SHOCKTOBER 2015: NIGHTBREED: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (Clive Barker, 1990)

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DanaNightbreed: The Director’s Cut is a mess. A phantasmagorical, delirious, world-building mess, but a mess nonetheless. Thankfully, we have a very large spot in our hearts for earnestly felt disasters.

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Darren: The Director’s Cut of Nightbreed is certainly an improvement on the theatrical cut (fewer jokes, more monsters) but storywise it’s not any more cohesive. What makes Boone a monster? I don’t mean this in the “perhaps it is WE who are the monsters!” sense, I mean this as a genuine question: Why should Midian take him? Sure, he’s the “chosen one”, I guess, but nothing in the film backs that up. It ultimately doesn’t matter; this is all pretext for Boone and his girlfriend to explore Midian. In a better world, we’d skip the hick cops vs. the sensitive monsters showdown and just float through this subterranean world before our protagonist screwed everything up for everybody.

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Dana: Agreed. But Nightbreed does give us the rare pleasure of seeing David Cronenberg in an acting role! And his affectless Canadian demeanor is perfect for the role of Dr. Decker, the (spoiler? although you’ll see this coming in the first five minutes of the film) actual mass murderer who wants to get into Median. He wears a terrifying tweed gimp mask with buttons for eyes – it’s actually incredibly unnerving, and Cronenberg is the best part of the film.

Darren: Cronenberg’s style plays perfectly to this role, particularly since so much of the acting in the film is over the top at times. It’s a beautifully shot film, without question, and the sort of artistic touches of his early films Salome and The Forbidden come to the surface in Nightbreed more than in any of his other films. If the film tries to do too much, if it creates a world at the expense of naturalistic characters or a tight storyline, that’s entirely keeping with Barker’s work in pretty much any conceivable media, which certainly makes it worth a couple hours of your time.

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