As far as his skills go as a filmmaker, I’ve always been critical of Clive Barker.His talents as a writer are unquestionably good.When it comes to adapting his words to film however, He doesn’t always hit the mark.1987’s Hellraiser is probably his best known work, and has gone on to become a cult phenomenon.Lord Of Illusions, not so much.(I find it very difficult to take Scott Bakula serious at times).As a writer, his talents are unquestionable.His works have been praised by Time as well as Steven King.Almost every major media publication have placed him on a pedestal and dubbed him the “New crown prince of horror.”This title is most befitting considering his 1990 film Nightbreed.
Based on his novella Cabal, It’s an in-depth work showcasing many of Barker’s talents.On the surface it just appears to be another horror film, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,The challenge for any filmmaker is adapting literature to the screen.Being true to the original source material, yet still making it entertaining for the general film audience.I honestly feel to grasp everything this saga has to offer both watching the film and reading the book are necessary.Both draw on a lot of the same subject.But the book offers you more of a backstory on character, While the film gives you a stunning visual and makes Barkers words come to life.
By 1990, the ship had sailed (so to speak).On the monster movie.The days of ghouls and ghosts had long gone.The creatures that had once terrorized us on the silver screen had faded into obscurity.Frankenstein,Dracula and The Wolfman were now side attractions at Universal Studios.They had been replaced with the fiendish flesh eating undead of George Romero and Lucio Fulci.Enter the breed……….
The film of course is about a troubled man named Boone.A man plagued with nightmares about being drawn into a mysterious world called Midian. Populated by a host of monstrous creatures known as the NIghtbreed.Who have been living underground for centuries, victims of persecution from centuries long gone.Boone also struggles to maintain his relation ship with his girlfriend Lori.As well as dealing with his Psychiatrist Decker.(played by Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg) Who is attempting to frame Boone for his own crimes.
Croeneberg’s performance by the way is nothing short of amazing.He plays the perfect villain.
Eventually Boone becomes part of the breed.Who reside in the underground catacombs of Midian, after being bitten by a one of the breed.Which leads me to my next point.I feel Barker is trying to illustrate a point of his personal life with the “Tribes Of The Moon” as they’re called.Since the mid 1980’s Barker has been openly homosexual.And that decade wasn’t known as the most understanding of such things.You have a large group living a thriving existence from normal society.Made up of many different humanoid forms.They speak of being persecuted, and the outside world fearing what they do not understand.Perhaps in his own way, Barker was illustrating through horror The reality of being homosexual in the 1980’s.Human or not, we all want to be accepted in some way, no matter who or what we might be.
As far as the Breed themselves go; This is evidence of Barker’s enormous talent as a writer.Shortly following the theatrical release of the film, Barker published a companion book ; The Nightbreed Chronicles . Although the original book Cabal only focuses on a few of the breed. And the film relies more on visual storytelling rather than a narrative one. This book gives a comprehensive backstory on each breed included in the film.Even the ones who are only on screen for a short time.Not just the mark of a good imagination, But the mark of a great writer.
I truly feel this is one of Barker’s finest films.Themes of love,acceptance,prejudice and xenophobia combined with a supernatural story that is enjoyable for any horror fan.Also, if you’re a first time viewer to this film.Go with the directors cut.Just trust me on that front.