Mediocre: Nightbreed

Nightbreed (1990)
Directed and written by Clive Barker
Produced by Gabriella Martinelli, Joe Roth, David Barron, James G. Robinson, Mark Alan Miller, Michael G. Plumides Jr., David Robinson
Starring Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Hugh Quarshie, Charles Haid, Doug Bradley, Catherine Chevalier, Kim and Nina Robertson, Hugh Ross, Malcolm Smith, Bob Sessions, Oliver Parker, Debora Weston, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford, Christine McCorkindale

The prophet perceives the whole world in terms of justice or injustice.

–Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

His therapist (Cronenberg) was the last person to whom a welder (Sheffer) should’ve reported his dreams of larking, noctivagous freaks and monsters (Bradley, Chevalier, Ross, McCorkindale, et al.), for they’re just as perturbingly real, and ready to initiate into their haven tucked away in the Canadian backcountry anyone whose bloodlust jibes with their own. For all its ace artisanship and conceptual inspiration, Barker’s second feature (adapted from his novel Cabal) is defeated by its self-reverence and bathos, and far too silly to scare. Sheffer’s barely fair as a perplexed, persecuted protagonist, his strapping screen presence compensating for want of aggression his role requires; diametrically, doxy Bobby’s an aggravating ham opposite, especially when belting out a rankling rock song as frontwoman for a local band. Both leads are excelled by the villains: Cronenberg’s outrageously pestilential psychiatrist steals his every scene, allied with a Procrustean, provincial police chief (Haid) whose sadistic officiousness is matched only by the destructive overplus of the arsenal allocated him and the deputized yahoos under his command. However, all of this picture’s players are belittled by grotesque makeup with which scores of imaginative monstrosities are realized, and Steve Hardie’s phenomenal production design, best manifest as the modern industrial swank of Cronenberg’s offices, and a massive, subterraneous sepulture where the last remaining members of species eradicated by barbarities of homo sapiens reside under prophetic idolatry. Barker’s depiction of Baphomet assumes a countercultural import, allusively assimilating its downtrodden anathemas to the Knights Templar in as heretical a tale as anything he’s authored. His direction’s increasingly refined, but hasn’t the visceral punch of Hellraiser (or its first sequel helmed by Tony Randel), and it’s undermined as much by comedy as overperformance, neither of which Barker plies proficiently. Composed and arranged similarly to his synchronous scores for Beetlejuice, Batman, Darkman, Edward Scissorhands, etc., Danny Elfman’s playfully minacious music is fun but absurdly applied to nearly every running second, disrupting atmosphere and whelming attention. For this, misdirection, an initial theatrical cut of Barker’s butchered vision (since redressed in two expanded versions), and too many abysmal commixed with creative ideas, its mythologic and idolomantic promise is largely thwarted…and despite its excitement, it isn’t at all frightful.

Sublime: The Brood

The Brood (1979)
Directed and written by David Cronenberg
Produced by Claude Héroux, Pierre David, Victor Solnicki
Starring Art Hindle, Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Cindy Hinds, Henry Beckman, Nuala Fitzgerald, Susan Hogan, Jan Hartog, Gary McKeehan, Michael Magee
Petrifying personifications by parturition connect the trenchant therapy of a disturbed segregate (Eggar) conducted by her innovative, imperious analyst (Reed) and the homicidal violence committed by xanthochroous dwarves against her parents and acquaintances, daughter (Hinds) and husband (Hindle). Inspired by his own onerous divorce and a custody battle of equal strain, Cronenberg’s first international success may be his best metaphysical association of flesh following thought, a horror reliant less on scares than a creeping tension attending its arcanum and relations. Hindle and Hinds cannily incarnate a battered familial normalcy disrupted by freakish repercussions, while Reed’s portentous presence and rich delivery counterplay subtly mounting hysterics expressing the trauma and fury Eggar’s housewife purges as agamic abominations. A formal professionalism that’s since befit his ulterior scenarios concerning inextricably interpenetrative psycho-corporeal conjunction, dysfunction, perversion and transgression was first adopted by and filmed finely through the fastidious eyes of Cronenberg and his decadal DP Mark Irwin in attractive, characteristically Canadian locations of Toronto and Mississauga. Beyond and beneath his overt discernment of matrimonial ruination, the directorial divorcé intimates that the perpetuity of parental abuse and ensuant dissolution of the nuclear unit are as insidious, often as ineluctable, as any congenital disease or disorder.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Ninth Configuration.