Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Nightbreed, or: Button Eyes Will Haunt Your Dreams

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.

The Film:

Nightbreed

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

???  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?

A man swings a large knife, wearing a mask that fits his face closely and has buttons sewn over the eyes.
That just cannot be a very practical mask for slashing people.

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.

A man sits at the end of a table, with many knives lined up along its sides.
Having a few friends around for dinner…

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.

Two women with big hair stand in front of the mirror of a public bathroom; one is wearing large earrings and denim.
I didn’t get a good shot of it, but Sheryl is wearing AN ALL-DENIM OUTFIT here.

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.

A man in a leather jacket and swept back hair walks in a graveyard.
Ok, but you get the Patrick Swayze vibe here, right?

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.

The Rating:

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.

Would Christa bite this and make it one of our own or send it back to hell (wrong Clive Barker film)?  Find out in her review here!

Blogging 101, Film Reviews

Hellraiser, Or: The Rubik’s Cube of Doom

The Film:

Hellraiser

Where to Watch:

Netflix, Youtube

The Premise:

Clive Barker directs this horror film in which a man’s dead brother begins to resurrect himself by feeding on the corpses of his murder victims.

The Trailer (soooooooo ‘80s-tastic, guys):

The Uncondensed Version:

Clive Barker supposedly writes really creepy horror stories; the only thing I’ve read of his is Abarat, which he also illustrated. Both Abarat and Hellraiser are characterized by Barker’s terrifying nightmare monsters.

Our film opens with the man we later identify as Frank opening a puzzle box and being transported to hell (only during the ‘80s could a horror movie about what is essentially a demonic Rubik’s cube have been produced). In hell, he experiences both extreme pleasure and extreme pain. Frank’s only objection is that he also happens to be dead.

In the land of the living, Frank’s brother, Larry, and his wife, Julia, move into the historic family home. Hidden upstairs, Julia discovers evidence that Frank had been living in the house until recently, smoking cigarettes and shooting dirty pictures of himself with various female partners. As she looks through the photos, Julia uncovers one of her with Frank. EARLY PLOT TWIST: Julia had an affair with Frank!

Meanwhile, Larry is helping move their bed upstairs when he suffers a nasty cut on his hand. When his blood falls, the floorboards soak it up, steam and ooze bubble up, the rats are kind of freaked out and…Frank is resurrected! Sort of.

The gruesome remians of a human brain and body decompose on the floor, covered in sticky-looking slime.
Not bad for an ’80s special effect, eh?

Julia goes upstairs and, upon discovering Frank, agrees to help him become completely alive again (through blood sacrifice. Duh). Basically, Julia dresses up all ‘80s glam and hangs around in bars (“I put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars!” But literally). After she lures them back to the house, Frank kills them and eats them.

A woman with teased '80s hair and a shoulder-padded jacket sits at a bar, downing a drink and holding a cigarette in her hand.
No man can resist the ’80s shoulder pads of doom! She also has gigantic plastic star earrings.

Larry’s daughter, Kirsty, who has never been a fan of Julia, figures all of this out and freaks out a little (a lot). Kirsty grabs the cube and runs, but kind of has a breakdown in the middle of the street. She gets sent to a hospital, where she accidentally opens the door to HELL. The Cenobites (essentially sadomasochist punk demons) appear and tell her she must go with them. Kirsty manages to make a deal with them: she will help them catch Frank, their only victim to escape, if they allow Kirsty to go free.

3 demons with grotesque faces stand, wearing leather suits. Pinhead, a demon with many pins emerging from his face and skull, stands in the middle.
THE CENOBITES.

Kirsty returns to the house to find Larry…or, rather Frank dressed up in Larry’s skin, who tries to kill her. Frank stabs Julia for no apparent reason, then goes after Kirsty. He is just about to kill her when the Cenobites appear and take him back to hell.

However, the Cenobites do not keep their promise to leave Kirsty alone. Each one tries to send her to hell. Luckily, Kirsty manages to get hold of the cube again. She twists the cube in different ways to solve it and make each Cenobite explode into light/return to hell.

Close-up of hands holding a mystical object that looks like a golden Rubik's cube, with a sliver of light creeping out from the box
Demonic Rubik’s cube in action.

Her boyfriend shows up, and the two escape the burning/collapsing house. Kirsty throws the cube into the fire, hoping to destroy it.

Then this homeless guy who has been showing up at random intervals walks into the fire, TURNS INTO A FUCKING DEMON DRAGON SKELETON, and flies away with the cube. THE ETERNAL QUEST TO SOLVE A DAMN RUBIK’S CUBE CONTINUES…

The animated skeleton of a dragon stands threateningly, surrounded by flames
…Yeah. That really just happened.

The Critique:

I unabashedly enjoyed this movie. Some of the effects were actually really disgusting, and most of the monsters were pretty creepy-looking. Although Kirsty was kind of annoying in a generic ‘80s heroine kind of way, she could have been worse. I kind of wanted Frank to successfully come back to life. Is that weird? What does it say about me as I person that I sympathize with demon-worshipping sadomasochists who kill and cannibalize other people?

Apparently there are 8 sequels involving Pinhead, the latest of which came out in 2011. I had no clue this was such a big franchise. Sorry, but there’s no way I’m watching all 8. Maybe 1 or 2.  A remake is also in the works; if this ever actually happens, you know I’ll be critiquing it.

Favorite piece of IMDb trivia about this film: It was originally entitled The Hellbound Heart after the Clive Barker novella it was based upon. The studio thought this title sounded too much like a romance and wanted to change it (I don’t know what kinds of “romances” these people read/watch). Barker’s suggestion? Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther4/5 Pink Panther heads