Nightbreed [1990]

Troubled twentysomething Craig Sheffer is haunted by violent dreams of serial killings and nocturnal invitations by misshapen creatures who live in a misty, mysterious land called Midia. Adapted and directed by Clive Barker (Hellraiser) from his novel Cabal, this tribute to the magical creatures of the night plays like a Jungian reinterpretation of classic myths with a modern twist. Nightbreed are the dead reborn as monsters of legend, fantasies, and nightmares who form their own outcast society in an underground city beneath an Alberta graveyard. Visionary horror director David Cronenberg steps in front of the camera to play Sheffer's unscrupulous psychiatrist, an eerie, unsettling character whose dark side is hidden under a soft-spoken manner and an eerily calm and controlled voice. Barker has a rather unsubtle approach to this fantastical Holocaust metaphor: every human is a victim, a hick, or a bloodthirsty monster, and the climactic witch-hunt is all gore and spectacle. By contrast the bestial society of outcasts has a kind of natural, innocent savagery that turns protective when the tribe is threatened. Cool-looking beings of bright colors, latex masks, and outrageous bodysuits, they band together like some extreme mutant superhero team with anger-management issues. Barker could use more attention to details (what happened to the so-called mystic properties of his shape-shifting monster heroes when the guns were drawn?), but there's an undeniable charge to his modern take on myth and magic. --Sean Axmaker

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