I knew the first time I watched Nightbreed, back when I was a teenager, that there was something special about it. Not only in that it was a stylish, fun horror flick, but in that it spoke to me on a deeper and more personal level; one that I’m able to register more clearly now that I’m older and wiser. Considering the movie’s cult following today, I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one who had this kind of reaction and feeling.
At it’s core,and this is true for both Clive Barker’s novella and the subsequent film, it would seem that the story is about feeling outcast and about searching for acceptance. Belonging in an otherwise lonely world. Boone, the hero of the story, instinctively knows that he doesn’t belong in the same world inhabited by the others around him. He’s drawn instead to a place called Midian, a mythological dreamworld where the darker denizens of the world reside.
Even after reaching Midian though, Boone’s still considered an outsider, leaving him ultimately alone and lost between humanity and inhumanity. Only through circumstance, when he’s forced into fully becoming what he was always meant to be (one of the Breed), is he accepted into the subterranean society.
Boone’s character is relatable to persons from all walks of life. The essence of his character is every religion, every race, every subculture, every personal preference. He’s every lonely kid in high school. He’s every tomboy who’s refused to wear dresses. He’s every fearful, closeted gay kid, like I was, trying desperately to hide themselves.
Boone is everyone and everyone needs a hero.
In Midian, he meets other “monsters” like himself, but a conscious effort has been made to paint them as their own individual selves, each one unique. Some are warm to him, others are cold. Some are helpful, while others question his place among them. But this is also simply truth; that no matter which societal class or circle you finally discover you fit in to, you’ll always find people there still debating your belonging. A subtle part of the film’s story, that I took away anyway, is meant to encourage you to fight for your right to belong once you feel like you do.
In the story, ignorant and fearful humans are cast as a collective villain, and isn’t this the truth of the world too? There’s always that opposite group out there, with completely different values and beliefs and, more often than not, they always seem to be on the attack. Racists, homophobes, bullies, religious fanatics. People bent on preserving their own way of life at the cost of robbing others of theirs.
Decker, the primary antagonist of the film, I believe symbolizes one of the greatest threats out there: the hypocrite with power. Because while Decker is surely a monster in his own right, he still believes himself a different being than just another member of the Nightbreed. With his power (represented in the story as the respectable social standing of a doctor), he’s all to easily able to rouse an army to help him carry out his own personal agenda. Decker is the closeted politician fighting against equal rights. He’s the bigoted, tax-evading mayor of a poverty-stricken town.
The remainder of the story’s characters aren’t without merit in this introspective either. All of them seem to represent factions and tropes that are clearly noticeable in every instance of struggling humanity. Lori, Boone’s human girlfriend, is the supportive soul, capable of unconditional love that we all wish we could find in our darkest hours. The drunken priest Ashberry is the essence of someone lost and confused, much like Boone was, but led to ruin because of it. Even Baphomet, the creator of Midian and God-like being to the Breed can be inferred as the righteous martyr, willing to destroy sanctuary and self for the greater good of the people it wishes to serve and protect.
Overall, the story of Nightbreed is for anyone out there who has ever felt like they didn’t belong. It’s a somewhat tragic and bleak tale, to be sure, but it also spreads the message that even if things grow desperate and chaotic, there is a place for everyone in the world if you fight for it.
A place for everyone, and that includes every kind of “monster”.