Nightbreed: Recalling Midian’s monsters and man’s madness

Clive Barker (Photo by Tom Stoddart/Getty Images)
Clive Barker (Photo by Tom Stoddart/Getty Images) /

After World War II, some people envisioned a utopia ruled by the United Nations.  In Clive Barker’s offbeat cult film Nightbreed, the main character, Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), dreams of a place called Midian ruled by monster people.  It’s a bit of an odd dream, right? Well, the story gets weirder as the vision of Midian gets more real.  He ends up seeing a therapist partly due to his obsession, and it becomes a regrettable decision.

Boone gets drugged by his psychopathic therapist, Dr. Phillip Decker (David Cronenberg), and tricked into confessing to Decker’s own serial murders.  After ultimately getting gunned down, Boone enters Midian, where he is promptly enthralled by its “Nightbreed” citizens. Meanwhile, Aaron’s girlfriend, Lori (Anne Bobby) fears for his safety as they both get wrapped up in a bizarre and nightmarish adventure.  Fun stuff!

Nightbreed and insanity

Nightbreed often hints at insanity, or delusion, but is actually more interested in depicting the monsters of Midian as real.  So, at first, we might find the character of Narcisse (Hugh Ross) absolutely bonkers, especially when he starts to skin his own face!  At best, he seems like a schizophrenic man suffering from a deep sense of disquiet.  Of course, this being a Clive Barker epic, he turns out to make way more sense than our first impression.  If anything, it’s  Dr. Decker, who would commit someone like Narcisse, who should be struck down by a tranquilizer (if not poison) dart and put into custody.

If the viewer is interested in Nightbreed beyond its opening weirdness, they’ll be eager to see Boone enter Midian’s compound.  However, not everyone will be able to cope with this world or be intoxicated by its powerful effects.  Much like Leviathan and the Cenobites from the Hellraiser series, many elements from Nightbreed require some suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed, and perhaps even understood.  If you can do that, to a necessary degree, you might find yourself curious about the tunnels of Midian, and what they may encounter.

The love story component and the “Occupy Midian” movement

Admittedly, the love story elements of Nightbreed aren’t as deep as one could possibly imagine.  Nevertheless, Boone does love Lori, and I seem to recall Clive Barker finding that story element downplayed in the original cut of the film.  On that note, fans of Nightbreed actually created a little movement called “Occupy Midian,” which successfully pushed for a Clive Barker cut.  Barker’s version certainly contains the same level of insanity but is more true to his intended vision for Nightbreed.  It’s also neat that horror-lovers took a stand and pushed for this version, in addition to the original version.

Nightbreed remains as a fun, albeit potentially confusing spectacle of man vs. monster, and Decker more fully represents the monster in man than Midian’s residents.  It culminates in competing armies in a bloody battle (is it just me or is the battle more phenomenal in the Barker cut, and it seems to fizzle out in the original?).

It is being expanded into a TV series for SyFy, but I would like to see a crossover with Boone and Midian vs. Hellraiser’s Pinhead, the Cenobites, and Leviathan.  Of course, Decker could return as well, as he is more than some nameless monster, cultivating some fans who loved his twisted mask.  Lastly, I also like Narcisse, and would certainly be interested in seeing him return for another round of who-knows-what.

What are your thoughts on Nightbreed?  Let us know in the comments!

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