Film Review: NightBreed (1990)


Aaron (Craig Sheffer) is haunted by nightmares of Midian, a mythical underground of monsters. But his therapy involves a serial-killing psychiatrist (David Cronenberg) who pins his own crimes on his patient. When Aaron dies as a result of his doctor’s deception, he enters the underworld and joins the Nightbreed — and then leads the species in a revolution. Clive Barker directs the film, which is based on his novel Cabal.


In Calgary, a man dreams of monsters and a place called Midian. While he sleeps, another man wearing a mask with buttons for eyes slaughters a family. Aaron Boone is a man haunted by nightmares of monsters and Midian, the city where they live. For the past several months, Boone has been seeing Dr. Decker, a psychologist who is convinced that Boone may be the one responsible for the deaths of six families over the course of the past ten months.

After a near fatal run in with a truck, Boone wakes up in a hospital and meets a troubled man begging to be taken to Midian. Boone plays along with man’s mad babbling long enough to find out where the place actually is. Before he can leave, the man carves pieces of his face off, claiming that he must reveal his true face as he is an actor.

Dr. Decker arrives at the hospital with the police in tow, but Boone escapes and makes his way to Midian. Once inside the gates of the necropolis, Boone runs into Peloquin, one of the Nightbreed, who reveals that Boone has been lied to and is not a killer. Peloquin then proceeds to take a healthy chunk of flesh out of Boone’s shoulder.

Boone manages to escape Midian, but is gunned down by the police when Decker claims that Boone has a gun. Shortly after, Boone’s girlfriend Lori is asked to identify the body and tries to explain to the police and Dr. Decker that Boone was innocent.

But after Boone’s autopsy, his wound begins to shoot magical light, and soon he’s off and back in Midian.

Are Lori and Boone reunited? What is Decker really up too? And what is his obsession with the Nightbreed?

Nightbreed came out in 1990, and sadly tanked at the box office. The studio didn’t quite know what to make of the film, and either due to poor marketing or just plain mishandling, Nightbreed died a painful death. To be honest the film deserved better than that. Yes, there are some issues with the film, the most obvious being that the budget could have been bigger, and the ending of the film is an obvious set up for a possible sequel that never happened.

Nightbreed did what few other horror movies in the late 1980s/early 1990’s were willing to do, which was make you sympathize with the monsters. It becomes very clear as the film progresses that the monsters are not the villains of the film. I think that may have been a part of why the film died at the box office; the trailer presents it as a “Clive Barker Monster Movie”, which it is, but most people who went into this film expecting something like “Hellraiser” were obviously disappointed.

Craig Sheffer plays Aaron Boone, and while I admit he’s not fantastic in the role, he does a pretty good job anyway. Anne Bobby who plays Lori brings a fire to the character that may have been lost on another actress. Doug Bradley turns in a rare non-Pinhead performance as Lylesburg, the leader of the Nightbreed in Midian. Have I mentioned that David Cronenberg is in this movie as Dr. Decker? Jesus H. Christ, Cronenberg is a scary mother f*cker! I’m honestly a little frightened of Cronenberg now, because when you compare his cold calculating performance in this film with some of his interviews, Dr. Decker and Cronenberg seem to almost be the same. Cronenberg is a bad ass and I wish they would make a sequel to this movie, because I want him to come back!

It’s really a damn shame that Clive Barker seems to constantly get f*cked when he’s directing a film. With the exception of “Hellraiser”, both this film and “Lord of Illusions” tanked at the box office. I can’t really find any fault in the story line of Nightbreed, other than it was ahead of its time in its presentation of the monster characters as not being the villains of the film.

And let me say this now, Warner Bros. needs to get its sh*t together and release a special edition of this movie on DVD already! I know I’m not the only fan of this damn movie, and while I love my DVD copy, it’s a bare bones release and it’s just not right, damn it! I’m even willing to step out and say that I wouldn’t mind seeing a remake of this film, and not because I don’t like the original, but because A) it would mean a special edition DVD would be put out and B) a bigger budget and better effects could really help bring the mythology of the film to life.

What are you still doing reading this review, go find a copy of Nightbreed and watch it!

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