"Everything is true. God's an Astronaut. Oz is Over the Rainbow, and Midian is where the monsters live"
Nightbreed is a typically ambitious piece of work from horror maestro Clive Barker. It's full of strange monsters, moments of impressive bloodshed, and a mythos that is quickly set up and invested in, to an impressive degree. I wish I had seen it a long time ago, because it's a new favourite of mine.
Craig Sheffer plays a troubled young man named Aaron Boone. Aaron has been seeing a doctor (David Cronenberg) for some time, due to his dreams about monsters and a place named Midian, but has finally started to feel better. Unfortunately, a bunch of ugly murders have occurred that seem to match Aaron's fantasies. The doctor claims to want to help Aaron, but it soon becomes apparent that he may have another agenda. And then things start to get REALLY interesting after Aaron finds out that he's not as mad as he thought.
Setting things up quickly, and rarely flagging as the plot unfolds, Nightbreed is a film I can't find too many faults with, much to my surprise. Yes, you have to buy into the main premise, but it's never a bad move to trust Barker when he's attempting to provide horror fans with smart, unique, adult entertainment. If you think that monsters are things to be imagined, and feared, by children then you should be thinking again after the first few scenes of this movie. Not only does it present the main monsters as outcasts from society, not necessarily meaning harm to others, yet willing to stand up and fight back when it's called for, but it also takes great pains to show different types of monsters, with a couple being in the more usual human guise.
I know that fans of this movie can recall all of the different names of the monstrous characters, and know who played who, but I'm not going to pretend that I was always able to keep track of such details. Give me one or two repeat viewings, and this is a film I plan to rewatch a number of times, and I'll retain more of the details, but for the time being I'll just admit that a lot of the wonderful creatures all blended together into one impressive group for me. That's not to say that they didn't have individual personalities and characteristics. They really did. I was just overwhelmed by so many wonderful details catching my eye in almost every scene.
Sheffer is fine in the lead role, although he's never been my favourite actor (sorry, I just couldn't ever really get over his fine turn as a major asshole in Some Kind Of Wonderful), and Anne Bobby is cute and sweet as the woman who cares for him. Cronenberg is a bit of a strange casting choice, so you may think, and his early scenes feel slightly frustrating and out of place, but that's all forgotten when he hits his stride after the first 15-20 minutes. Hugh Quarshie is yet another authority figure, a role he seems to have played for the majority of his career, but he's good at it, and Charles Haid is entertainingly over the top as a Police Captain. Catherine Chevalier and Hugh Ross are two main monsters I enjoyed watching onscreen (see, I did manage to keep track of some of them), and pretty much everyone onscreen, whether or not they end up covered in prosthetics, does a great job helping to realise the world and characters envisioned by Barker.
It's not often that work adapted from Barker's material ends up falling flat (who said Rawhead Rex? Hold your tongue) and Nightbreed holds up as a fine reminder that when the man is allowed to translate his vision from mental imagery to page to screen . . . . . . . . . . we horror fans are in for a major treat.