Wednesday, October 22, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Nightbreed

NIGHTBREED (1990)
I was supposed to get this on tape as part of a friend’s collection...but alas, Nightbreed had been replaced by Nice Dreams instead. But a NetFlix rental confirmed that Nightbreed is as bizarre of a movie as the preview made it out to be when I saw it on TV years back. Unfortunately, it also confirms a well-founded belief that Clive Barker is at his best when he sticks to the script and leaves the direction to someone else. For another example, see Hellraiser, which is a rare case of the sequel surpassing the original. Based on Barker’s novel Cabal, the story is an interesting one. A serial-killing psychiatrist frames one of his patients for the crime, a guy who is having nightmares of an ancient tribe of monsters called the Night Breed. When the doc's deception results in his patient's death, he returns from the dead and enters the Night Breed’s mythical underworld of Midian, residing underneath a cemetery in western Canada. The confrontation between living and dead is inevitable, but us living and breathing types get a chance to play the bad guys for once. As you might expect from the wild imagination of Clive Barker, the monsters look awesome and so does the underground sanctuary they live in. But Nightbreed always feels like a movie where those behind the camera are holding back for whatever reason, and it never fully engaged this viewer as a result. Craig Sheffer isn’t terribly convincing as the new (dead) kid on the block leading his fellow Breeders against a siege of the heavily armed living. (Ironically, he showed up later in Hellraiser: Inferno.) But David Cronenberg steals the show as the psycho shrink out to kill the dead once and for all. Although he’s great in his role, it’s not enough to warrant a recommendation on my part. Like Hellraiser, Nightbreed would have been much better with a different director calling the shots. How frustrating.

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