Nightbreed – Clive Barker’s Director’s Cut

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut is currently available on instant Netflix

Nightbreed

 

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut (1990) – Unrated

Believing that he’s a serial killer, a troubled young man is drawn to an old cemetery where a variety of monsters are hiding from humanity.”

I loved Clive Barker’s short story anthologies, The Books of Blood. They were a breath of fresh, if nasty, air when they came out. Many authors, including Stephen King, had done horror short stories but Barker’s were quite different. They had an edge to them. He also had an idea that the humans were monsters and the monsters, human. This idea is pretty commonplace today but was not back in the 80s.

In 1987, Barker was able to parlay his success as an author into directing an adaptation of his work, The Hellbound Heart, into the movie Hellraiser. This was a wonderful work of sexual horror and appetite. Unfortunately it succeeded too well and people don’t remember the creepy sexual horror so much as the wonderful cenobite supporting characters. This led to a decent but inferior sequel and a vast number of really bad sequels.

In 1990, Barker gave us Nightbreed from his story Cabal. Unfortunately the studio severely compromised his vision, trying to make Nightbreed fit into a standard horror mold, stripping away the complex mythology Barker had built. Barker had filmed his vision but the parts had been lost for decades.

Finally, some incredible fans of Barker’s work were able to recover the missing elements and restore them so that now Barker’s original vision can be seen. Unfortunately for Barker, the times have moved on and what was once novel about Nightbreed is now fairly commonplace. His idea of a community of monsters has been filmed ad nauseum in the intervening decades, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to the Twilight series to Interview with a Vampire to the Underworld series and on and on.

All of this makes the director’s cut of Nightbreed more of a historical oddity than the classic it deserved to be. Still the director’s cut is significantly different from the studio version and is well worth watching. Some of the elements are a bit rough due to budgetary constraints and the condition of the missing footage. Today, Nightbreed would have been adapted as a series and it does beg for more.

This was such a specialty item that I didn’t think that Netflix would get it so I had it on pre-order from Amazon and received it only a week or two before it showed up on Netflix. Barker was so disgusted with the Hollywood system that he only attempted one more movie, Lord of Illusions (1995) before giving up entirely. His story, The Forbidden, was adapted by Bernard Rose into the move, Candyman (1992) and, of course, both Candyman and Hellraiser became cash cows, churning out sequels.

Candyman and Hellraiser are Barker’s two best films (skip the sequels) but the director’s cut of Nightbreed is a close third and well worth a watch on several levels. Yes, that is horror director David Cronenberg as Dr. Decker.

Michael Fassbender & A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method (2011) – Rated R for sexual content and brief language. Strangely even though Keira Kightley is nude in it, nudity isn’t part of the rating.

In this David Cronenberg-helmed biopic, Viggo Mortensen stars as Sigmund Freud, whose relationship with fellow psychology luminary Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is tested when Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), one of the first female psychoanalysts, enters their lives. This World War I-set drama also stars Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross, a disciple of Freud, and Sarah Gadon, who plays Jung’s psychoanalyst wife.

David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors. I loved his visceral horror movies, often focused on issues of body modification and identity. They were always intelligent and original. Even his remake of The Fly was original and reinvented the story in much the same way John Carpenter did with The Thing. Unfortunately for me, he is now an important director so horror has gone by the wayside.

Michael Fassbender is the star of A Dangerous Method and he does quite well as Carl Jung. He is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors. He had wonderful supporting roles in Inglourious Basterds, 300 and Band of Brothers. He followed this up with proof that he can carry a movie in Centurion and was, forgive me, simply magnetic in X-Men First Class. Next up for Fassbender is the Ridley Scott science fiction opus Prometheus.

Cronenberg’s go-to actor appears to be Viggo Mortensen. Viggo was fantastic in Cronenberg’s last two films – A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. He is quite good in A Dangerous Method as Sigmund Freud but not quite as good as the two previous films. Still he instills a fair amount of gravitas as a father figure.

Keira Knightley is actually the astonishing one. Her portrayal of Sabina Spielrein requires a great deal of range and Keira gives quite freely of herself in this role. Vincent Cassel has a delightful time chewing up the scenery as the aptly named Dr. Gross. Sarah Gadon is just fine as Jung’s long-suffering wife but does not have as much to do as you might think.

The movie is a filmed version of a play and, in spite of the gorgeous locations used, seems like one. In spite of the cast listing there are really only five roles in the movie. The biggest flaw of the movie seems to be that of its subject matter. The movie comes across as very analytical and is of course combined with brief overviews of the works of Freud and Jung (although many of the latter’s more out there philosophies are only approached tangentially).

A Dangerous Method has very little action in it and is quite talky, albeit intelligently so. The parts of the film showing the disintegration of a professional relationship are riveting because Cronenberg and the actors make them so nuanced.

WARNING: A Dangerous Method is a very good film but it is not always an entertaining one. The first half in particular delves into a number of issues of sexual abuse/dysfunction and can be a little difficult to watch. It is not what I would call a “date film”.

Asheville Film Society & A Dangerous Method

The Asheville Film Society is certainly one of the best bargains in the Asheville area. Membership is only $10 for a year and you get $1 off all admissions at Carolina Cinemas Asheville as well as FREE popcorn refills of any size. They also have a number of other perks with several partners – $1 off any pizza at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, $5 off a subscription plan at Orbit DVD, and 10% off used vinyl, CDs and DVDs at Harvest Records.

A Dangerous Method (2011) – Rated R for sexual content and brief language.

“In this David Cronenberg-helmed biopic, Viggo Mortensen stars as Sigmund Freud, whose relationship with fellow psychology luminary Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is tested when Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), one of the first female psychoanalysts, enters their lives. This World War I-set drama also stars Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross, a disciple of Freud, and Sarah Gadon, who plays Jung’s psychoanalyst wife.”

The Asheville Film Society is presenting a FREE showing of A Dangerous Method for MEMBERS ONLY Wednesday 1/25 at 7:30. So for just a single quarter more than the price of an evening ticket, you can get a yearly membership and go see A Dangerous Method for free before it opens in Asheville this weekend.

The Asheville Film Society also presents a FREE movie every Tuesday night at 8 in the Carolina Cinema Lounge. The Tuesday movie is FREE for all – you do not need a membership to see it. They just announced their February line-up:

1/24 Tommy (1975, Ken Russell)

1/31 Lisztomania (1975, Ken Russell)

2/7 Excalibur (1981, John Boorman)

2/14 History is Made at Night (1937, Frank Borzage)

2/21 The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman)

2/28 The Docks of New York (1928, Josef von Sternberg)

 

Extreme Measures – Bad Doc, No Biscuit! week

Extreme Measures (1996) – Rated R for violence, language, some nudity and graphic ER content.

In director Michael Apted’s medical thriller, emergency room doctor Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant) is haunted by the disappearance of a strange patient’s records. Against the advice of his nurse friend Jodie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Guy pushes the investigation. The trail leads to Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman), a brilliant doctor with a clouded conscience whose experimental surgeries, which allow spinal cord victims to walk again, hint at the sinister.

“You made a moral choice and not a medical one. I guess I’m kind of surprised, that’s all. “

Okay Extreme Measures starts off well with two naked men escaping a medical facility pursued by men in a car. Unfortunately it then segues into Hugh Grant as Dr. Guy Luthan controlling an ER. Twenty medical professionals standing around and the only one capable of dealing with things is the cute floppy-haired guy. I started giggling. I dare you to watch the scene and not giggle.

Unfortunately Hugh Grant appears to have only one forte – romantic comedy. He is not as one dimensional as Keanu Reeves but it is very hard to take him seriously in this movie. His investigations really beg the question of what happened to the other Hardy boy.

Sarah Jessica Parker is okay but the role doesn’t require her to do much of anything. Gene Hackman, who I normally like, simply collects a paycheck here. Bill Nunn and David Morse are fine character actors but don’t add much to the film.

This was the first movie for Simian Films, founded by Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley and was a financial flop. This was released the year after his arrest for lewd conduct. Seriously a long-term relationship with one of the pre-eminent super-models of the day and you get caught in a parked car with a common streetwalker. Sheesh!

There is a good chuckle to be had when we are introduced to two police officers named Burke and Hare (after the infamous 19th century graverobbers/murderers). Apart from that most of the laughs are unintentional.

People Watch: Look for Director David Cronenberg’s brief appearance as a hospital lawyer and the always welcome J.K. Simmons as Dr. Mingus.

The Dead Zone – The King of Horror week

This is King of Horror week. All of the films will be based on the works of Stephen King. The Dead Zone is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: The Dead Zone (1983) – Rated R.

Christopher Walken gives an eerie, memorable performance as Johnny Smith, a man who awakens from a five-year coma blessed with second sight: the ability to see a persons past, present and future simply through physical contact. When he shakes hands with an up-and-coming political candidate (Martin Sheen), Smith foresees nuclear war. Horror veteran David Cronenberg directs this supernatural thriller, adapted from a novel by Stephen King.

“”Bless me”? Do you know what God did for me? He threw an 18-wheeled truck at me and bounced me into nowhere for five years! When I woke up, my girl was gone, my job was gone, my legs are just about useless… Blessed me? God has been a real sport to me! “

David Cronenberg crafts a wonderful movie here. He abandons his usual body horror motifs (mostly – he does manage to slip a few in) in favor of adapting a book by Stephen King. Cronenberg crafted a lot of wonderful visual imagery for this film.

The overall feel of the film is melancholy. Almost all of the characters are tragic in some fashion. It is unusual for a genre film (it is not quite horror) to be so depressing in tone.

The script by Jeffrey Boam makes mention of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Not only are these works that inspired King but they are both certainly melancholy as well.

Cronenberg usually uses Howard Shore for his music but the executives made him use Michael Kamen for this film. Howard Shore is most famous for his Oscar-winning scores for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In spite of that, the score Kamen used here is absolutely haunting and really fits the tone of the film.

Christopher Walken does a fantastic job of playing the doomed Johnny Smith. He is one of my favorite character actors and it is really nice to see him in the lead role for a change.

Herbert Lom has a nice weighty part as Dr. Weizak who helps Johnny after his coma. While it is nice to see him play a serious role, I kept waiting for his eye to start twitching as it did when he was Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther series of movies.

Brooke Adams plays our requisite love interest and gets to actually emote. Not only does her character Sarah get to be in love but she also gets to suffer anguish and heartbreak on more than one level.

Martin Sheen plays Greg Stillson, a man whose ultimate ambition is to be President of the United States. Martin Sheen would go on to play President Kennedy in the miniseries “Kennedy”, The President in “Medusas Child”, and President Bartlet on “The West Wing”. He is a little over the top here but fun to watch.

Many other wonderful actors have brief parts here as well. Tom Skerritt, Anthony Zerbe, and Colleen Dewhurst all have meaty roles here.

I rarely comment on the endings of movies in order to avoid spoiling the ending (even a 27-year-old movie like this one) but I feel that I have to mention that this film has one of the most satisfactory endings to a movie that I have ever seen.

I highly recommend this horror film for the feel more than the content. The atmosphere that Cronenberg creates outweighs the narrative that King created.

The Dead Zone is presented in HD for those with set top boxes.

Oh and for purists there is quite a bit that is changed from the novel and the major reporter subplot is mostly jettisoned.

The Dead Zone TV series is entertaining but really misses the point of the story.

People Watch: Look for William B. Davis in a brief role as an ambulance driver. Davis is better known as the cigarette smoking man from the X-Files.