‘Nightbreed’ with Simon Bamford

nightbreedposterFilm:
Nightbreed (1990)
Rated: R
Written and Directed by:
Clive Barker
Starring:
Craig Sheffer as Boone/Cabal
Anne Bobby as Lori
David Cronenberg as Dr. Decker
Charles Haid as Cpt. Eigerman
Hugh Ross as Narcisse
Doug Bradley as Dirk
Simon Bamford as Ohnaka
Kim Robertson as Babette

By Count Vardulon

cronenberg mask2Pre-screening memories:  Like many teens, I went through a ‘horror’ phase at around age 13 (that it hasn’t ended yet isn’t the point). It was a common enough occurrence, the kind of thing where you start looking for things to define your rapidly-approaching adulthoood, and set yourself apart from the childish things you imagine you no longer have a use for.

 ugly demonHorror movies are an incredibly socially acceptible way of going about this. Choosing to be scared is something that seems a lot more dangerous than it actually is to a young teen, but has the benefit of being somehting that a child would never do.

I worked my way quickly through the standards of the genre, your Halloweens, Fridays, and Nightmares while remaining largely unimpressed. These are the things that caused me to cover my eyes when the trailers came on in movie theatres? It seemed so ridiculous – they weren’t all that bad. Once the first tier was done with my friends and I started getting a little more random with our choices, which is how I ended up seeing Nightbreed. And wow, was I not prepared for Nightbreed.

The ads has made it seem like just another monster movie, but it certainly wasn’t that – from the early scene of David Cronenberg’s Leather Scarecrow slaughtering a family (including a child!) to a man tearing most of the flesh off of his head with his finger knives, to a trip to a haunted graveyard full of monstrosities that ends abruptly with the main character’s death at around the 20-mintue mark, there wasn’t a moment in the first act of this movie that didn’t have me fascinated and terrified and on the edge of my seat. I’d discovered that horror really could freak you out, and I wanted more of it. This is the movie that led me to find out more about Clive Barker, and see Hellraiser in a local repetory theatres… but that’s a story for another time.

mac tongiht guy

Most recent screening: You may have noticed that in the above recollections of my first viewing I didn’t mention anything after the first twenty minutes of the movie. In point of fact, I didn’t have any memories of the rest of the film, save for a slaughter in a hotel and Cronenberg getting crucified at the end. There’s a reason for that.

Nightbreed is an ungodly mess for most the running time. After the masterfully-paced opening the film bogs down with many, many scenes of lengthy exposition and random nonsense about the monster world and their Jesus-style fated savior. Cronenberg’s always a pleasure to watch, but when he hooks up with a bigoted survivalist sheriff and a group of like-minded rednecks the film goes from being a relatively effective horror film to a supremely muddled holocaust allegory that leads to an overextended war scene that teaches us a valuable lesson – that the Jews would have had a better time of it had there been a few unstoppable armoured killing machines on their side. Of course, that’s true of anything, really.

porcupine chickThat’s not to say that the movie is a complete disaster – there’s a really interesting theme in the film about finding your true face – one character has to pull of his skin to discover what he really looks like, and Cronenberg has to put on a mask to reveal himself. And there’s so much random craziness that it’s hard not to recommend a viewing of the film – the parade of monsters that appear in Midian are impressive, featuring more unique creatures than anything this side of Labryinth. Also on the down side, though, is the film’s score, which is wildly inappropriate for the content of the movie, and borrows far too heavily from Danny Elfman’s other major film of that year, Batman.

If nothing else, seeing this film again succeeded in putting me in touch with the younger, more naïve version of myself that was actually capable of getting scared by movies. It’s also reminded me that I really should start reading Clive Barker’s books, since he seems to have quite an imagination on him, that one.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Nightbreed’ podcast here

or enter the underworld to listen on our on-site player right here:

simon use this oneOur featured guest: Simon Bamford

Actor/writer/director Simon Bamford is quite the study in contrast. On-screen, he’s collaborated with pal Clive Barker on four occasions — the first two Hellraiser films, Nightbreed and, most recently Books of Blood.

You would hardly recognize Simon as the rather rotund Cenobite Butterball in Hellraiser, a role that he would reprise in the film’s sequel, Hellbound. And even though he would portray another otherworldly creature in Nightbreed, he did not have to endure as many hours in the makeup chair.

Most recently, Bamford was in Barker’s Books of Blood, a piece of fiction that is very personal to him, as he reveals on the podcast. He is currently working on the Nazi zombie film, The 4th Reich with makeup legend Tom Savini.

On stage, Bamford has portrayed everyone from lead Seymour Krelborn in the first UK tour of Little Shop of Horrors to Pip in the Stockholm production of Great Expectations (a role which one him an Actor of the Year award.

Simon also travels the horror festival circuit with his Cenobite buds, including Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley. We are grateful that Simon joined us from acrosss the pond to recollect his time spent on the set of Nightbreed.

For more on Simon, check out his site, SimonBamford.com.

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‘Rawhead Rex’

 

Title: Rawhead Rex
Rated: R
Directed by: George Pavlou
Starring: David Dukes as Howard Hallenbeck
               Kelly Piper as Elaine Hallenbeck
               Niall Toibin as Rev. Coot
               Heinrich von Schellendorf as Rawhead Rex
Tagline: Someone has awakened him. He lives again to feed again.

By Rob Rector (featuring Bo from Last Blog on the Left):

Clive Barker was Shakespeare to an adolescent young sci-fi/horror nerd such as myself. As a young, voracious reader, my bookshelf slowly shed its pre-teen skin – made of volumes of “Black Stallion,” Hardy Boys,” and Jack London adventures – into the darker, more depraved musings of Stephen King. Well-worn paperbacks of “Carrie,” “Christine” and “The Shining” replaced titles like “Black Stallion’s Blood Bay Colt” and “Hardy Boys and Secret of Skull Mountain.”

Pre-screening memories:

Then, I remember reading about “The Damnation Game.”

It was endorsed by none other than the King himself. I remember the cover of the book did not look as threatening as that of the ghostly screaming face of my jaundiced paperback of “The Shining.” Hell, even the ominous shrunken head on the cover of “Hardy Boys: The Clue in the Embers” was more menacing than that of “Game’s” iron mask floating in a cheesy pink mist.

But King proclaimed him to be “The future of horror,” so I had to give him the benefit of the doubt. I had yet to be introduced to his “Books of Blood” series which preceded it, but immediately took a liking to the Faustian riff of a boxer selling his soul for immortality.

This, of course, led to hearing of the first film to be written by the invoker of many a nightmare — “Rawhead Rex.” It blew through theaters like the zephyr, so it was not until video that I was able to watch his monstrous creation in the flesh.. well, in the latex.

Honestly, I recall more the violent-sounding title (the not-so-subtle sexual reference of his name was completely lost on me)and the newspaper ad of the big hulking beast than the film itself. I seem to recall a trailer park getting pretty torn up and a few shots of Rex – looking like an American Gladiator from the Mesozoic period (a Pangaea Gladiator?) — triumphantly holding a severed head in his dirty claws. It had left an impression on me at the time, but I think more for its gory special effects than its haunting imagery.

Oh, and the priest getting pissed on by Rex.

Yes,one of the film’s most notable scenes involves Rex giving a golden shower to a man of the cloth. For what reason I am not all that sure. And I will abstain from any mention of suggesting this film took place in Boston.

Other than that, I got nothing. I have since followed Barker’s written and cinematic works, but never felt the need to view the monster again. And with “Rex” not being released on DVD, I never had the opportunity even when the casual curiosity arose. As mentioned in a discussion with Shelley Stillo for Hellraier, Barker’s work is steeped in sexual and religious overtones, so I know there must have been a number of subtext thoughout “Rawhead” that my young brain was just to underdeveloped to process. This, of course, made me eager to return to “Rex.”

Was Rob “baptized” by the whole viewing experience, or did it leave him all wet? Check out his discussion with Bo from Last Blog on the Left? You can download the podcast right here, or click the player below.

‘Hellraiser’

Hellraiser (1987)
Rated: R
Written and Directed by: Clive Barker
Starring: Andrew Robinson as Larry Cotton
                Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton
                Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton
                Doug Bradley as Lead Cenebite (aka Pinhead)

Tagline: It will tear your soul apart!

By: Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: The thing I remember most about viewing Hellraiser as a pre-teen is precisely how much it didn’t effect me. I got started as a horror fan young. I was raised by a group of pop culture mavens who compared family members to characters from Poltergeist and Children of the Damned, who let me stay up late and watch Tales From the Darkside on overnight visits to their houses. By the time I was 10, I’d had the good sense to become best friends with the video-store lady’s daughter.

In those pre-blockbuster days, the horror shelf in the video store was a special place—a vast undiscovered country of illicit sights. Today, as most people order their dvds from Amazon based on movies they’ve already seen or heard of, or worse yet, they `flix everything they watch, DVD cover art is a pretty sanitized business. Actors you recognize, a scene from the film, the promo poster you’ve seen a thousand times. Mid-80s VHS cover art was different, especially in the horror aisle. Intense color and extreme graphics were the only ways to give your film a chance to be seen, especially in an era when many horror films were independently produced or released direct to video. VHS covers could be downright terrifying. A trip down the horror aisle at the video store could often be an act of bravery for my 10-year-old self, and, unfortunately, most often a much richer artistic experience than viewing the films inside those Technicolor cases.

But it was also an act of pure pleasure, as I anticipated my weekly visits to the horror aisle with an insane glee other children reserved for Disneyland. In the three or four years during which my best friend’s mother worked at the video store, my friend and I burned through every horror film on the shelf, each of our family’s taking weekly turns at playing host to our all-night bloodbath versions of the pre-teen girl sleepover.

Back then, Hellraiser was just another movie to add to the list of horror films I’d seen. Even though “Pinhead” was already an iconic figure in the genre by the time I’d encountered him, he left little to no impression on me. I liked that he was a cool-looking villain, but I didn’t know why he got so much attention in all of those horror documentaries I watched. And while this lack of effect was in part a consequence of my attraction to more kid-friendly horror—the comical Freddy films that spewed forth from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and PG-13 Stephen King adaptions chief among them—it wasn’t like I had no appreciation for more mature horror. I also counted Nosferatu and The Haunting among my favorite films. But Pinhead and his “magic box” never meant anything to me, besides the occasional ability to quicken my heart—and my step—when I saw their images on a VHS box.

New memories: I was recently able to view Hellraiser on the big screen, and my immediate reaction was “I’ve never really seen this movie before.” Even though Hellraiser has most likely made numerous appearances on my horror viewing lists (which haven’t stopped growing), I never really saw the movie until I watched it this year. This is obviously due to the fact that as a pre-teen horror fan, I had no capacity whatsoever to understand the erotic dynamics of a horror film that explicitly delves into the world of sado-masochistic pleasure (“Demons to some, angels to others” indeed). But because I’ve heard countless talking heads ruminate about Barker’s use of this subject matter over the years, I really thought I had a sense of this film—what it was about and how it worked—even though I hadn’t seen it for at least ten years. But I really had no idea, which can be a bit of a surreal experience, to realize that something you honestly believed to be familiar is actually an absolute unknown.

Obviously, as someone enthusiastic about rebel art (an enthusiasm that was only stoked by Barker’s own live introduction to the screening I saw, which included blow-job jokes and a raspy “Art should never be made for the man. Art should be made to take down the man.”), I was impressed by the frankness with which this film approached the topic of pain as pleasure. But the film seemed to go even further than that by criticizing, or at least portraying as equally horrific, the “normal” sexual couple. Kirstie’s father’s and boyfriend’s obliviousness to possibilities that don’t conform to their narrow view of the world seems as problematic as Uncle Frank and Stepmother Julia’s (if you can’t tell, there’s also a bit of an incest plot here, which only adds intensity to the atmosphere of the film) violent fantasies.

The other thing that keeps this film resonant and current is how well the special effects have held up. As a frequent attendee of midnight movies, I can definitely say that special effects rarely hold up. But despite the outrageouness of some of the imagery Barker tries to capture—the aforementioned skinless Frank and the “meat board” are two notable examples—you never laugh or flinch at an outdated technique watching this film. Perhaps it is actually because of Barker’s outrageousness that these visual moments hold up. The depths of imagination it takes to conjure such images guarantees that they’ll shock and disturb, even at more than 20 years old.

I can’t end this review without a word about the cenobites. They’re inventive villains, even to a 10-year-old who has no grasp of their meaning. In context (or, more accurately, when the context is understood), they’re the kind of characters that attach themselves to your psyche, and may never be completely shaken loose. The rich dialogue they’re given helps (quotes), but their visual characteristics truly are the stuff of nightmares. And as much as Pinhead is still a cool looking villain, it’s the sound of those chattering teeth that keeps me up at night today.

Is Shelly still interested in raising ‘Hell’ after all these years? Listen to the podcast, or dowload it here.

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