UTG’s 31 Days Of Halloween: ‘Nightbreed’

nightbreed feature

Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the UTG staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.

Now in its fourth year, 31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring feature that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this column is to supply every UTG reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you’ll follow along at home.

This year, the entire 31 Days series is dedicated to the memory of our friend, Justin Proper. We wouldn’t have a film department without him, and he specifically helped pioneer our involvement in the horror genre. Rest in peace, JP.

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Day 8: Nightbreed (1990)

When I was first approached about writing a review for ’31 Days Of Halloween,’ the first thing I asked for was a list of movies that had been done in the past. There were 130 movies on that list. That made me think that the movies I’m really passionate about must surely all be taken. As I was skimming the list, I could not believe Nightbreed was not included. I had to ask if there were some kind of mistake just to be sure. I mean, Nightbreed is one of three horror movies that most affected me as a teen, and I have seen a lot of horror movies.

A lot.

A LOT.

So, really, I had no choice in my selection.

I do not intend to give a full synopsis, but I do want to explain what Nightbreed is about and why it is important, and that means talking about what happens in the movie. So, hey, spoiler alert.

Nightbreed is the second movie written and directed by famed horror/fantasy author Clive Barker, and it is based on his novella, Cabal. After his first film, Hellraiser, Barker wanted to make a movie that was more traditional and accessible while still retaining what was unique to his own stories. He had a much larger budget, a lot more time, and the resulting product is something bigger than most anything that was being attempted in other horror movies then or now.

The main thing you need to know about Nightbreed is that it is about monsters. It may have more monsters in it than any live-action movie I have ever seen. I do not just mean numerically; I mean kinds of monsters. No two monsters are alike. They all look different. They all act different. They all are different. And the kicker is that the monsters in this movie are not the monsters: Humans are the monsters.

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The plot follows the character Boone on his journey from metaphorical monster to savior (non-monster) while simultaneously changing from human (non-monster) to literal monster. If you miss the juxtaposition of that fact, then you’ve missed the entire movie.

When we first see Boone he is being told that he is a serial killer by his psychiatrist, Dr. Philip K. Decker. (Dr. Decker here is played by the famed director David Cronenberg. It is worth taking note of this because of just how rare it is to see Cronenberg in an acting role, especially one that is not merely a cameo, a la Jason X. Moreover, Cronenberg plays his role to frightening effect with what is arguably the best acting in the film.) Dr. Decker uses drugs to convince Boone that he has committed a slew of murders of which he is actually innocent. An understandably distressed Boone decides the only place appropriate for someone like him is with other supposedly foul creatures, so he seeks out Midian, home of the…yep, monsters. This leads to Boone undergoing a physical and spiritual transformation, he and the audience learning that the denizens of Midian belong to a lineage of beings terrorized by humans, and his eventual participation in the prophesized destruction of Midian, after which–much like Virgil’s Aeneas–Boone is commanded by his god to find a new home for the Midianites, thus becoming their savior.

The destruction of Midian and the acts leading up to it provide the background by which humans are the ones shown to be truly monstrous. They decide to murder Midianite women and children, they murder each other, and they reveal themselves to be wholly mired in xenophobia, prejudice, hate, and outright evil. This is further highlighted by having those people whose roles are traditionally most trusted and expected to be good by society at large (e.g. doctors, policemen, and even priests) leading the charge to destroy a group of beings harming no one and wanting only peace. There is simply no mistaking the story Barker wants to tell and who it is Barker thinks are deserving of being called “monster.”

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I could spend the entire review writing about the technical aspects of Nightbreed. This is no current CGI-filled spectacle. This is a film full of practical effects and amazing makeup by noted effects artists like Bob Keen (The Neverending Story, Highlander, Hellraiser) and Mark Coulier (basically all the cool makeup effects in the Harry Potter series). Every monster is unique, and the movie would be well worth seeing even if everything else were terrible just because of how great the characters look.

I do not know that I can say enough good about Danny Elfman’s score. It rises and falls in a way that is thrilling even without the action of the movie. Elfman brings in amazing vocalists, including children, to perform these choral parts that are as eerie as they are beautiful. There is even a country version of an Oingo Boingo song “Skin” (oh-so-surprisingly called “Country Skin”) on the soundtrack that was recorded specifically for the movie. For a fan of soundtracks it is near-perfect.

There is also a lot to be said about the problems marketing this film, the hour the studio demanded cut from Barker’s original version, and the subsequent versions–both official and unofficial–that have been released in the past two-and-a-half decades since the film’s release. There are stories upon stories surrounding every facet of this great movie.

But, really, you don’t need to know any of that to decide whether or not you want to see this movie. You only need to know one thing:

Do you like monsters? Do you like complex stories with deep mythologies? Do you like subtext that runs almost perfectly contrary to the superficial plot? Do you like fucking MONSTERS?! Then stop what you’re doing, find this movie, and watch it.

A LOT.


Today’s feature was written by guest contributor Jim Clayton, the Project Coordinator at Waxwork Records–a record label specializing in releasing horror movie soundtracks on limited edition vinyl. To date, the young label has impressively released such soundtracks as ‘Re-Animator,’ ‘Day Of The Dead,’ ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Friday The 13th,’ ‘Creepshow,’ and of course, ‘Nightbreed’–along with several other iconic and cult favorites.

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