I was excited about this hidden Clive Barker classic, which fits in perfectly with our theme this month. Turns out there’s a reason this is a fairly obscure Clive Barker film. It’s definitely no Hellraiser, but it’s so very Clive Barker-y.
Where to Watch:
??? A young man seeks out Midian, a world that haunts his dreams, while a serial killer with button eyes commits a string of seemingly random murders.
The Uncondensed Version:
Aaron is a troubled soul, haunted by terrifying nightmares that have become better with the help of a psychologist, Dr. Decker. I think it’s worth noting that Aaron is majorly channeling Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing through all of this, leather jacket and casually swept back hair included.
Meanwhile, a killer in a mask with creepy button eyes seems to be targeting families at random. Aaron’s sessions with Decker come back to bite him since some of the terrible dreams he had involved very specific houses and faces…those of the killer’s victims! Could Aaron somehow be the murderer without even knowing?
Decker gives Aaron some mystery pills (which turn out to be hallucinogens), which leads him to show up at the bar where his girlfriend Lori is singing a pretty terrible song about codependency. He ends up in the hospital after walking directly into the path of a semi. At the hospital, Aaron meets a man referencing Midian, a place he becomes determined to find. Unfortunately, before he reveals the secret location of Midian, he stabs himself in the face and tears his own scalp off.
This gives Aaron a chance to escape the police and his psychologist, fleeing to a graveyard that just happens to be (you guessed it) the secret location of Midian. Night falls and he is confronted by inhabitants of Midian, who threaten him with death and also bite him. Though Aaron escapes these creatures, he is shot by the police when Decker erroneously tells them Aaron is armed.
Lori is devastated and keeps seeing ghost Aaron everywhere. She’s convinced he’s still alive or at least believes there are extremely shady circumstances surrounding his death. I (very wrongly) believed she was going to investigate the graveyard with the Julia of this film, Sheryl, who she meets in a women’s bathroom at a bar. God, she’s fucking fabulous but, alas, not long for this world.
Meanwhile, Aaron is in Midian, joining the titular Nightbreed in a somewhat bizarre ritual. The Nightbreed are an ancient group of shapeshifters, driven mostly to extinction as a result of relentless persecution throughout history. Most of the Nightbreed are pretty pleased about Aaron’s status as one of them, with the exception of the guy who bit Aaron and his spiky conspirator/girlfriend.
Lori is determined to find Aaron, and receives some unexpected help from one of the Nightbreed after saving her child.
Surprising no one, Decker is the button face killer, targeting the last of the Nightbreed for some reason or another. He goes after Lori, which draws Aaron out of hiding.
Aaron is eventually arrested again, and it turns out the sheriff is a complete dickbag (but the police force here is mostly made up of assholes who do absolutely nothing to help seriously injured Nightbreed). It just gets way more convoluted from here, and ultimately comes down to a battle between cops and demons (or whatever the fuck the Nightbreed are. Shapeshifters, fine).
The battle goes on forever and has a somewhat shocking twist at the end. Sort of. If you actually care about any of the characters by then.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Look, I kept watching this and I genuinely did want to know where this was all heading. There’s just way too much going on for any of the characters to be interesting or for any of this to be coherent, frankly.
It’s quite an ambitious film on many levels and (could be completely off on this) I saw the Nightbreed as a representation of LGBT people, especially in the wake of the AIDS crisis. It can’t be a mistake that Decker is a psychologist and tries to vilify and kill Aaron as part of this “other” group of people who have been persecuted throughout history. The police are complicit in this, as is organized religion to a certain degree. Aaron has to make sacrifices in order to embrace his identity, and he still can’t go out during the day or ever return to the life he had before.
That being said, there needed to be a Julia in this who was just unapologetically and fantastically evil. A good old-fashioned shoulder pad never hurts either. Decker is close to this role, but with very little exploration of his motivations, he just doesn’t hold a candle to Julia.
This may also be one of the tamest R movies I’ve seen? Ok, there are boobs, but they are the least sexualized boobs I’ve ever seen except maybe in a morgue scene. The face ripping part was gross, but there was nothing else I can remember being quite as gross/gory. However, this could be a sad reflection of my own desensitization. The f bomb is thrown around a few times, but by no means is this The Departed. Visual effects are somewhat dated, but pretty flipping creative at times.
4 thoughts on “Nightbreed, or: Button Eyes Will Haunt Your Dreams”
This is so great and makes so much more sense than the Wiki page! I didn’t give this my all to be honest and it shows. Still love Mr Barker though xo
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Come back Julia, all is forgiven! (Sort of) xo
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She deserves her own spinoff series, honestly.
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