Monthly Archives: November 2014

Rental Corner: “Giver” beyond soulless than any other adaptation

Emotion is not the only thing lost in this society...I think its called subtly...

Emotion is not the only thing lost in this society…I think its called subtly…

This is one of those rare moments when I actually prefer the novel over the adaption. And I don’t mean a novel I enjoyed, I mean one that I had to study in school and was disappointed with it. Heck, the whole class was not that thrilled with Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal winning book about a society where sameness is of the norm and difference is banned. Years later and after seeing the big-screen adaption of “The Giver,” I’m finally convinced that what Lowry wrote was much better than what was translated to the movies. While I still don’t think fondly, I do appreciate the themes and what it was trying to say. To compare and contrast the two would be too long of a post so I’ll give you the “highlights” of my gripes.

In the novel, the world this story is set in was vaguely described as being a plain typical town that could be anything today. However, what made it work was how they never alluded to how technologically advanced this setting was. So you could argue that it was a small community that didn’t rely on much technology. The movie, on the other hand, ruins this by making it a dystopian setting. The look and design has sort of a Hunger Games quality with square houses and spiral roads. Its a very generic looking place that looks dull and lifeless. There’s no sense that it could be applied today or be anyone’s town. Its very much a future and that’s that. Maybe I didn’t catch on the “future” setting when I was reading or even remotely remember it, but all I recall is that there wasn’t much “high” technology to qualify as a future setting to me.

Though the way of life is very similar, as again, the idea of sameness is heavily pushed. People are assigned to be a family, they are assigned a baby, they are assigned a job, they can’t lie, they have to take medication in the form of an injection machine the size of a Happy Meal box, and free will is nowhere in sight. First off, the novel had them take pills to control their emotions which made it more interesting when one character keeps disposing them. Reducing it to a small machine that gives an injection looses the subtly and feels too complex. If they get their dose from a machine, what is the impact when we don’t see said needle getting injected? With the idea of pills, there is that choice even though they keep subjecting themselves to the meds.

Even having Meryl Streep as the high Elder constantly overlook each home feels too George Orwell and silly. I understand they are doing this big brother motif but there was a lack of security in this place which strengthen the story’s setting. We could argue this is being set in modern times and perhaps this small town is really hidden in plain sight. Wouldn’t that be a better idea? Doesn’t that sound more scary? Having all of this set in the future removes the fear as we just sit back and accept it as another future film with a big social message. It becomes stale right from the first 10 minutes when we already know what to expect from it and what the message will be.

Ok, so aside from my ranting, what is the story? Well a kid named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) turns 16 years old among a few others and has to be given an assigned job. As it turns out, he’s presented with a more bigger role as a “Receiver” of memories. For you see, the old Receiver (Jeff Bridges) now named The Giver is seeking a new Receiver to keep memories of the past so the Elders can consult with someone of wisdom in case there’s a problem they have to decide beyond their control. And right here is my biggest problem with the film and the novel. This society of sameness is not all the way same as they keep one person on with emotion and knowledge of good and pain. If they wanted a society that completely ran on everyone being the same, why even carry one person that is different when they are able to go beyond the capacity of controlling emotion and being safe? I understand it was part of the novel but with the whole movie set in a futuristic world, it doesn’t make sense to have someone different around when they are so heavily pushing the idea of living similar lifestyles.

So the story is not all cracked up to be, how does the rest of the movie hold up? Well, surprisingly I felt it was really dull and not that engaging. For a movie that runs at 90 minutes without end credits, it feels really rushed and too ‘paint by numbers” in the direction. The basic story is there with Jonas getting memories and learning the horrible truth of his society but then an hour in, they go into a different direction that easily strays itself from the novel. Instead of Jonas running away with a baby that could hold some salvation, he runs away with a baby that could hold some salvation and engages into a cat and mouse game with the “big bad” dystopia that doesn’t want him alive. It really removes any form of subtly as a thought provoking story becomes a generic “rebel against the society” story. Even the love interest feels forced as his sweetheart Fiona (Odeya Rush) is giving an opportunity to follow in Jonas’ footsetps but then starts to recluse back to her old ways after the fear of what she is experiencing. This could have been a great idea showing the opposite effect to something wonderful Jonas has been seeing but it doesn’t really go deeper into it. She just changes her mind but then for no reason holds onto those emotions she is gaining back. Why is that? Its never explained.

The only thing viewers will notice is how the first 20 minutes are filmed in black and white. This is to reflect the sameness and in the original novel, all the inhabitants could see shade and grey. Its not till the end of the story where Jonas is able to see a world of color but this change happens way too early in the movie. Why couldn’t the flashbacks be in color only? Wouldn’t that be interesting? I know the change in the movie reflects him starting to understand the way of the world and the more he knows, the more his “sight of color” increases but its too painfully obvious and doesn’t come off as a wonder. Even when he’s introduced to the aspect of music, there is no charm. Why no push it further and have no musical score until the moment the Giver shows him? In fact, Jonas never got the concept of music at all in the novel so why even add this in when it doesn’t make much of an impact?

I should also say that this was a passion project by Jeff Bridges himself who even plays the title character. It took him about 20 years to get this off the ground and it shows. With the past “future” films we got from Hunger Games to Divergent, there’s really nothing new to offer here and feels late to the screen. And if you want to go further, this is very much every future Twilight Zone episode we saw so the message is something we already know to expect after seeing the first 10 minutes and we know what is going to happen. Even the performances feel tired and dull as characters act monotone and lifeless. You could argue that is how the people in this society act but when Jonas starts to see the world anew, he doesn’t express that enough. He looks on with depressed puppy eyes and doesn’t emote enough to convey that pain. Even Jeff Bridges feels surprisingly depressed in his performance as his character tries to coupe with his dead daughter who went through what Jonas did. You could argue that he’s constantly sad for this reason but even the Giver in the novel had his upside moments when showing something pleasant or trying to be optimistic.

As you can tell, I didn’t have a good time watching this and seeing how big I am on science fiction, I had no feelings toward it as well. The Giver could have been a much better film if it stayed true to the source and maybe not rush things so it doesn’t feel like an adaption that only exists just for the for the sake of one existing. Even bothersome is the age difference which really changes the tone of the story. It was more interesting seeing an 11 year child going through these moments of free will and questioning his place in life as his childhood was going away. It made the concepts of learning about death and war more tragic because its hard to break from that happy time you were as a kid and understand mature concepts at such a young age. In the movie, Jonas is 16 and it doesn’t matter because those elements would have been something to come across earlier so there is no impact. Why care when we see a teenager experience these things would it would be more interesting to see an 11 year old learn about these ideas? Here, its like he’s learning there’s no Santa Clause and can’t coupe with it. And when a movie like this is trying to convey that message this way while also changing things heavily to the point it feels less about social science fiction and more of a good vs. evil plot, you have something so removed from its source that it really feels forgettable. And never have I seen an adaptation this emotionless and soulless since Bo Welch directed The Cat in the Hat. And even in comparison, The Giver makes Dr. Seuss and his work more mature seeing how the idea of war can be alluded in The Butter Battle Book or tyrannic beings in Yurtle the Turtle. And when we start to realize how more mature literature like that is to this, it feels embarrassing to admit it.

Rental Corner: “Future Past” redeems franchise

X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_posterThe X-Men franchise has seen a lot of ups and downs recently. After the first two films, trail and effort was made to recapture the social commentary of the comics but the third entry “Last Stand” sealed its fate. Many fans were diverse over the changes it made to the Phoenix storyline it was adapted from and turned off from how much was crammed in. Keep in mind, this was before Thor and Iron Man showed how a comic book adaption could be done. With the viewer’s suspension of disbelief at risk, comic book films were simplified back then to avoid introducing things like aliens or giant intergalactic beings that could devour planets. Since the dawn of Marvel Phase One, my thoughts on the X-Men franchise diminished seeing how the door was wide open for anything to pull through. Even an adaption of Guardians of the Galaxy proved that viewers can accept anything as long as they were having a good time and being rewarded with a good story to go with it. But what we have forgotten is that X-Men was the one that started it all and showed possibility which got lost after Sony’s countless meddling with Spider-Man and Disney’s expanding Marvel’s universe with the Avengers. Well, I guess here is where I admit that I wish I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past on the big screen because this is without a doubt on the best in the series and oddly enough the best time travel movie I’ve seen since Back to the Future or Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

I should point out that this film was adapted from a storyline in the Uncanny X-Men series but while its updated for continuity purpose (even if they mess around with it a bit) the whole plot feels a bit outdated. Enter an unlabeled future that is bleaker than The Terminator series where robot beings called Sentinels are capturing humans and mutants in a post apocalyptic setting. Patrick Steward returns as Professor Xavier and a remaining team of surviving X-Men members who are fighting to survive. Its not long till they hit across the idea of sending someone back in time to prevent a key event creates such a horrible future. Of course seeing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) can easily heal, they send him mentally to the past in order to save the future. I will admit the way they explain how the time travel physics work is interesting and plausible. I’m big on time travel movies and more use to seeing big machines that teleport one to another decade. Well, here they are mentally sent back to their younger self and happen to have their older counterpart in control of their younger body. Its a nice idea but on paper it does feel somewhat silly and strange. Then again, its the X-Men so I can’t complain.

Wolverine is mentally sent back to 1973 where a scientist played by Peter Dinklage has invented a set of robotic guards to hunt down mutants much like the machines of the past. He’s tampered and experimented with mutants which angers the sleek blue shape shiftier Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence returning from First Class) who plans to assassinate the scientist creating the bleak outcome as politicians would later feel its better to be safe than have a world with humans and people with powers. If that wasn’t enough, Wolverine has to enlist the help of the younger Professor Xavier (James McAvoy again returning from First Class) to seek a way to stop Mystique’s plan but unfortunately Xavier sees it best to hide from the public than create action. I should address that originally I was highly disappointed by the depiction of Xavier in First Class seeing I couldn’t picture a playboy turning into one with deeper dedication and respect. Days of Future Past nearly falls into this trap but is salvaged by having it play as a character arch than a character trait. Now he has to learn to be more responsible and learn about the man he will later be. It almost makes me wonder what would it be like if First Class didn’t exist seeing this film is far enriched than its predecessor.

But that is not the only thing in the way as a younger Magneto returns (Michael Fassbender) trying to persuade Mystique to be part of his “Brotherhood” of survivors and rise against humanity. Surprisingly, his storyline in First Class was the only good thing considering it developed a character arch for his hatred of normal people. Here it comes full circle as he enacts a way to rid them while seeing the will of mutants rise up. He is the real villain as Peter Dinklage’s character is more of a red herring. In the first act, they build him up as the real conflict but surprisingly pull a bait and switch that makes his part more unique. He’s not in it to wipe out mutants but his cause for the creation of these machines are still a crime to his present nature. It becomes more a question that if one person was to make a killing device and be seen as an exterminator to some, would it right or wrong to eliminate him from history?

These aspects and more is just what make Days of Future Past a must watch. The closets thing to a modern “Back to the Future” we got was Men In Black III but lacked edge seeing it was a comedy despite its theoretical themes of how one small event can lead to many possibilities. This movie succeeds further in questioning just how “set” is the future and can we really alter it. What are the goods and bads? The outcomes and the sacrifices in making a new timeline? Never had those questions come to mind in a while and this film does the job well. I can’t say its original considering the story is dated seeing its adapted from a storyline in the 1980s series and these elements have been present before in The Terminator, Doctor Who’s “Genesis of the Daleks,” tons of Stark Trek sequels and more. But Days of Future Past is so intense from beginning to end as it sets up to keep it fresh from the others. And considering how many “bad” X-Men movies we have had previously, its nice to have a fresh entry that isn’t afraid to take a idea that could have been absurd if handled wrong. The only thing that bugs me is where was Stan Lee’s cameo in all of this?

Rental Corner: Same old “22” retreads

The sequel YOU wanted...keyword being YOU

The sequel YOU wanted…keyword being YOU

Last night, I saw a college performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” The first act was slow but as the idea of how one small lie can explode into epic proportions slowly gained my interest. There is no wrong way to do comedy but there is one form of it I do highly appreciate. The art of how one situation snowballs into something bigger and bigger and this play is proof of it. True its no masterpiece considering the delivery of the performance but it made me think how far we have come in the field of comedy to creating movies that are nothing more but an endless string of mindless jokes and gags. Here is where “22 Jump Street” comes in.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as buddy cops from the first film who are sent out to a drug investigation in college. What follows is very much the same thing we got first time around. Someone on campus is giving out drugs in the form of something that looks like a car air freshener and has a dumb name (here “WhyPhy.”) One of the kids is the dealer and it happens to become best friends with one of them. The two of them have to attend classes that mess with their personalities but evolve an understanding that makes them better friends. So as you can imagine the main problem I have is right in the first paragraph. Its literally following in the progression of sequels and doing things again. Now there are films that have gone this route and attempt to give it a fresh feel like Wayne’s World 2, Gremlins 2 or even more recent Anchorman 2. As long as the characters are given a deeper progression, it will keep the entry from being a mediocre entry.

Unfortunately, I felt there was nothing really new to gain from here other than simply have them do the same shtick but on campus. Even the humor is the same as it goes to be far more self aware than the first film to the point you are expecting them to burst out of the screen and ask if you find it entertaining. Now, there are ideas for jokes here but they don’t live up to potential. There’s an opening scene where they try to infiltrate a drug bust but find the cargo is full of animals. The idea for a joke is there but its not developed or perhaps explained well. Maybe they are using the animals for drug testing which would lead to open ideas for jokes but its never explained. Cargo truck of animals are found and hi-jinks ensue. 22 Jump Street even tries to take a stab at college life with midnight beer soaked games and beatnik open mic but it doesn’t have support or even have a payoff to it. They just exist as set pieces and then pack themselves up for the next one.

The only thing I remember that I actually did laugh at was the reveal of one of the characters’ girlfriend’s father. It lead to a rather awkward yet hilarious scene where they try to have dinner but after that, it fizzles to the background and doesn’t have a way to pay it off. It has a good set up and then it just fades or barley gets a mention until the final act. And once again, making your movie self aware to the point you are reminded that what you are watching is a movie doesn’t work. There is a way to do it without constantly bashing it over your viewer’s heads. James Gunn was able to work in tongue-in-cheek style with his movies to the point we feel reminded of classic horror/sci-films we grew up with. Edgar Wright had funny and smart characters while rewarding us with off-beat humor that reflects human flaw but yet relates to the characters we enjoy. Even John Waters is able to mesh satire of the American Dream as a demented soap opera like in Polyester to the point its so absurd we have to laugh at the unrealistic yet overly melodramatic nature.

Instead, we get the “amazing” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who have been constantly praised for their “supposed wit” and “supposed style.” I never really saw any originality at all. To me, they feel like they are trying to make a modern Mel Brooks but it doesn’t work because there’s nothing original to obtain. When Mel Brooks did Spaceballs, you were so invested in the parody characters that it felt like an original movie. Even Young Frankenstein fooled us thinking it was a true sequel to the Universal Monster classic because of how it was in relation to those films while parodying the cliches and making something of it. The filmography of these two have adaptions and not a single film is an original thought. Ok, you ask? Why must I pick on two filmmakers who haven’t made a film from an “original” idea yet they have worked on “original” ideas in the form of television? You tell me! Why haven’t they sat down and thought about making a fresh parody as opposed to injecting it into a book adaption or taking a cheesy 80s drama? What is the point in making these movies when they are based on properties from other corporate materials? This is what’s wrong with Hollywood and so is this film.

22 Jump Street is nothing but a formulaic repeat to the point you can walk in blindfolded and know what’s going to happen. Even the self-aware tone pushes itself too far with Ice Cube complaining how “there’s no budget left” as the second half as the film feels oddly and cheaply made. Its an annoying exercise in taking a television property and bloating it to the point it has no identity.  Its an auto-pilot mess that had potential but its only fame to claim is by having Jonah Hill being manhandled by an fake octopus and the two cops going on a drug high that looks like Sid and Marty Kroft created as a highlight for humor. Even the end credits pains me as our two leads are sent out on assignments that reflect possible sequels in hopes that never get made. I want to say this has “egotism” written all over it but considering the box success it has and how moviegoers can’t stop “praising” this, I best keep my mouth shut and let you watch your mindless junk food instead.

 

“Dumber To” stupid but funny

Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels return in the sequel not too many asked for but still has some laughs...at least for some

Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels return in the sequel not too many asked for but still has some laughs…at least for some

It’s rare to see a sequel try and match the magic of the original. Let alone a follow-up to one that was a massive hit 20 years ago. The long and overdue entry is considered a sign of death to a franchise considering how many ideas are still floating about Hollywood like Ghostbusters 3 (or the reboot) and the possible Indiana Jones 5. The last thing to expect is Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels getting together again for a sequel to their cult hit Dumb and Dumber. Rarer still knowing how Jim rarely does a sequel as Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls proved that revisiting a character is best one time around. But for “Dumb and Dumber To,” everything almost works and surprisingly I found myself chuckling at its dumbfounded comedy and storyline. Not for the sake of it being a good movie, but knowing that its just mindless comedy trying its best.

As said, Jim and Jeff return as Lloyd Christmas (Carey) and Harry Dunne (Daniels), two dim-witted people that are a throwback to the altruist days of the Stooges but far more brainless. It can be said that this incarnation is far more idiotic but I guess dumb has a way of aging. Stranger is how in the first movie Lloyd and Harry were able to have small-time jobs and loose them yet here they are very much without a position. At this point, who cares? Its great to see two characters back even if there’s no purpose. Seeing two good actors play off each other is just a delight considering how the juvenile and crude side of their personality is intact. But maybe its pushed too far like in scenes when they con for free beer by stinking up the ale with a trick taken straight out of Brodie’s book of palm stanking. And if you haven’t seen Mallrats, you will not get the reference here.

There is a story to go along with this farce as Harry finds out he is possible a father but his kid named Penny is living with a rich and powerful family. The bizarre irony is how a teenager can attend a technological convention and claim to have smarts but yet is dim to the point she can’t lift the lid off a hotel dish. Wouldn’t it be a funnier idea if she was a genius and not as dumb as her possible biological father? I say possible father because the movie plays around with the idea of who could be the possible dad and to be fair the reveal comes in a rather clever twist that I didn’t see coming.

The real reason for the trip is more than daddy issues as Harry’s kidney is on its last legs and in dire need of a replacement. The whole drive is just to meet up with his estranged kid and hopefully perform an organ transplant. But along the way the simple story gets complex as we fall into the same plot elements and tropes that were present in the first film. The briefcase full of money is now a package that holds a cure for humanity and two mafia thugs are replaced with Penny’s mom who plans to kill her spouse for the inheritance money. For the follow-up to a movie that had a simple story, this one gets complex too easily. One minute is about the kidney transplant, then its about the wife hiring twin thugs to take out Lylod and Harry and then its about Harry getting mistaken as a professor at the convention resulting him judging ideas that could benefit humanity but dejects them. There’s too much going on as one storyline after another builds and builds to a climax that concludes on a soft note instead of a big one.

That is very much a staple of the Farley Brother’s style as they like to push the laughs of a joke while their movies seem to end with a weak payoff. It feels like after so many well-written set pieces like the hair gel in There’s Something About Mary or Jim Carrey’s self fight in Me, Myself and Irene that finding a way to top that in its climax feels impossible and wrap things up too quick. This was a problem I had with even the first movie as it ends in a lame way. I’m not referring to the hilarious moment in the desert but the way they wrap up loose ends really feels rushed and not well done. And no better can be said here as everything is wrapped up without the promise of a proper finale. Its a pet peeve I’ve had with them for a while and disappointed to see it hasn’t been improved on.

Looking past that, “Dumb and Dumber To”  may not be a good movie but its perfect for those who want something mindless. There’s truly some surprises in store for fans of the old and those who are new. This entry is very much two films in one as it retreads material from the first movie while trying out some new material. I admit some of the jokes like trying to follow the address on a letter had me stitches while other gags like a disgusting joke that involves a flashback to Harry in his teen years left me feeling awkward. There’s a strange balance between goofy humor and dark material that clashes between being funny, too juvenile and at some points a bit mean spirited.

While one of the dark jokes does create a good comeback near the end, one tends to think what it would be like if that “callback” didn’t exist. Would it make Harry and Lloyd bad people or would viewers really care? Even more awkward is a subplot where Lloyd plans to hit it off with Harry’s 22 year old kid that lingers between creepy and questionably funny for its awkward presence. There are some callbacks to the first film that give it a wholesome nostalgic feeling like the blind kid Billy making a cameo in a scene that has dark but hilarious results. Little nods like that to the original are fine but going as far to seemingly duplicate plot elements from the first film feel predicable and tiring. We know there’s something disappointing in that mysterious package they carry and there’s way too many day dream scenes that could have benefited in removal for better pacing.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a good handful of cameos here and there I admit find amusing like Bill Murry’s secret appearance while others like a certain reality TV celebrity (who will not be named) suffered for being too obvious and one-note jokey. I admit, I did chuckle in spots and there were a couple of times I did laugh out loud at some of the “set piece” jokes like Lloyd unsuccessfully stealing hearing aids from a retirement home. I can’t say I didn’t hate “Dumb and Dumber To” as I knew exactly what to expect. Mindless comedy exists just for the sake of making people laugh. I see this more in vein with Anchorman 2 where they took the formula of the first film and punched it up further just for the sake of entertainment knowing the first couldn’t be topped. Obviously this one won’t be to everyone’s taste but if you are a fan of the first film, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this “20th Anniversary” trip down memory lane. Others might be disappointing in seeing how less “clever” and “smart” this film can get. But what do you expect from a movie when two characters ride down the highway on a Zamboni? While I enjoyed it for its laughs, its hard for me to recommend seeing how divided “Dumber To” is with its viewers. In short, only worth it if you want time to kill and mindless comedy.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Nightbreed

Horror-wood

 

From box office flop to cult classic, Nightbreed has risen to a new status; horror history!

From box office flop to cult classic, Nightbreed has risen to a new status; horror history!

Time to cap off the Halloween season with a movie I think really needs to be given a second chance. In fact, it already has. Going back to Clive Barker, he was an interesting man that always too a different approach to horror but in a more fantasy way. Hellraiser could be argued as a Pandora’s Box story but with demons involved. It was his first directing debut and none the less, it was a success when you consider its $14 million gross on a $1 million budget . Clive’s second film was meant to be his break-through feature. But thanks to tons of studio interference and a terrible post-production that left what could of have been the “Star Wars” of horror fantasy became a truncated mess.  I’m off course talking about Nightbreed.

The way I discovered this movie is interesting. I was looking at a compilation of Danny Elfman scores and one of them had tracks from the movie. Curious at the title and mystified by the tone of the music, I looked online and my curiosity grew further when I began to learn of its production history and of the film itself. No sooner I would watch that I had no idea what I would be in for. Craig Sheffer plays Aaron Boone, an everyman that has strange dreams of monsters and talks of a place called Midian. The only person who is invested in this is his psychiatrist Philip K. Decker (played surprisingly by famed body horror director David Cronenberg) who listens in to Boone’s talks of a world with monsters.

As it turns out, Midian is really a cemetary but underneath is a world full of beasts and creatures that have been fighting for survival for thousands of years. They are the only remaining kind and wish to be left alone knowing what humanity thinks of them. Boone ends up there after being framed for crimes he didn’t commit but one of the monsters tries to use him as a midnight snack. After bitten, he becomes one of the Nightbreed and learns that he might be the beast’s only last hope. As it turns out, Decker is going around killing people with a button-eyed sack mask with plans to extinguish “breeders” and all sorts of filth. It just so happens that Midian is next on his list.

Lori and Boone. The cute couple that you really want to see together by the end

Lori and Boone. The cute couple that you really want to see together by the end

Thankfully, there is an ally in the form of Boone’s girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) who is trying to find out what is going on with her undead boyfriend. Sure enough, she learns of the world of Midian and at first, she is a little unnerved by the unfriendly creatures. But over time begins to understand why they are like this and tries to help them in the final act. The chemistry between Lori and Boone is close to the standards of most romance stories but I feel its more developed. You get a sense of how much they care for each other and will go through all sorts of Hell to see they end up together in the end. Its a bit standard but its the heart and soul of the film.

Narcisse, a member of the Breed and certainly a delight to watch

Narcisse, a member of the Breed and certainly a delight to watch

The Nightbreed themselves are a unique batch ranging from nightmarish to almost like a surreal piece of art come to life. They are scary but yet uniquely designed. I recall a friend of mine saying they are “a Face/Off wet dream.” And it does. There’s so much make-up work to admire that its puzzling to see why it didn’t get nominated for an Academy Award for Best Make-Up. This was early when CGI was on the rise so its nice to see a lot of prosthetic and practical monsters. My favorite of the batch has to be Narcisse. He’s so unpredictable on the first watch and you just can’t help but love his antics. He’s like the Han Solo of the movie. One minute, he acts bat crazy and then the next minute, he’s ripping his face off to reveal his real form. Hugh Ross’s performance really steals the show and you can tell he’s having fun with this role.

I don't know what is scarier. This character's psyche or that he's played by the director of Videodrome

I don’t know what is scarier. This character’s psyche or that he’s played by the director of Videodrome

David Cronenberg is also a delight to watch as the villain. Its bizarre to see the director of  Videodrome and The Fly remake act in a movie. Many viewers feel that Cronenberg’s acting is not the best but I tend to disagree. That monotone voice and quiet personality I feel adds a lot to the character. He’s a psychiatrist so I expected him to act this way. If he started spewing one-liners like Freddy Kruger or acted like an unstoppable machine like Jason, then I would have problems. This differs from the norm of slasher beasts by having a character that can easily manipulate people while also trying to satisfy his urge to “purify” his own take a perfect world. Having him pinpoint the crime on his own clients I think is a clever idea considering how much sanity they question.

The final third of the movie is where things start to heat up as a group of people that act as the angry mob cliche ride in and attempt to destroy Midian. Its one adrenaline rush of a finale as they blow up the place and gun down the poor monsters. Its gripping and this is where you really feel sorry for the Breed. Its here that Clive Barker wanted something different from the typical monster movies of the past. He wanted a movie where you could root for the creatures. Make them the good guys and have humanity be the true beast. This is an angle I don’t think has been attempted before at the time and doesn’t come off as feeling preachy. Because that is what this movie is. A straight up love letter to monsters and why we love them. This is such an important entry to the fantasy horror genre because we never for once had any sympathetic feelings for something inhuman. That is if you count Bride of Frankenstein, but Nightbreed pushes it further by having these poor ground dwellers wanting nothing more but to live life. No war, no conflict. We start to wish that perhaps some things are best left as they are and wonder just how monstrous we can truly be.

The handful of Breed we see in the film. Led by Doug Bradley aka Pinhead fame

The handful of Breed we see in the film. Led by Doug Bradley aka Pinhead fame

I’d go into deeper detail about why Nightbreed is such a great movie but no review can do it justice. I never even got to talk about how Doug Bradley of Pinhead fame plays the head of the creatures or even the individual monsters like Peloquin and the seductive Shuna Sassi. I never got to talk about how enjoyable over the top the southern sheriff is or the priest Ashberry who keeps questioning his faith. There’s so much to talk about this movie and yet too much to even give away. If you really want one heck of a thrill ride, by all means give this one a good watch.

Now, I should probably talk about the Director’s Cut or else I will never get the chance. First, a quick history lesson. Clive Barker had a certain vision in mind but unfortunately the powers that be at Morgan Creek and test screenings really came down on the final cut. The final result was a very hampered edit that removed key subplots and confusing character arcs. This footage was said to be lost but recently, but in 2009, Mark Miller who co-owned Barker’s production company, found two VHS tapes containing two different workprints of Nightbreed. These two where fabricated into a composite cut called the Cabal Cut which was said to have run at over 150 minutes and played at many conventions.

The recently released Director's Cut sets from Shout Factory. As we speak, the Limited Edition set is sold out!

The recently released Director’s Cut sets from Shout Factory. As we speak, the Limited Edition set is sold out!

This sparked much fan interest in a push to get this version to DVD and Shout Factor seized the opportunity. But it gets better. When they started on the restoration project, there was discovered  16 hours of footage from what I heard containing a good bulk of what Clive Barker originally intended and MANY scenes that were removed from the theatrical cut. As you can imagine, this was a dream come true. Not only were fans able to see the original cut but even Clive Barker was able to get his original vision out there. And I’m happy to say, this director’s cut ranks high.

I won’t give too much away behind what was restored as I wish to give new viewers an opportunity to see this movie so I’ll only summarize the important things. The love relationship between Boone and Lori is greatly expanded on as we also get to see their daily lives a bit more. We get a sense they are everyday people instead of generic star crossed loves while learning why Lori won’t give up on her love no matter what. My favorite new addition has to be when Lori belts out a rendition of “Johnny Get Angry” at a live show. Its amusing but also a nice little moment to see Lori really show what kind of girl she is. We also get to spend a lot more time with the Nightbreed as we learn more about their culture and even seen new monsters that were left on the cutting room floor. Its again nice to see so much craft on so many amazing designs while delving into this strange world and its mythology that was only scantly talked about in the theatrical edit.

A future for the Breed? Only time will tell...

A future for the Breed? Only time will tell…

The most obvious alteration is the entire finale. What felt like a battle feels like an all out war with more violent action scenes and even certain key characters have different fates. I won’t spoiler what goes on but I will say it ends a whole lot better than the cliffhanger they reshot for the other version. Nightbreed ends on a more hopeful message that doesn’t feel like the urge for a sequel is needed. It ends in a way that we can see this as a stand-alone film that is enjoyable and remarkable in its own right. Its a feeling of satisfaction to know that after so much Hell this movie when through that due to the power of its huge cult fanbase where able to make this possible. Hopefully this movie will get a larger audience in future and considering its Limited Edition set from Scream Factor is already sold out, it makes me wonder what else is planned down the road. Time may tell but for now, I couldn’t be happier to say that Clive Barker’s Nightbreed is truly a must see movie for the monster lover in all of us.

 

This concludes the first annual Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon. I hope you enjoyed my little trip down this massive line of horror films and I can’t wait to do it again next year. But for now, may the tribes of the moon embrace you….