31 Days of Horror: Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (1990)

Synopsis: Aaron Boone is a troubled young man who may or may not be responsible for a series of brutal murders.  He’s having recurring nightmares drawing him towards a place called Midian, an underground community populated with monsters.  When his psychiatrist, Dr. Decker, confirms to the police that Boone is indeed a murderer, Boone is forced to go on the run to discover the truth about himself and about the monsters of Midian.

Killer Scene: Every scene with the monsters is awesome, but the most terrifying involves only a human monster.  The masked serial killer (David Cronenberg) enters a happy home and graphically dispatches the father in front of the TV and the mother in the kitchen.  A young boy has seen the killer pass from the stairs above, and he appears to have escaped with his life… until the button-masked murderer appears at the bottom of the stairs, looks directly at the terrified young boy, and slowly begins to ascend.


Violence: The creepy masked killer dispatches the family in the scene described above, and horror veteran John Agar is wrapped in Christmas lights and repeatedly stabbed with a stupidly large knife.  One dude slices off the skin around his own face, and monsters battle rednecks in the film’s finale.

Sex: None really, aside from the sexy porcupine chick, Shuna Sassi.  She has some enticing moves to draw you in and some brief flashes of her dangerous breasts.

Scares: The monster scenes are visually impressive, but ultimately not very scary.  Cronenberg’s calm and methodical masked killer on the other hand, is pretty damn creepy.  If someone were to make a list of the creepiest masked killers, Cronenberg’s rag-doll psycho would surely rank towards the top.

Final Thoughts: Nightbreed is far from a perfect film, but it is entertaining and extremely ambitious.  Barker’s tale of inhumane people and heroic monsters is a morality lesson about everything from racism, homophobia, and the simple concept of not judging a book by its cover.  The sheer number of onscreen monsters is amazing, impressive, and a horrific tease for what could have been.  Barker’s film was cut of over twenty minutes by the suits at 20th Century Fox, and depending on who and when you ask, the footage is either being prepared for a long overdue director’s cut or it’s lost forever and will never see the light of day.  For fans of monsters and practical effects, Nightbreed is a fun romp and a must-see.

Would you like to see a restored director’s cut of Nightbreed?

Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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