Seems to me NIGHTBREED had been out for a while before I made a point of sitting down to watch it. I’d seen the trailer a bunch of times, been curious, but it wasn’t until I read the illustrated screenplay that I admit to really becoming hell bent on checking it out.
It is at once a phantasmagoria, a dark fantasy, a love story – a rich, self-contained world that seemed on the verge. But, as I would discover, the powers that be didn’t receive from Clive Barker what they were hoping for. He had produced for them two Hellraiserpictures, thus they made the mistake of assuming they were set to receive yet another study in fear. Especially with a title like, Nightbreed. Hence you have the reason for the fractured state of the movie and all the subsequent releases and restorations – the producers attempting to fashion the movie into something it was never meant to be.
What you ultimately take away from Barker’s monster-piece is the feeling of wanting more – and not just a re-cut of the existing elements. I suppose that’s why the idea of a Nightbreed series, I feel, would work better than another motion picture. There is so much to mine, so many characters – along with my favorite, Kinski (played by my guest Nicholas Vince), that I would love to see make a return.
So, kick back and enjoy our discussion on all things concerned with the tribes of the moon. “God’s an Astronaut. Oz is Over the Rainbow, and Midian is where the monsters live.”
Clive Barker’s Candyman is bar none one of the best horror films ever made. Many factors can take credit for that, but the two chief among them are Tony Todd’s performance as Daniel Robitaille, the hook handed, honey voiced spectre that haunts even the frames he doesn’t appear in, and Philip Glass’s beautiful yet terrifying electronic score that rips through the story like a rogue orchestral piece with a life of its own. Production design and locations are also key here, as they filmed in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green Project for real, and it makes all the difference. Candyman is one of those urban legends, the angry ghost of an ex slave who was murdered, and now gets resurrected to raise hell whenever someone says his name in a mirror five times. That someone here happens to be college professor Virginia Madsen, who has heard whispered rumours among the locals and decides to research it a little too closely. Before she knows it she’s seeing Robitaille everywhere, dead bodies are starting to pile up and she begins to look an awful lot like the culprit. With the help of her boyfriend (Xander Berkeley) and colleague (Kasi Lemmons, always fantastic) she tries to get to the bottom of the mystery but Candyman is a tough curse to shake, and the killing doesn’t stop. Many of the actors here are genuine residents of the Green, providing both authenticity and a very human quality to the film. Todd is now something of a household name and has achieved cult status for this role, it pretty much set him up for good in the horror genre and it’s no wonder, he’s a hypnotic dark angel as Robitaille, with both seething menace and a crazy calm lurking behind those eyes. There’s moments of real fright that hold up to this day as truly chilling shockers, such as a kid getting ambushed off camera by Candyman in a park restroom and the horrific aftermath of a dog’s murder coupled with a missing baby, brought to life by Vanessa Williams’s vivid, heartbreaking performance as the mother. This is how you create an effective horror film, by balancing gore with story and character, creating an atmosphere in which we feel both lulled by the sights and sounds but always unsafe as to what could be lurking through that bathroom medicine cabinet or dark, graffiti scrawled hallway. A classic. There’s two sequels that aren’t too awful thanks solely to Todd’s presence, but they come nowhere close to this one.
Hellraiser: Inferno marks the first juncture in the franchise where ideas deviated beyond the formula set in place by the first borderline surreal, masochist piece.
Gone is the dreamy, sordid aesthetic used back then, the Cenobites who were front and centre are reduced to limited appearances and the story is less otherworldly and something decidedly more noirish and down to earth. Whether that’s accepted by franchise die-hards and horror hounds alike is subjective, but I didn’t mind it’s slow burn approach or sidewinding tone. Craig Sheffer, the closest thing you’ll get to Josh Brolin without breaking the bank, plays a crooked Detective who finds himself dragged down a rabbit hole of creepy, murderous goings-on when he’s assigned to hunt a serial killer known as ‘The Engineer’. Of course the murders always seem one step ahead of his grasp, and naturally dark secrets from his sketchy past are brought to light as he gradually begins to lose his mind. Doug Bradley does eventually return as the iconic Pinhead, with a few members of the Cenobite posse, but their presence is kept mostly on the back burner for quite a while. Taking antagonist duties for a while instead is Sheffer’s eerie psychiatrist, played with sinister charm and knowing charisma by James Remar, a dubious fellow with a few tricks up his own sleeve. This is the one entry that sticks out from the franchise in it’s diversion from the usual path of distinct, abstract psychosexual horror and mutes the whole icy nightmare down to rebuild a story in it’s own image. You’ll either appreciate the initiative, or you’ll miss the good ol’ freakshow of the original film. Up to you.
Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers has a reputation as one of the lesser quality adaptations of his work, which led me to put off watching it for years. Well I don’t know what film the critics saw, cause the one I watched was wicked good. Nestled in that perfect area of 80’s horror where the blood was corn syrup, the flesh was latex, there wasn’t a pixel or rendering in sight and atmospherics mattered more than excessive violence, this is one serious piece of horrific eye candy with the backbone of King’s wicked imagination to hold it steady. The story tells of a small Midwestern town (is there any other kind in the man’s work?) That falls prey to a pair of vampire werewolf hybrid creatures who subside off the blood of virgins and morph into slimy behemoths that conveniently show off the impressive prosthetics. Brian Krause is one of said creatures, drifting into town with his creepy mother (the wonderful Alice Krige) and setting his sights on severely virginal schoolgirl Madchen Amick, by dialing up the charm past eleven. People and animals start to die all over town and the suspicions arise, but the pair are cunning and have most likely been doing this for centuries almost unnoticed. It’s nothing too unique as far as the concept goes, but the fun of it lies in the gooey special effects and one demon of a performance from Krige, a veteran stage actress. She is one part beautiful seductress (even to her son, in one unsettling scene) and one part volatile banshee, setting your nerves on edge time and time again throughout the film. Krause does the demonic James Dean thing nicely and Amick shows blossoming reilience beneath the required mantle of terrified cream queen. The three of them run amok in a beautifully realized fever dream of psycho sexualized terror, small town atmospherics and a classic old school horror climate. This film loves it’s cameos, so watch for Clive Barker, Ron Perlman as a grouchy state trooper and King himself as the world’s dumbest graveyard caretaker. Baffles me why this was panned upon release. It’s actually one of the best films I’ve seen based on King’s horror work, and there’s a lot to compete with.