wonderful appearance) are rather tacky. I'm not sure they are entirely to blame for their rickety appearance and lack of depth, though, seeing that these are common problems in converting literature to screenplay.

All in all, this is a great movie, provided that you do not expect it to be a standard horror movie.
A self-indulgent film, with potential.5/10

Clive Barker is, by far, the best horror writer of this century, and a fine visual artist as well. Few of the films made from his fiction are satisfactory "Clive Barker Experiences". This is partly because his main strength as a writer is, naturally, his use of language to provoke emotional reactions and to evoke very special moods above (beneath?) and beyond ordinary shock and revulsion. He raises horrific imagery and psychological situations to the level of poetry. This is not easy to do in film, a purely visual medium. The image of a monster or a monstrous act in film is a picture: there it is before you. A description of same in fiction can be given all sorts of depths and angles in the mind in writing. "Nightbreed" almost works as an adaptation of Barker's "Cabal". Unfortunately, as is apparent, most of Barker's budget was blown on the monsters (which are excellent movie monsters), with insufficient funds remaining for factors like cast. The actor who played the all-important role of Boone was not up to it at all. He conveyed almost nothing of the depth of Boone's torment, which exists on a number of levels. A talent should have been sought instead of a hunk. This is symptomatic of the film's weakness in general. Too many (albeit high-quality) monsters and too little time and attention spent on the basic human values (simply, character) which must underlie all fiction, no matter what its genre.
Sliced and diced by the studio, directors cut to come?9/10
I was peeved that the best make-up academy award went to Dick Tracy, a horrible film with horrible make-up. The Nightbreed (based on the better titled "Cabal" novella) look terrific, the acting is excellent and David Chroneburg makes for a truly creepy and terrific antagonist.

The plot focus's on Aaron Boone, who has recurring nightmares about a society of monsters living under a cemetery. Is he making it up or are they real and calling to him? His Pyschologist (Chroneburg) convinces him he's a murderer, a slayer of families.

Troubled and suicidal, Boone seeks refuge in Midian but the monsters don't want him at first. He is also tracked by his girlfriend, Lori who refuses to give up on him even after he dies and comes back cold and monstrous.

But Decker isn't about to let Boone continue on. He raises the locals on an all out assault on Midian, like a holy war in gods name led by the devil.

Barkers themes of misunderstood monsters may come from his experiences as a homosexual male, but they are always strong and honest. Nightbreed turns the genre on it's head. The monsters are just trying to survive and want to be left alone, but man is hunting them.

A 20+ minute longer cut was originally submitted by Barker, but the studio chopped it into this fractured masterpiece. Barker is hard at work trying to locate the missing footage for a directors cut release. Until then, this version will have to do.
Not a horror movie: A monster movie, with affection.7/10

What's fun about Barker's Nightbreed is that it's the story of a human on a rampage, a deadly threat to monsters everywhere. In this one, the monsters (the night breed of the title) are the "good" guys. It shares its sense of celebrating the different, the twisted, and the dark with the first Addams Family movie, and much of Tim Burton's work. It also has the goriness that one expects from a piece by Barker.

Especially fun is the performance by Cronenberg as the truly evil human doctor who is bent on destroying the Nightbreed. As happens in most classic monster movies, the villagers surround the monsters' castle with torches and pitchforks. Only this time, the modern setting replaces the castle with an old mausoleum and the rustic "weapons" with guns and bombs. And this time the sympathy you felt when you saw Frankenstein's monster burned in the windmill is the very center of the movie.

This isn't a masterpiece, and even Barker has done more interesting, and certainly more chilling, work. But it's pure fun, it looks great, and remains light without mocking itself. Worth a look!
classic10/10

Nightbreed is not only great, it is also unique, even taking into account other Barker's movies, which never lack originality. An amazing adaptation of a very interesting idea for a book. For the horror genre, it has quite a
few of subtle symbolics and references. Certainly a lot of fun to have, a a
bit to think about, if one cares to. And, not to forget, a nice music score. Well, the special effects, as usual, get old faster than anything, but that is probably the only drawback. I've just seen it again after ten years, and I still find it something to recommend.