When I was a kid, my brother once told me that the key difference between Stephen King and Clive Barker is that Stephen King sleeps with a night light... Clive Barker hasn't slept in thirteen years. After watching today's film, Nightbreed, I believe him.
The film follows a man named Aaron Boone (played by Craig Sheffer) who is plagued by strange nightmares of murder and a city called Midian where monsters are accepted and sins are forgiven. Boone has been seeing a psychiatrist named Decker who begins persistently calling him, demanding to see him. When Boone calls on Decker, the doctor shows Boone a set of photographs depicting grisly murders that are startlingly similar to those he's been dreaming about. Convinced he is a murderer, Boone accepts pills from Decker, thinking them to be sedatives, but they are instead powerful hallucinogenics. While hospitalized, Boone meets a crazed man named Narcisse who is intent on finding and entering Midian. Narcisse mutilates himself, thinking Boone is there to test his faith and resolve. Boone sets off alone for Midian and is attacked by one of the nightbreed. As he tries to escape, he is stopped by police who are tricked into gunning him down by Decker, who has been using Boone to track the nightbreed, and is in fact the killer responsible for the murders. Revived by the wound inflicted on him by the nightbreed, Boone returns to Midian and is accepted into the tribe, but he is unable to live the tranquil existence he seeks, because Decker and the police are intent on destroying Midian and wiping out the nightbreed.
Wow. I feel I did myself a real disservice by watching this film sober. The creature effects are a surreal mix of beautiful and grotesque. The score by Danny Elfman is fitting for such a creepy acid trip of a film. The film isn't really frightening as much as disturbing, both for its grotesque images and the seductiveness of others.
I watched the Director's Cut of the film, which I've read is the preferred version amongst fans. Apparently the studio's theatrical cut completely changed the message of the film from one about community and oppression to a run of the mill slasher film. When will studios learn not to mess with Clive Barker's vision and just let the master work? Probably when humanity learns to accept those different from them.
Don't hold your breath.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and recommend it to any horror or dark fantasy fan. Fans of Hellraiser will definitely recognize Barker's bloodstained fingerprints all over this film. Do yourself a favor and watch the Director's Cut on blu-ray or stream it on Tubi.
Pleasant dreams, kids.
(EDIT: It turns out today is Clive Barker’s 66th birthday! What a spooky coincidence! Happy birthday, Clive!)