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Can we get a NIGHTBREED reboot…please?


It’s been close to 25 years since the movie hit the screens, but no movie has ever had the same effect on me as this one did when it arrived. At the time, I was so used to seeing Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, I don’t think I knew what to expect, but Nightbreed was a clever mix of fantasy and horror and although I normally frown on reboots, this is exactly the type of film that needs to be rebooted for today’s audience.

Sure the effects where generally top notch for the nineties, but with so much unexplained and so many character’s, who’s stories were left untold, I feel this is ripe for the picking. However, the question will come up in board meetings “Is there still a fan base?” My answer would be, if you could reboot Judge Dredd you can reboot this. It’s not about a fanbase anymore, but how you market it that matters. There are a number of films that came up from scratch and have done well and with so many horror and comic book conventions around the world, a few dollars would be all we needed to resurrect the dead.

I look at Nightbreed as the Pokemon of horror flicks. There were so many monsters in this film and all with their own unique abilities, that marketing would be a snap. Give each character their moment and a bad ass line and you’ve gotta hit. Just think of the potential.


Another way to market this film, is give it a comic book, something that delivers the back story of every character. Did they transform or were they born that way? Are they from the U.S or from all over the world? How old is each monster and what powers do they posses? You see where I am going here?

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the lead character Boone/Cabal, is the tamest looking monster in the whole film. Well..we could beef that up…hell, give the guy some demonic looking wings even. Winged critters always make for good car chase scenes.

I’m realizing, as I write this, that a lot of you would probably like to know what this film is about.

Nightbreed is based on a book by Clive Barker called Cabal and the story goes like this…

The film features Craig Sheffer as Aaron Boone, an unstable mental patient led to believe by his doctor (David Cronenberg) that he is a serial killer. Tracked down by the police as well as by his doctor (the actual murderer) and his girlfriend (Anne Bobby), Boone eventually finds refuge in an abandoned cemetery called Midian, among a community or “tribe” of monsters and outcasts – known as the “Nightbreed” – that hides from humanity.

The film was unfortunately a flop when it released in 1991. The mistake Hollywood made with Nightbreed, was they didn’t know what kind of film it was. Clive Barker was known for his work with Hellraiser, so the tendency was to promote the film as a horror, but that’s where they went horribly wrong. The film is more fantasy than horror. Sure there are some gory moments and satanic imagery, but it’s based more in myth and ancient lore than it is in the occult. If Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman or Peter Jackson had been around back then a.k.a huge, this film would’ve been done right.


Watching the movie now, I see so many missed opportunities, to expound on a world that, for all intents and purposes, is as vast as Middle Earth. Instead we get this hodge podge of imagery, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but you want it to. From the cave paintings in the opening credits to the dream sequence when we see the Nightbreed being persecuted “Inquisition” style.

nbcbSome of these mysteries are supposedly explained in Cabal:The Directors Cut, that just released, but according to several horror sites it does nothing to elevate the film as a whole. It’s more or less a think piece or blue print, if you will, of the differences between the story the director wanted to tell versus what the studio wanted. I also hear the quality is horrendous. It’s a slow death for a film, that should’ve been rebooted years ago

  (Via. Shock Til You Drop)

The focus is more on Boone and Lori.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say the Cabal Cut is really Lori’s film.  A lot of the emotional weight rests on her shoulders.  Boone is still all over the map and drops out of the film for a bit (when he tells Lylesberg he’s going to see Baphomet, it’s apparently a really, really long walk to go downstairs) and Decker is sidelined as one of the film’s myriad threats.  There is the introduction to a voice in Decker’s head, beckoning him to put on the mask and kill.  This detail is wildly inconsistent and comes in way too late in the film, still, it’s an interesting touch if it was established properly.

 This is what they had to say regarding the finale/raid on Median:

Another notable addition that affects the film: The extended raid on Midian which seems much more brutal now and includes more monsters getting blown away by Eigerman’s men.  This draws the whole third act action scene out and may be satisfying to some.

So it basically sounds like what needed to happen is the film needed to be re-shot and more character development and that’s what I’m saying could happen with a proper reboot people.

In closing, if you decide to rent this film and feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s fine and I appreciate you giving it a chance, but if you agree with me and can see this film for what it could truly be…you’re welcome. Fuck Robocop…give us NIGHTBREED.

Want to know more about NIGHTBREED or The CABAL CUT? Checkout these websites!

Occupy Midian


They’re Still Here, Poltergeist 30 Years On



When a malevolent force decides to claim their young daughter, pulling her into another dimension, everything the Freeling family knows about life, death, and the energies lingering between is forever changed.

Starring JoBeth Williams as Diane, Craig T. Nelson as Steven, Heather O’Rourke or Carol Anne, Dominique Dunne as Dana, Oliver Robins as Robbie, Beatrice Straight as Dr. Lesh, and the indelible Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina, Poltergeist is directed by Tobe Hooper based on a story and screenplay by Steven Spielberg (along with Michael Grais and Mark Victor).


The Summer of 1982 belonged to Steven Spielberg.  Released just a week apart in June, Spielberg’s E.T. and Poltergeist took the American movie going public by storm.  Both films were family-centric at their heart with major plot points revolving around young children, but otherwise, the films were worlds apart.

Poltergeist is a darkly entertaining vision of modern day suburbia, in which a young family of five is pitted against an otherworldly protagonist.  That the family turns to a team of collegiate paranormal investigators rather than the police in the wake of the abduction of their child speaks volumes about Diane and Steven and what their family has already experienced in their Cuesta Verde tract home.


The interactions with the paranormal forces inside their home begin as little more than playful pranks; chairs stacking themselves on the kitchen table and objects being slid across the floor.  By the time the events begin to occur, we have already spent a significant amount of time with the Freelings, seeing their day-to-day life.  They feel real to us, we can relate to them.  By extension, the inexplicable events seem somehow easier to accept as real because they are happening to them.

Like any good horror film, this look into how these interactions are perceived, when the stakes are relatively low, reveals deeper truths at the heart of the family and the story.

Diane, who playfully engages with the forces by placing her own daughter on the floor to be slid across it, embraces the experience as a kind of miracle.  Steven, who, even after witnessing the activity first-hand, refuses to openly accept what’s happening as paranormal, is shadowed by a kind of lurking hesitancy.  It is Steven’s hesitancy and guardedness, and Diane’s unshakable belief and love that ultimately carry the family through the crisis about to unfold.

Poltergeist captured imaginations and terrified audiences, but it is not a film about a haunted house.


The Shining: spoiler alert

I cringe every time Poltergeist is referred to as a haunted house film, especially since the characters central to the plot repeatedly inform the audience to the contrary.  The energy in the Freeling home is focused on Carol Anne (a plot point further explored in subsequent franchise sequels), not the house.  Even after the home is destroyed at the end of Poltergeist and the Freelings move, the energy that plagued the family follows them.


It’s unfortunate that this plot point is often confused or muddled or ignored, because I think the idea that something as malevolent as what focuses its attention on the young Carol Anne would follow her, and not be restrained to one particular location, is far more dubious and terrifying.

There’s nowhere to run to, baby.

What brings me back to Poltergeist time and again is the intimate portrait of a pair of high school sweethearts, clearly still deeply in love, that pull together in the face of an ethereal threat – one that cannot be reasoned with, stopped, or even seen – and overcome everything that is thrown at them.


JoBeth Williams’ Diane was the mother every little girl dreamed of having; with a love pure enough to span an abyssal void in order to reclaim you from the clutches of evil.  And Craig T. Nelson’s Steven was the strong, unshakable father we all wanted to sit with us during a thunderstorm.  Steven and Diane are the heart of the film.  And while a lot of focus on Poltergeist and the franchise now resides on the unfortunate passing of Heather Rourke, that she was such a powerful presence onscreen only sweetens with each viewing.



Paint It Black with Kevin Bacon in Stir of Echoes



“You’re awake now, Daddy.”

Tom and Maggie have just finished moving their growing family into a new house in a working class Chicago neighborhood.  Musician-turned-telephone lineman, Tom, asks his sister-in-law Lisa to hypnotize him at a block party.  A little drunk and more than a little puffed up, Tom thinks nothing will happen.  After all, everyone thinks Lisa is a bit of a quacky flake.  But something does happen.  It turns out Tom is one of the lucky 8%.  The small percentage of the population that is highly hypnotizable.  The experience changes him.  He begins seeing grisly images and is plagued by the feeling that something, or someone, is trying to reach out to him.

Stir of Echoes is the 1999 supernatural/paranormal horror film directed by David Koepp starring Kevin Bacon as Tom, Kathryn Erbe as Maggie, Zachary David Cope as Jake, Illeana Douglas as Lisa, and Jennifer Morrison as Samantha Kozac.

stirOfEchoes_4_altIt’s not uncommon for projects with similar themes to be released in the same year.  Think Armageddon and Deep Impact.  Think The Prestige and The Illusionist.  Think Volcano and Dante’s Peak.  Okay, that last one was particularly painful.  I still don’t understand how they drive that car over hot lava.  But, I digress.  It would seem that it’s typical for one to be widely embraced while the other is more or less panned by critics and/or moviegoers alike.

Unfortunately for Stir of Echoes, the phenomenally successful M. Night Shyamalan project The Sixth Sense had beat them to market by more than a month.  By September 10, 1999 when Stir of Echoes finally opened, The Sixth Sense had been #1 at the box office since its release on August 6th.  And while Stir of Echoes opened #5 at the box office, it would not enjoy the 40 weeks in theaters that The Sixth Sense would.  Does that mean Stir of Echoes is in some way an inferior film?  Read on.

While the similarities between the projects are undeniable, each has its own style and way of telling similar story.  With Stir of Echoes, the thrust is more about a world beyond ours – the unseen – stirOfEchoes_3accessed through intent rather than circumstance.  When Bacon’s character is given a post-hypnotic suggestion by his sister-in-law to be more open, no one guessed it would open a door through which Tom would not only see the past but the dead.

I always liked the premise of the film – that this man, who never thought he would be so boringly ordinary, is suddenly changed, his world expanded beyond anything he could have ever dreamt.  He is a Receiver – a person that can see spirits.  That he becomes obsessed in search of the truth is as interesting, to me, as the motivations of Bruce Willis’ character in The Sixth Sense.

stirOfEchoes_4In the end, I believe the film’s underlying subject matter – unforgivable abuses suffered by a young woman at the hands of a group of protected teenage boys – made the film too tragic, sad, uncomfortable or disturbing for a majority of film goers.  I’d have to agree to an extent.  After watching the film for the first time, I found certain elements worming their way into my thoughts.  People that are put off by body horror (or those of you who enjoy it) should take note Stir of Echoes will unapologetically serve it up.

On the upside – the hypnosis scenes are incredibly well executed and are among the most visually strong for the film.  Even if Stir of Echoes gifyou don’t feel like watching the entire movie, check out this clip of the scene.  And Kevin Bacon turns in what is among his best performances.  Notable too are performances by Kathryn Erbe and Illeana Douglas – they are pitch perfect, adding touches of realism and comedy where needed.  Unlike its twin (The Sixth Sense), Stir of Echoes does manage to hold up to repeated viewings thanks to the cast’s nuanced performances and cinematographer Fred Murphy‘s camera work.  And, if you like the Rolling Stone’s “Paint It Black“, all the more reason to check out Stir of Echoes.  The song acts as a unrelenting supporting cast member, adding a touch of the sinister to a film already populated by the eerie.



The Omen – Instilling Fear of Children Since 1976


the omen

“When the Jews return to Zion / And a comet rips the sky / And the Holy Roman Empire rises, / Then You and I must die. / From the eternal sea he rises, / Creating armies on either shore, / Turning man against his brother / ‘Til man exists no more.”

Originally advanced screened in the United States on June 6, 1976, Richard Donner‘s The Omen, starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, terrified audiences with it’s hauntingly evil portrayal of the devil incarnate, in the shape of a little boy.

When their child dies at birth, Robert Thorn (Peck) decides to deceive his wife to spare her the grief.  In their child’s place, he agrees to take into their care, another child, born the same night as his biological child died.  Unbeknownst to him, or to his wife, Kathy, the child is the seed of Satan.  As Damien, their “adopted” child begins to grow, it sets in motion a chain of unfortunate, and deadly, events from which neither Robert nor his wife, Kathy, can escape.


Many people have heard the stories of The Omen curse – the lightning strikes, the plane crashes, animal attacks, car accidents and the like.  Whether or not you believe in it, the murmurs of such a curse lurking around the production of The Omen did do something successfully, it drove people to the film either out of curiosity or morbid fascination.  Personally, I agree with the folks at – and since I don’t believe in Satan, how could I possibly believe Satan didn’t want The Omen being made so he cursed the production of and those involved with the film?

Yeah, about that…

You see, the not believing in Satan, or in the Roman Catholic church, poses a significant problem for members of the viewing audience.  But, I suppose there’s two ways of looking at it – a.) who cares if these people don’t buy it, they knew what they were going to see, b.) maybe they’ll leave being a little more afraid of deception, children, and large, black dogs.

Either way, The Omen comes out a win-win for a filmgoer.  After all, devil or no, is there anything more terrifying than a child who doesn’t seem to think twice before harming its own mother?

There are plenty of tense moments, great effects, and the plot is kept moving by well-paced storytelling.


The Omen made a strong impression on me when I first saw it years ago as a much younger incarnation of myself, one who still believed in demons and ghosts and biblical evil in general.  Now that I’m older, The Omen evokes other, more tangible fears about the cost of deception in a relationship, the alien nature of quietly scheming children, and of religiously motivated violence.

In a way, these two visions I have of The Omen make the film, its construction and execution, a very good one, even after more than 35 years.


Ti West’s Minimum Wage Ghost Story The Innkeepers



During the final days of its operation, employees of the Yankee Pedlar – a grand, old Inn whose better days are now behind it – hope to catalog some of the supernatural events for which the Inn has become partially known.  As its last weekend begins, Claire and Luke – the only remaining staff – decide to check themselves into the Inn and remain there until Monday.  Joined by actress-turned-medium, Leanne Rease-Jones, the two settle in for the long weekend generally unprepared for what awaits them.

Directed by Ti West, The Innkeepers is the 2011 supernatural horror film starring Sara Paxton as Claire, Pat Healy as Luke, Kelly McGillis as Leanne Rease-Jones, Alison Bartlett as Gayle, Jake Ryan as Gayle’s kid, and Lena Dunham as the I-need-talk-to-someone barista next door.

theInnkeepers_1It’s easy to overlook the general awesomeness of The Innkeepers due to its runtime and slow-burn construction.  At 100 minutes, the film takes its sweet time building toward an ending that can’t be missed.  It’s this little kernel that sets The Innkeepers apart from almost every single one of its peers.  Films like Paranormal Activity and Insidious are solid at building necessary tension but neither of them have the universal approval of filmgoers for having delivered the goods by film’s end.  The Innkeepers definitely delivers.

The technique is seriously old school – Ti West purposely draws out the building of plot by spending a lavish amount of time on character development.  It’s in these moments that the real story theInnkeepers_2of The Innkeepers is unfurling.  If you give yourself to it, the reward at the film’s end is all the more gut wrenching.  If you find yourself bored to tears and wanting to turn it off, simply pause the film, grab a drink (coffee works, too) and relax.  The Innkeepers is as much about what you bring to the film as what it will deliver.  In this way, The Innkeepers is sure to find a serious base in fans of ’60s and ’70s horror films where stories were typically built around good/average people and the horrible event(s) that befell them.  Without the backstory, there was no scope, perspective, or barometer for the ensuing horror.

Here’s the reality.  52 minutes.  That’s about how long it will take for you to get a sense of the film’s overall thrust.

So, yes, it’s true the film is short on gore and big scares – at least initially.  This shouldn’t deter you, though.  There are other films in the genre that you can turn to if that’s all you’re looking for.  Check out The Innkeepers if you enjoy a character-driven thrill.

theInnkeepers_3Kelly McGillis, who had just come off a role in another horror film – Stake Land – the year prior, is a delight.  As an actress turned medium, it’s easy to dismiss her character – her motives, her insights, her warnings.  Think of her as the naysayer that everyone sees as a flake but who turns out to be the only one with even the faintest idea of what’s really going on.  She’s absolutely pivotal and I love seeing McGillis working, especially in the horror genre.  I love that she owns her age, her gray hair, and I applaud her for it.  In fact, I think she looks amazing.  After all, in the words of her character, “we all have our moments.”  And now, as McGillis enters a new stage of her career, may be hers.


Sara Paxton who, as the young, wide-eyed asthmatic Claire, weaves a delicate performance between sensitive and naive, is nothing less than utterly lovable.  Her antics will have you laughing – the scene in which she takes out the garbage is among my favorites.

Told in a three-act structure The Innkeepers does a great job of poking fun at the reemergence of the spiritualist/paranormal movement and its mounting profitability thanks to renewed public interest in hauntings and supernatural events.   But really, it all boils down to the same thing.  As humans, facing our inevitable mortality, we can’t help but want there to be something else, something more, beyond what we can readily see or sense, beyond our existence.  As Claire and Luke face the close of the Yankee Pedlar, there is something inside them that can’t let go, that doesn’t want it to end.  Not until they have their proof.

We all know to be careful what you ask for.

If and when you make it to the third and final act, everything you’ve invested so far will finally pay off.   Ti West drains the final scenes of almost all light, forces his characters into the basement (again and again), and – at long last – gives you what you pressed play for.

Official site:

Trailer w/ introduction by Sara Paxton:


Why a PG-13 Rating Spelled Success for Insidious


Insidious -4

Haunted houses.  Demon possession.  Seances.  The Further.  Astral Projection.  For the Lambert family, any hope of having a normal life gradually fades after their young son Dalton falls into a non-waking state.  As they struggle to make sense of what’s happening to their son, Renai and Josh are overcome with a feeling of never being alone.  Not quite.  Renai is tormented by noises and visions of things that aren’t there.  The events escalate until the family decides to move in hopes of getting away from whatever seeks to torment them.  But, once installed in their new home, things only become worse.  When Josh’s mother suggests they call in an expert, the Lamberts aren’t nearly prepared to learn the truth about what’s happening to their family.


Starring Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert, Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert, Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert, Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert, Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, Leigh Whannell as Specs, and Angus Sampson as Tucker, Insidious is the 2011 supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell – the team that brought us Saw.

I am a big fan of James Wan and of screenwriter Leigh Whannell.  The duo have a consistency about them that borders on the unreal.  What’s more, even though their work feels familiar, it almost never feels obvious or predictable.  I’m also a fan of the concept of astral projection.  Perhaps dismissed as too “new age”, or misunderstood altogether, the subject of astral projection has been much underused in film.  I’m happy to say that Insidious makes fun and creative use of the concept.  I’m also a fan of Patrick Wilson (The ConjuringLittle ChildrenAngels in America) whose resume boasts some complicated, nuanced performances that I’ve enjoyed watching time and again.

There.  With my biases set out, let’s talk.

Insidious is a rarity.  Made for about $1.5M and rated PG-13, Insidious was able to do something other films in the genre often only dream of – turn a relatively respectable profit: $90+M.  By capitalizing on a larger audience (and being widely entertaining) this modest horror film cashed in and it did so with very little violence and next to no bloodshed.  Does the PG-13 rating and lack of violence/gore mean it isn’t a “real” horror film?


The horror factor of Insidious is, by necessity, internal – the fear of a parent that their child will be injured, the fear of a child of being alone, the fear of what lies in the darkness beyond our senses.  James Wan does a masterful job of using gothic-style scares to sculpt an atmospheric and spine-tingling film.


Sure, there are moments that may feel a bit stagey, even Disneyland-ish, but remember you’re not watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, here.  This film also is meant to be enjoyed by a younger set.  A set filled with, perhaps, fewer biases and jaded sensibilities as yourself.  As a result, the film becomes a slightly lopsided experience – with the beginning half of the film building an almost impossible tension that may not really be satisfactorily resolved by the film’s (too literal?) ending.

There is a stillness to Insidious that, in direct contrast to many other pieces in the genre, builds much of the film’s tension and ambiance.  For those with a fear of being watched, Insidious knows where you live and breathe.  Others, who love to be shocked and awed, may be disappointed.

Insidious is a moderately (re)watchable film.  The same cannot be said for every entry into the horror film genre.  Many want to disgust you, shock you, disturb you to the point of making you look away from the screen.  What’s the point of that?  You’re there to see the movie, not look at the palms of your hands.  Sure, it’s great fun to be *that* unnerved in a safe environment, but it doesn’t do much in the way of telling a story.  It disengages the audience and results in the loss of their suspension of disbelief.

The true power of a horror film lies in its ability to draw its audience in, and keep them there – no matter how uncomfortable they may feel – to face those things that wait just beyond the darkness.

Would you let your kids watch it?  That’s a discussion for another writer on another blog – I’m not here to tell you if Insidious is “appropriate”, I’m not Big Sister.  I will say that, if pressed, it’s not exactly easy to come up with a moral bottom line to the film.  Is it to be always mindful of your actions?  Is it to respect all things, especially those for which our understanding is lax?  You be the judge.


And yes, some of the film may invoke laughter on your part.  It’s okay to laugh while you’re watching a horror film.  Who said it isn’t?  I know that the depiction of the demon lurking over Dalton’s empty body has garnered a lot of attention - some enthusiasticsome laughably negative - and I don’t know if it will reappear in the upcoming sequel to the film.  I do know this.  The red-faced demon is portrayed by Joseph Bishara, the film’s score composer, and I’m sure he’ll be long remembered by an entire generation – even if they’re laughing a bit.


Mama: Is a Mother’s Love Forever?



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