When I was a baby gay in the mid-late 90s, I auditioned for the musical theatre department at NYU. To get us all hot and bothered beforehand so we'd beg our moms to sign away their ovaries, they took us into a conference room and played a "This is why you should go to Tisch" video for us. This video featured ANNE BOBBY from Nightbreed. A star! Mission accomplished, I wanted in.
I don't really think I understood Nightbreed as a kid, but I owned the VHS because there was a day-glo font on the cover and I knew that Clive Barker was gay and he fit my bizarre pasty-brunette-vampire-boyfriend fetish that was already cast in stone by the time I was 14.
By "I don't think I understood," I mean I have no idea what it was about because, to my credit, the theatrical cut isn't great. It's bombastic and visually compelling - but you can't track a story to save your life.
Last night it was too hot to sleep so I put Nightbreed on my phone (it's streaming on amazon). This wasn't necessarily the best idea since it can get loud, but it turned out to be a great idea because, in the moments before shutting it off and resigning myself to insomnia, something clicked. I was intrigued. I realized that I had no memory of ever having seen this film.
The version on Amazon right now is the director's cut and it's good - not just aesthetically/queer good, but good good.
This movie is about a gay therapist (played by David Cronenberg) who wants to kill all the straight people only to be undone by a hot bisexual and his musical theatre actress girlfriend. Ryan Murphy wishes!
Nightbreed's ultimate lesson is that outcasts and artists aren't meant to blend in with normal people and we should find solace in each other and in living outside traditional, heteronormative value systems. Who can argue with that?
It took me a long time to get my head around bisexuals, just like it took me a long time to get my head around Nightbreed. I apologize. Bisexuals face a huge amount of discrimination in the gay community and, for whatever reason, so did Clive Barker as a filmmaker. Thirty years later, we can all start to think clearly.
Nightbreed is definitely worth reassessment when you're ready to receive it.
Besides the fact that Clive shoots the boys through my favorite '90s-soft-core queer lens, where else can you find puppets and Giallo levels of gore coupled with Anne Bobby singing a number while wearing a statement scarf?
Eat your heart out, Carnegie Mellon!