Welcome back to Junfood Cinema. We break laws for meat. Column-owner Brian Salisbury is currently further North than the Northest of the Dakotas covering the Fantasia Film Fest in Montreal. If he knew what Canadians really did he might have rethought his trip. The most I know is that he was alive and well two days ago. Or do I? Canadians are weird and they harbor weird things. I know that because I’ve seen today’s movie that’s set in Calgary, directed by a famous author who writes famously weird stories and starring a famous director who directs famously weird movies in Canada and that makes me a certifiable expert on 1990 Canada. Everything else I learned about Canada I got from Dear Zachary and dammit things just got real and now I’m crying.
But back to Canada being South of normal and North of Dakota, if today’s film is any indication as to the happenings of what goes on with the dead in that region of the world then, well, free healthcare is making a ton of sense. I know I’m supposed to plug something clever about how we integrate food in with the movie that we write about, but I just finished re-watching this movie and there is a big pile of man-poo-blob-cyst-slobber creature thing that resembles a Pod fusion between the Brundle Fly and a bowl of clam chowder. So, thank you Clive Barker and David Cronenberg, because appetite destructed.
Now about this movie Nightbreed…
What Makes It Bad
In the universe of Nightbreed, the cast of undead mutants of the title are an ancient, nearly extinct tribe of beings that have been in hiding for (presumably) centuries since the time humans organized a massacre of their species. The few survivors that remained were called upon by a god to seek haven in a cemetery called Midian and build an underground home for their kind to safely exist away from humans who would live in fear of their abilities. Yes, Nightbreed is what Clive Barker would have turned X-Men into.
Now, if Jeff Goldblum’s character from Jurassic Park were to describe the above events it would sound like this:
-Man buries dead man
-God resurrects dead man
-Man envies dead man
-Man destroys dead man
-God tells dead man to rebury himself
The Nightbreed establish an underground society built upon a set of laws in order to remain unknown and protected from the outside world, because the second word gets out that mutants still exist history will undoubtedly repeat itself. Here are some of the laws that we can gather from the film:
-Don’t interact with trespassers
-Don’t eat trespassers
-If a trespasser helps a Nightbreed child, the trespasser can keep the Nightbreed child
-Leave your old life behind
-If you choose not to leave your old life behind then get the f*#! out
-Kill David Cronenberg
You might notice that at least two of those laws pretty much contradict the entire purpose of the laws, and the fact that not eating people has to be made a law does say a little about why humans probably shouldn’t trust these people. It’s hard to remain unknown to the outside world if you let outsiders keep your children and you let trespassers run away and tattle on you. Not to mention, if you take in someone who wants to continue to have sex with their old girlfriend then just angrily lett them go on their merry way with their new monstrous, no-pulse-having, cannibalistic self probably, it probably won’t do much in the way of retaining your wallflower status.
As you might guess, each of the above laws gets broken (except killing David Cronenberg, because he’s a bad man who speaks as if he’s never farted in his entire life) thanks to the newest member of the Nightbreed, Aaron Boone. The first two laws get broken on his first trip to Midian, still as a human who thinks he’s a serial killer because he’s got a very trustworthy therapist (Cronenberg, the man who knew not fart) that gives him hallucinogens disguised as medication. It’s actually the therapist that’s the serial killer who’s trying to frame Boone and because Boone is a very smart man he puts these pieces together after he’s been shot 15 times by some of the world’s most competent police officers who just shoot at stuff whenever someone says “gun.” Something tells me they’re part of the lineage that created so many undead people to begin with.
On that first trip to Midian, Boone encounters his first two Nightbreed creatures (not counting the human man he shared a hospital room with who proceeded to rip his face off; hey eventually become the best of buds) named Banana-head and Peloquin. Banana-head actually has a name, they just never refer to him by a name at all in the movie (in the source novella “Cabal,” his name is Kinski). Zucchini-Noggin’ and Peloquin hold Boone above ground and disagree with each other on what to do with him. In the meantime, Boone asks if they’re from Midian (you know, that place he already understood to be currently visiting), because he really just wants to be sure that he’s being held captive by non-humans; if real humans had a forehead shaped like Leno’s chin, only then it would be time to panic.
Kinski wants to take Boone down below, Peloquin wants to eat him after discussing philosophy – and ooooh, boy, if you thought Gary Oldman as Dracula licking blood off a razor blade looked humorously erotic, just wait until you see Peloquin taking a whiff of innocence on his fingers (no subtext thereat all). Peloquin wins the argument and thus starts a chain of events leading to a prophesied coming of a savior who was completely responsible for the society’s prophesied demise . And this is why you do not break the law and eat people.
After this, characters just start to show up and Boone’s not-quite widow (they weren’t married) embarks on a search to find out what happened to her deceased boyfriend who everyone thinks was a family killer. She gets enraptured by the story of the Nightbreed after saving one of their lives and wants to bring Boone back with her to the real world because love trumps all – even eating humans and smelling particularly awful.
Why We Love It!
Even in its current state of 101 minutes in length (there’s a director’s cut making its way around the country that is 50 minutes longer), where characters are highly underdeveloped and some not explained of their significance at all, the film is still fairly well-acted and paced. It is noticeable that there are pieces missing, but it does move along – just unfortunately a little too swiftly. What makes Nightbreed particularly memorable and significant to the genre is that it remains, ironically, one of the last of a nearly extinct breed of monster pictures that utilized practical make-up effects, and a lot of it; some of which are stellar, unique and immensely creative. It helps when the director of the film is the writer of the source. Even though we didn’t see his full vision of what he wanted the story to be, we do see what he was seeing when he imagined the characters and the underworld of Midian when he wrote the novel – and that’s an important element to someone with as vivid an imagination as Clive Barker.
As for those underdeveloped characters the main reason why it’s such an annoyance is the fact that some of them are undoubtedly cool-looking creatures. Shuna-Sassi (the porcupine seductress) sticks out as the most compelling character with almost no exposure. She gets one sequence at the end to show off, but it lasts all of 2 minutes. Peloquin, I’d imagine, is the fan favorite with some wicked flesh dreadlocks and, had this film reached the status of Barker’s Hellraiser in popularity, Peloquin probably would have become one of the recognizable faces of horror. His and Kinski’s introduction scene is one of my personal favorites to rewatch (despite mocking earlier) and actor/director Oliver Parker brings a great deal of personality to the role to raise it above the limited screen time.
Many of the complaints against Nightbreed are rooted in that the movie is just not enough of the good things. I can see where the addition of 50 minutes of footage already filmed and later cut out could have helped – perhaps not all 50 minutes, but at least a good portion of it. That’s the version that I would love to see.
Junkfood Pairing – Tapioca
Everything down in Midian resembles tapioca. The blood of Baphomet? Boiling tapioca. Baphomet himself? Sculpted tapioca dipped in chocolate surrounded by the glow of The Last Dragon. All the creatures? People who ate way too much of that tapioca. It’s as if The Stuff made its way into another movie eaten by dead people.