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Film / Nightbreed

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Boone: Then it's true.
Peloquin: Everything is true. God's an astronaut. Oz is over the rainbow, and Midian is where the monsters live.

A 1990 fantasy-horror film directed by Clive Barker, who adapted his own novel Cabal.

A masked Serial Killer is stalking the families of the city, killing them brutally, and Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) has been having nightmares where he sees the crimes through his eyes. In his nightmarish dreams he also sees the strange, underground city of Midian and its monstrous inhabitants, feeling a strange pull towards it. The nightmares are so bad that he had been seeing Doctor Philip Decker (David Cronenberg), who is worried he's getting worse. After Dr. Decker's "lithium" nearly gets him run over by a truck, he meets Narcisse (Hugh Ross), a touched man who babbles about Midian, and claims to know where it is. Deciding to take the chance, Boone heads there and promptly gets killed for being suspected of being the serial killer.

Then he leaves the morgue.

With a music score by Danny Elfman that's very reminiscent of Batman (1989), Nightbreed is a gorgeous, disgusting movie with a captivating mythical mood. The titular Nightbreed aren't quite monsters, and the humans aren't exactly saints either.

The film production saw quite a bit of Executive Meddling from its distributor 20th Century Fox, most prominently resulting in a Focus Group Ending, which deviated quite a bit from the original novel's ending. Clive Barker was vocally unhappy about the studio interference, and for years afterwards, he longed for the recovery of the reels so the film might be re-edited. Russell Cherrington, a film scholar at the University of Derby, was eventually able to get his hands on a couple of different workprint cuts of the film through various sources, recompiling them in 2012 into a 159-minute cut (as opposed to the studio approved version's 102 minutes) that was much closer to Clive Barker's original vision, called The Cabal Cut.

The release of the The Cabal Cut generated much renewed interest in the film, leading Shout! Factory to obtain the license to the film in 2013. Shout! Factory was eventually able to recover the original film reels, allowing Clive Barker himself to put together a official Director's Cut version (clocking in at 122 minutes), which was released in 2014.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Title Change: Nightbreed is adapted from the novel "Cabal".
  • Adaptational Villainy: Ashberry in the novel ends up crippled and spouting prophetic gibberish. Eigerman intends to decrypt to aid him in his revenge on the Nightbreed. In both versions of the film, he's the one intent on hunting them to extinction. The Boom Comics series even goes so far as to make him secretly a zealot Serial Killer.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Villainous variation in the theatrical cut. The hateful serial killer Dr. Decker, who despises everything that isn't him and regarded the Nightbreed as vermin that he wanted to exterminate, becomes a Nightbreed himself in the Sequel Hook at the end when Ashberry revives him. Now he's an undead, superpowered serial killer more dangerous than ever.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The novel is short and rather laconic, not too heavy on descriptions and such. The movie expands not only the plots, but also gives us lot of details about the world and the creatures that dwell in Midian.
  • Anti-Villain: Inspector Joyce is just concerned that Boone is the one killing people, so he reluctantly cooperates with Decker, and later Eigerman. He's also visibly horrified when Ohnaka starts burning in the sunlight, and in a deleted scene, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn by returning Babette to Rachel and then leaving.
  • Audible Sharpness: The psychotic Doctor Decker's blade makes a particularly cool and sinister scrape as he draws it on one unsuspecting victim, and the blade gets a close-up as it does so.
  • Ax-Crazy: Not initially the case with Decker, but over the course of the movie, he becomes more reckless and violent in his attempts to frame Boone. Played straight with Eigerman.
  • Baphomet: He's the deity of the Midianites. At the end of the film, he charges Boone with finding them a new home.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Philip Decker, Boone's Psycho Psychologist who frames him for Decker's own murders and starts a war against the Nightbreed.
  • Blood Knight: Eigerman and his men seem ... a little too enthusiastic about wiping out the 'Breed.
  • Body Horror: Some of the 'Breed look downright bizarre and grotesque.
  • Book Ends: Cabal begins and ends with a declaration of "I'll never leave you."
  • The Cameo: Horror writer duo John Skipp and Craig Spector appear as corpses in a hotel room.
  • Canada, Eh?: Downplayed, though not to the extent that Canada Does Not Exist. Characters acknowledge that they live in Alberta (specifically, Calgary, or "within driving distance"; Edmonton is mentioned to be close by, too) and Boone's Canadian passport is visible in an early scene. The cops have maple leaf emblems on their uniforms and there is a Canadian flag in Eigerman's office. The landscape of rolling forests and mountains is also distinctively Canadian.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Dr. Decker is proud to be a Serial Killer, calling himself "death, plain and simple."
  • Censored Child Death: Doctor Decker, a serial killer who targets families, is shown attacking a household of three in the opening. The mother and father are graphically murdered with a butcher's knife, but he's only seen menacingly approaching their young son before the screen fades to black.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: Doctor Decker convinces his patient Aaron Boone that he is responsible for a horrible series of murders that have plagued the city for the past several months, then he prescribes him some anti-psychotic drugs. It turns out that the drugs were actually intended to make Boone psychotic: Decker is the real killer who is trying to cover up his own crimes by framing Boone.
  • Creepy Monotone: Decker's voice is extremely unexceptional, and he speaks in a simple, calm manner, which provides a contrast to his murderous crimes and psychopathic appearance in his Button Face mask.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Midianites... though definitely not harmless. And definitely not all of them, if the I'm a Humanitarian tendencies of Peloquin are anything to go by.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Decker on occasion, with heavy emphasis on the "deadpan".
    Decker: (to a helpless torture victim) SAY IT! (Decker stabs him in the heart and audibly sighs) Then don't say it.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original novel, Eigerman survives the climax and decides to use Ashberry to hunt down the Nightbreed. In both cuts of the film, he dies..
  • Decapitation Presentation: The homicidal Dr. Decker seems to be fond of this. He cuts off a motel clerk's head and places it on the front desk for his wife to find before killing her too. Later, he decapitates Narcisse and puts the head on a stick before showing it to Boone.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The Nightbreed manage to escape the humans' attack and go on a quest to find a new home. Decker and Eigerman are both dead, but Reverend Ashberry was accidentally mutated into a Nightbreed during the chaos, and vows revenge.
  • Family Extermination: Dr. Philip Decker is a Serial Killer who is obsessed with exterminating the human race. His Establishing Character Moment shows him breaking into a family's home to kill them all, and later scenes indicate that targeting "breeders" is his modus operandi.
  • Fan Disservice: The character of Shuna Sassi is a walking example of this both in-universe and to those who view the film.
  • Fanservice: When Rachel takes her clothes off to mesmerize a cop.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: Midian is the last city for the eponymous Nightbreed, who have been persecuted for all of human history.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul:
    • Decker. He's more of a monster than every being in Midian combined, and he's the only character in the movie with prominent glasses. Unlike many film examples, you can see by the distortion of his face that they're a real, fairly significant prescription.
    • Eigerman, the fascist police captain of Shereneck County. He loses the glasses at the end, though.
  • Game Face: Lori and her boyfriend Aaron Boone, now a newly-turned member of the Nightbreed, have escaped Midian and are on the run from the police. When the cops marshal an entire force to arrest him he turns around to show Lori his true face.
  • Gaslighting: Decker tries to make Boone think that he's killing families during his blackouts, giving him hallucinogens disguised as lithium to make him question his own sanity.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: In the original novella Decker is driven to kill by his mask 'Button Face' that speaks to him in his mind. This was dropped in the film although a few deleted scenes show the mask talking with Cronenberg's voice.
  • Gothic Horror: A typical aspect considering it's the brainchild of Clive Barker after all. The Midianites and a masked Dr. Decker all have gothic appearances.
  • Hate Sink: Captain Eigerman is a racist, fascist, homophobic, Rabid Cop. He orders an assault on Midian — including the children — verbally abuses and threatens Reverend Ashberry for calling him out on his genocide, beats up Boone in his cell, and even starts trying to shoot at the "sons of the free" as they try to flee.
  • Hero Killer: Decker, who has the highest body count of all the antagonists. Besides the 40+ people he slaughtered as a serial killer, Sheryl, Detective Joyce and Narcisse all die by his hand.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Midian.
  • Home of Monsters: Midian is an underground city where the monsters live.
  • Humans Are Bastards: What with having made the Nightbreed near extinct.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: A few of humans in the film want to become Nightbreed, some to have their guilt absolved, some because they envy the Nightbreed's power.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Many of the Midianites. Discouraged since it tends to draw unwanted attention, though.
    Kinski: If we eat him we break the law.
    Peloquin: Oh fuck the law! I want meat!
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Boone gets a knife through the back, pinning him to a card table. Being semi-undead, he removes the table and continues fighting with the knife still in place and a card stuck on it. He finally kills Decker by hugging him, impaling him on the knife as well.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: The comics, with Hellraiser. Nightbreed and Cenobites do not get along.
  • Lack of Empathy: Decker has this in spades. He seriously cannot fathom why anyone would care about any other person's pain.
  • Last of His Kind: Midian is a whole city of this. Strange beings nearly hunted to extinction and one-of-a-kind freaks all find refuge there.
  • Living Shadow: Lylesburg in the novella.
  • Macho Masochism: While hitting on Lori, Peloquin steals the butterfly pin off her sweater, and then pins it to his bare chest. Yowch.
  • Mad Prophet: In Cabal, Reverend Ashberry is reduced to this.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The serial killer Dr. Decker wears a bondage/scarecrow mask.
  • Marked Change: As Boone metamorphoses, various swirling patterns form blackened grooves in his skin.
  • Masquerade: Why they live in Midian.
  • Medication Tampering: Dr. Decker replaces Aaron Boone's medication with hallucinogenic drugs to make him think that he was responsible for several murders that Decker himself committed.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Decker justifies his crimes as being part of his mission to purify the world of humans. He wants to stop 'breeders' from spreading their "filth" and murders entire families, including their children.
  • Monster Mash: The veritable freak show of Nightbreed.
  • Monster Town: Midian, the underground city of the Nightbreed.
  • Motive Rant: During Dr. Decker's torture and questioning of an old shopkeeper, he goes on a whiny rant about his serial-killing activities, explaining that he just hates humanity so utterly that he hacks up whole families to stop humans from creating offspring. He concludes that wiping out the Nightbreed race is the logical extension of his self-given mission to cleanse everything. This scene was apparently added after initial shooting to explain Decker's motives for being so evil more thoroughly, which wasn't all that clear in the original cut.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The patient that Boone meets in the hospital. He desperately wants to be taken to Midian and believes that Boone is the guide sent to test him and (hopefully) take him there. But first, he needs to show his "true face," so he cuts off most of his scalp and eventually dies which is heavily implied to be hastened by Dr. Decker. But in a semi-subversion, it turns out that he was Nightbreed, and death ended up making him dramatically more happy and reasonably more sane.
  • No Shirt, Long Jacket: At one point in the Cabal novella, Boone takes off his dirty white shirt to feel his beloved leather jacket on his skin.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: All of the Nighbreed are vampiric to some extent. They crave blood and flesh and the sunlight hurts them. But the variety of their appearances and individual traits are vast. Peloquin is the closest to "your average vampire," having a typical "monstrous" face and biting Boone on his shoulder.
  • Outcast Refuge: Midian is a hidden city explicitly designed as a place monsters can hide from the hostile world around them.
  • Physical God: Baphomet, the creator of Midian. What it is though, seems to be a mystery even to the Breed.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: Dr. Decker prefers to use huge carving blades to kill his victims, often appearing with one in each hand. He's briefly seen in his apartment with an entire collection of knives and blades laid out in front of him on a conference-style table.
  • Psycho Psychologist: At first Dr. Decker seems like a concerned psychologist who feels obliged to report Aaron Boone to the authorities for all the apparent murders that Boone committed during his blackouts. He prescribes Boone some medication to keep him from having another episode until he turns himself in. Turns out that the drugs are actually hallucinogens, Decker is the real killer and has framed Boone for his own crimes.
  • "Psycho" Strings: The psychotic serial killer Dr. Decker is accompanied by a creepy string-based theme designed to unsettle the viewer during his first major knife-wielding appearance.
  • Resurrected Murderer: The Psycho Psychologist serial killer Dr. Decker is killed by Boone at the end of the film, only to be resurrected as another nightbreed by the corrupted priest Ashberry. For extra irony points, Decker hated the nightbreed and had sought to wipe them out.
  • Sackhead Slasher: When Doctor Decker moonlights as a serial killer he wears a drab-looking scarecrow mask that visually clashes with his neat business suit.
  • The Sacred Darkness: The Baptizer, Baphomet.
  • Scenery Porn: Especially the abandoned graveyard, which is gorgeously mysterious. Then it's more like Scenery Porn for Nightmare Fetishists, with amazingly detailed, imaginative and yet extremely scary and unpleasant Midian.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: Early in Boone's introduction to the Breed, he finds that the hall to Baphomet's chamber is lined on either side by locked cells containing Berserkers: Breed who are mindless and deformed (even for monsters), but whose strength is unparalleled. During the climax of the movie, Midian is falling apart, fires are raging through the cemetery, and the Breed are being slaughtered by gun-toting humans. Lylesburg uses his last moments alive to unlock ALL the doors and drive away the invading humans.
  • Serial Killer: Dr. Decker is a misanthropic serial killer who murders entire families and anyone else he comes across to 'cleanse' the world. He becomes an undead one at the end of the theatrical cut. The Boom Comics series also goes so far as to reveal Ashberry has killed A LOT of hookers.
  • Sequel Hook: Dr. Decker is revived as a Nightbreed by Ashberry, and Boone and the survivors have to find a new home.
  • Shout-Out: Dr. Philip K. Decker is named after the science fiction author Philip K. Dick.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Ashberry after being "burned" by Baphomet in both versions of the film wants revenge on both the Nightbreed and their God.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Shown with an aftermath in the film — A badly fallen priest is dragged along for the ride when the rednecks go after the Nightbreed, and when he manages to splash the Shattered God's transformative baptism over himself, he winds up in the ruins of the Breed's old home and vowing revenge: "Their God burned me. I want to burn him back!"
  • The Sociopath: Decker kills families because he despises humanity, gaslights Boone into thinking he did them, and declares war on the Nightbreed for no apparent reason. Throughout all this, he remains deathly calm, seemingly feeling nothing but hatred.
  • Softspoken Sadist: A major contributing factor to how creepy the psychotic Dr. Decker is is how calm and collected he always remains even during his hands-on murders.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Decker is resurrected in the theatrical cut of the film by Ashberry. However in Cabal, the Epic Comics adaptation, and the Director's Cut, he stays dead.
    • Lylesburg survives in the Novella.
    • Narcisse lives in the theatrical cut of the film, but dies in both the Novella and the Director's Cut.
  • Tear Off Your Face: One character starts to cut his own face off as part of his passage into Midian. Later inverted, in that as a Nighbreed he peels off all of his skin but his face in the film and comics. The novella plays this straight.
  • Utopia: To naturals, Midian probably looks like the stuff of twisted nightmares. But to the Nightbreed it's "Shangri La on dope".
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Humanity has hunted the tribes of the moon, the Nightbreed, to near extinction for millennia.
    Rachel: You call us monsters, but when you dream, it's of flying and changing, and living without death. You envy us. And what you envy...
    Lori: ...we destroy.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Decker undergoes a subtle one as Boone continues to slip from his grasp. He goes from "simply" murdering families to killing any strangers he comes across without much intention beyond framing Boone. This comes to a head when he kills Inspector Joyce after he discovers the good doctor's secret.
    • Eigerman, furious at the the Sons of the Free fleeing when it becomes clear they're outmatched by the Nightbreed, starts shooting at them as they run by him.
  • Viral Transformation: After Peloquin bites Boone and he's gunned down, it's this that turns him into a Nightbreed.
  • Vomiting Cop: After the police drag Ohnaka into the sunlight and he subsequently explodes into ash, one of the cops stumbles off to puke on the ground.
  • Voice of the Legion: How Baphomet talks.
  • Wainscot Society: In a dark form - the Nightbreed and Midian.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: Aaron Boone is shot to death by the police after his Psycho Psychologist frames him for his crimes. He awakens at the morgue as a new member of the supernatural Nightbreed and escapes to go live with them.
  • Weakened by the Light: Some Nightbreed burn in sunlight. In the Novella this somehow applies to all of them except Cabal.
  • White Mask of Doom: The serial killer wears a full head white mask with button eyes, made even more chilling by his calm and banal voice.
  • You're Insane!: When the psychotic Dr. Decker explains to an old man whom he's torturing for information that he believes it is his mission to wipe out the Nightbreed, the man calls him crazy. Decker's retort: "No, I'm Death, plain and simple".