Sunday, May 06, 2007


Multimedia horror maven Clive Barker followed the success of his feature directorial debut "Hellraiser" with this equally surreal effort, based on his novella Cabal. The story involves the plight of Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), a young man tormented by visions of monstrous, graveyard-dwelling creatures. Seeking the aid of his clinically cold therapist Dr. Decker (played by Canadian horror auteur David Cronenberg) in deciphering his nightmares, Boone becomes convinced that his frequent blackouts are linked to a recent spate of mutilation murders in the area. His frantic search for the truth leads him to the subterranean city of Midian, the dwelling place of a mythical race of undead nocturnal monsters known as the "Nightbreed." But it is only after he is cornered and shot dead by police that Boone's real journey begins -- he finds himself resurrected as one of the Breed and initiated into Midian's inner circle, where his latent supernatural powers are unleashed, leading to his realization of Dr. Decker's sinister role in the murders for which he was framed. Though Barker's unique and graphic vision is somewhat blunted by choppy editing (thanks to relentless tampering from the studio), this is nevertheless a fine sophomore project from a talented storyteller; the central conceit of presenting the monsters as the "good guys" -- at least compared to the gun-and-bible-toting lunatics who hunt them -- is handled with verve and originality.

I've been a fan of this film since it's release in 1990 and actually owned a VHS copy shortly thereafter. The movie was considered a flop after the success of "Hellraiser" but I'm convinced that was simply because the average person was expecting the 'monsters' to follow the typical horror plot lines, which they did not. In fact, this is an excellent example of flipping stereotypes and showing that, oftentimes, the real monsters are the 'normal' people. I think most people weren't comfortable with seeing slight reflections of themselves on screen or couldn't comprehend the deeper implications of the story so they played it off as being a bad movie. On the other hand, it is a very violent and visual movie so that could have played a part, as well.

One of my favorite stories concerning the movie is how Clive Barker ended up directing it. Originally, Barker was going to produce as well as be responsible for adapting the screenplay from his novella, Cabal, and David Cronenberg (The Fly, The Dead Zone, Scanners) was going to direct. Barker had never met Cronenberg and upon their first meeting, Barker was shocked at Cronenberg's appearance because he looked exactly as he had envisioned the character of Dr. Philip K. Decker when he was writing the novella. Once he had expressed his initial unease with Cronenberg and after several more discussions, they decided that Barker should direct and Cronenberg could portray his evil twin and, by the way, his performance is the best in the film. On a side note, the name Philip K. Decker is a nod to the writer, Philip K. Dick who wrote "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" which was the basis for the movie "Blade Runner," with the main character in the story and film being named, "Decker."

Another interesting fact is that the movie holds up rather well to the novella even though the studio cut almost a half an hour from the film before it's release, including what they considered the more violent scenes, many many 'monsters' and rock singer Suzi Quatro's entire role. Clive Barker recently committed to a 2-disc director's cut with an additional 25 minutes restored to the film, provided all the material can be found. All I can do is hope and wait.

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