2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 5: Nightbreed (1999)

The Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge for today is 1 2 3 4 CLIVE. Clive Barker was born on October 5th. Celebrate any of his gruesome cinematic deeds.

I decided to go with the unfairly maligned Nightbreed, a movie that I haven’t seen since it played in theaters in 1990. Directed by Clive Barker and based on his 1988 novella Cabal,  this movie was a commercial and critical failure. Barker has always claimed that the producers tried to sell the film as a run of the mill slasher, when it is anything but. In 2014, he finally was able to release a director’s cut that fixed many of his issues.

Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer, Fire in the Sky) dreams of a place called Midian where monsters are accepted. His girlfriend Lori has convinced him to start seeing a psychotherapist named Dr. Phillip Decker, who is ably played by David Cronenberg of all people. All along, Decker has been setting Boone up for the murders that he’s been committing, giving his LSD instead of lithium and filling his head with details of the murders.

Decker urges Boone to turn himself in, but he’s hit by a truck and sent to the hospital where he meets Narcisse, another man who knows about Midian. He explains to Boone how to get to the hidden story while he cuts off his own face.

Boone makes his way to Midian, where he meets the creatures who make it their home like Kinski (Nicholas Vince, the Chattering Cenobite from Hellraiser) and Peloquin, a demonic creature who smells Boone’s innocence, letting him know that there’s no way that the murders could have been his doing. He bites Boone, who runs into a police trap led by Decker and is shot and killed.

He’d be dead if it wasn’t for Peloquin’s bite. Soon, he returns to life in the morgue while his girlfriend decides to come looking for Midian herself. Boone becomes part of the Nightbreed thanks to their leader Dirk Lylesburg (Doug Bradley, Pinhead himself) and from the touch of their god, Baphomet.

What follows is a battle between the police and clergy versus the Nightbreed, ending with Boone rallying the supernatural creatures and destroying their home to stop the attacks. Decker is stopped, Baphomet discusses that this was all part of the prophecy and he renames Boone Cabal.

There are two different endings of the film, depending on the original and director’s cut that change the story significantly. One raises Decker from the dead while another places Lori into the Nightbreed. Both set the stage for further adventures that never happened, sadly.

Barker wanted this to be the Star Wars of horror films and envisioned a trilogy of stories. But the film wasn’t marketed well and never made back its budget. Barker said that the producers expressed a concern that “the monsters are the good guys,” to which he replied, “That’s the point.”

Marvel’s Epic imprint put out several comic books and there were serveral video games, but soon the film slided away into obscurity, Luckily, with the excitement around the director’s and Cabal cuts of the film being released, SyFy, Morgan Creek and Barker have announced an entirely new series based on the movie.

Interestingly enough, Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky spoked well of Nightbreed, calling it “the first truly gay horror fantasy epic”, as he saw the movie being all about the “unconsummated relationship between doctor and patient.”

There are plenty of music ties in this film, as the role of Ohnaka was first intended for singer Marc Almond and Suzi Quatro was in the film, but her scenes were cut. It’s also one of the first films that Danny Elfman scored after Batman. Barker stated that “The most uncompromised portion of that entire movie is the score.”

Nightbreed has more than held up, reminding me of the convention season of 1990 when you could see buttons and shirts of this movie everywhere. My excitement was at a fever pitch and I thought, “This is going to be huge.” Shows how smart I was.

4 thoughts on “2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 5: Nightbreed (1999)

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