Cabal: The Delirium of Monsterdom
For: Annotated edition of Cabal, Fiddleblack, 2013
When one of the Nightbreed says to a human, 'To be smoke, to be a wolf, to live for ever: it's not so terrible. You call us monsters but when you dream, you dream of flying and changing and living forever,' those are my dreams - and those are monstrous conditions.
'Monstrousness,' if the word is being defined as a kind of moral negative, can reside in things as human as you and I. And great good-heartedness and the capability of full love and loyalty and devotion can reside in things that don't resemble us at all - as, for instance, they reside in our dogs. In other words, don't hate everything strange, because one day you might find it in yourself...
In researching together our thematic exploration of his work, Clive Barker returns over and over to his deep identification with monsters - with their appetites and their extremes - and to his rejection of conventional structures and institutional authorities which work to suppress those appetites, extremes and imagination.
"We live in a very homogenised world," he offers in considering this. "I feel that we have a culture which is sickened by strangeness, rather than excited by it; a world which thrusts us, very early, into a position of 'be like the others' or be called inadequate. These are ways that are limiting and simplifying. They take out the ambiguities in us, they tame out the paradoxes. We are all of us strange. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see yourself with the eyes of a stranger? We're just so used to our own strangeness we find it easy to put down other people's strangeness. That's why I celebrate monsters. The monstrous is a hint of variegation. Metaphorically, what does this suggest? I think we're looking at the possibility of physical change as a metaphor for psychic change. We're seeing these as signs of our own protean nature."
Clive's personal sense of that protean nature has roots reaching back to childhood, "When I was a kid," he says, "and I was scared of something that was outside the house, it was never anything dark and imaginative, it was never dragons and demons, it was always something completely human. So I had this ritual: I would go to my window before I went to bed at night or whenever I was alone in the house, and I'd part the curtains and look out - we didn't have a back yard and there were no lights, so all you would be looking out into was blackness - and I would put my face to the window and contort it as violently as I could, attempting to look as monstrous as possible. Basically what the face said was, 'You sons of bitches out there! Whatever you think you can do, I can do worse! So don't you dare come in here!' I had faith in the creatures I conjured; I felt I was of their tribe; that there was a demon inside me that was finally scarier to that human being outside than he could ever be to me - that I belonged on the side of the monsters, and that the side of the monsters was a strong place to be. From a very early age I knew, because of my imagination, that I was an outsider; that I was never going to fit. I'm thankful for my oddness as a kid - it forced me into doing what I do, being what I am."
This worldview blossoms perhaps most publicly within the short novel celebrated here, Cabal - a book he has described as his "hymn of praise to the monstrous" - and in its metamorphosis into the movie adaptation, Nightbreed.
Manuscript: London, 1987
Cabal was written over the course of eight months in 1987 and published in 1988. Its appearance came hard on the heels of its author's two most successful projects to date: the screen debut of the first Hellraiser movie and the massive popularity of his break-out novel, Weaveworld.
Weaveworld's story draws heavily on Clive's own childhood both in its Liverpool setting and in the character of its lead figure, Calhoun Mooney. Central to this story of memory and of the fragility of real meaning within the banalities of the world had been Clive's desire to subvert the traditional fairy story, "I wanted to write a novel in which the world of magic and the world of the real collided," he says, "the world of visions; the world of transformations; the world of William Blake colliding with the gritty, brutal reality of living in the later part of the twentieth century in a de-humanised, de-deified, de-mythologised world... I wanted to see what would survive."
It documents the story of a tribe of 'monsters' in hiding within a specially woven carpet; a tribe with magical powers that had co-existed with humanity - not always comfortably - but was now facing a greater enemy, the Scourge, that seemed intent on wiping the existence of such 'otherness' from the face of the earth.
Cabal shares similar themes, with Weaveworld's tribe - the Seerkind - paralleled by the Nightbreed, hiding from humanity in their underground refuge. "They're both about magic fighting against reason when reason is corrupt," agrees Clive, "they're both about societies in flight, they're both about societies taking refuge. Weaveworld is a 'lost tribe' story and again, in Cabal, the story is very clearly a 'Moses and the Lost Tribe' tale.
"I set out very consciously, though, to write the flip of Weaveworld. In Weaveworld, you enter a world of enchantment and mystery which turns out to have dark elements in it; in Cabal, you enter a necropolis which turns out to have within it the capacity for transcendence. The Seerkind possessed a holy magic in a secular and rationalist world but was an essentially benign species. The Nightbreed are not. They're the monstrous flip side of the coin; a collection of transformers, cannibals, and freaks."
This idea of lost tribes looking for redemption and salvation, had already figured strongly in his writing, not just in the Seerkind but in the 'monsters' living in hiding in his screenplay for Underworld (released in the US as Transmutations) and in several of the Books of Blood. "The whole idea of a lost tribe being led to safety has religious connotations. Biblical themes such as Revelation and Armageddon, run behind all my work, though my interest is in folklore and legends as much as it is in Christian iconography. The idea for Cabal had been around for a long time, however; the book became bigger and bigger and then I ended up with a mythology, or at least the beginning of a mythology, which was larger than I ever thought it was going to be. That's intriguing to me, that's exciting because I have the chance of expanding that on the page.
Putting Aaron Boone at the heart of Cabal, the novel opens with his promise made to his lover, Lori: "I'll never leave you." In a similar way, a promise made by a character to a lover that had unlocked experiences unlike any previous relationship is the driver behind the plot of Clive's previous novella, The Hellbound Heart, and its movie adaptation, Hellraiser. Julia's promise there to Frank - in the book, "Heal me... please," and her response, "I will, I promise you I will," and in the movie, "I'll do anything you want. Anything," gives her the motivation to bring back a lover who has given her sexual satisfaction.
The Boone of Cabal, however, is a failure sexually and his relationship with Lori is more complex. Boone is handsome but damaged. He has been in therapy for years (we're not told precisely why) and the qualities Lori brings to their relationship are ones we sense that no other human has given him: patience and encouragement and, above all, love. Lori's unquestioning love - and her demand that Boone follows through on his promise - drives her side of the story. She is unwavering in her resolve, even when his (false) murderous nature is revealed or when she sees him in his transformed state as one of the Nightbreed.
An unconventional love story made more real by its fluctuating fortunes, Lori's commitment through the book's narrative belies Boone's insecurity and mental fragility. At a critical point he fails her - claiming he is incapable of recognising any feelings he previously held and cannot return her love. Her persistence alone brings him back into the relationship by convincing him - again - that he can live in the world and that she is his true rock, not his analyst, Philip Decker. Empowered by her resolve he finally becomes capable of sexual prowess but despite this show of strength, he nevertheless decides to leave her at the end of the book before she forces the issue by sacrificing her life to be with him in death.
While Clive describes the book in overview as "a romance for dead people," he admits that, "the romance is sometimes very perverse; I mean, what's going on between Boone and Lori is extremely perverse - they fall more and more deeply in love the deader they get!"
Although Boone is our gateway into the world of the Breed, it is Lori who is given the more heroic role, overcoming trials and proving her strength of character. When talking with Rachel, Lori is repulsed by the Nightbreed and the idea of their deathstyle but in her dreams and when she drives - wounded by Decker - back to Midian, she accepts the dust of the dead inside her and the visions of the dead as her preferred side in the battle ahead. In resolving that Boone remains her soulmate, despite his death and transformation, and in sharing the burden of the future of the Nightbreed, she is accepting 'otherness' and rejecting Eigerman's view of the world that tomorrow should go back to 'normal.'
"This theme of acceptance, accepting even contradictions, ugliness and pain as part of life, is the most powerful theme in Cabal," Clive offers. "Midian is full of monsters, but each monster is monstrous in a different way, and their life, diverse as it is, is shown to be valuable."
Driven by both love and compassion Lori also plays the innocent Beauty in search of the Beast she both fears and loves and Clive explores these hidden selves and the masks that are worn - physical masks, uniforms that define accepted authority and behaviours and barriers thrown up as mental defence mechanisms. Clive's own childhood ritual of screwing up his face at the window is an example of one of his own masks in action, as is his showman's face in promotional interviews which covers an intensely private persona. Using it in his fiction he subverts stereotypes and reveals unexpected appetites and passions in his characters. "The mask is, of course, both a means of concealment and one of confession," he says. "It covers the human and reveals the inhuman. The man disappears, and a creature of mythic proportions replaces him: some demon or divinity, a terrible intelligence."
As masks are surrendered in Cabal, true selves emerge; new states are born or allowed to flourish. Transforming between states, the shape-shifters reveal different selves and this metamorphosis within tribes of 'others' recurs in Clive's work, playing a central part in his early plays, The Wolfman and Dog, in some of the later Books of Blood in which flesh and gender are seen to be entirely mutable and on into later works such as Imajica and the Books of The Art.
Boone remains human until he is bitten by Peloquin but he then instantly feels empowered and, in time, comes to accept his place within the tribe and his responsibility for rebuilding it. Decker's large physical frame and standing in the community allow him to present the mask of sanity and command respect. It is only when he hides this side of his form by allowing another mask to cover his face - or to speak for him - that his true nature is allowed to run free. Ashberry's religious garments cover his predilection for lacy underwear but both are burned away by Baphomet's baptism of cold fire, along with his sex and his skin, leaving him transmuted at the end of the story. Eigerman - perhaps rightly given the derivation of his name from 'man of rock' - is the least transformed of all the characters. His uniform allows him to exercise the bullying and violent nature that might have needed to be suppressed were he not the Chief.
"Essentially, I think the book's about the clash between 19th century and 20th century monsters. The 20th century monster is perfectly embodied by the psychotic, soulless serial killer. I wanted to set up a classic stalk-and-slash psycho on the loose - Decker - against the historical, mythological and fairy tale version of 'the monster' which is what Boone and the Nightbreed are. You start with a stalk-and-slash character, but this time you're going to understand that this isn't something you want to applaud. I'm saying to the audience, 'Here's the tradition you've been applauding, but there's another tradition which is rich and various and witty and warm and poetic. Isn't that what we should be celebrating?' I have not moral but aesthetic problems with Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees and so on, and the notion that these characters are the stuff of which anti-heroes can be made strikes me as both morally dubious and also not very interesting. I wanted to say, look, this isn't really very attractive. Do we actually like these people - not only Decker, but the 'normal' human beings who make up the lynch-mob - do we really prefer these machismo-spouting bastards to the strange and the mysterious and the extraordinary? The world-weary vampire and the shape-shifter are figures that have a shamanistic power. They are images that are associated with the demoniacal because we give them that place in society. I'm not entirely convinced that they would be considered monsters in any healthy society - they would be seen as extensions of our appetite, extensions of what is fantastical and extraordinary."
The wordplay within Eigerman's name describing his immovable nature is by no means the only fun that Clive encodes in the pages. Narcisse's self-disfigurement in removing his face is opposite to the usual expectations of a narcissist, A. Boone really is a gift - first to Decker as sacrificial lamb to be blamed and later to the Nightbreed as their saviour - while the largest joke ran in-between the chapters of the narrative...
"I decided it would be entertaining to preface each of the parts with a poem or essay which was relevant to the contents, as I had in Weaveworld, where the philosopher Francis Bacon and the poet W.B. Yeats and Robert Frost are amongst the writers I quote. By the time I wrote Cabal, however, I was in a more anarchic mood. I decided to invent my own authors and write my own quotes (thus ensuring that they would be relevant). It was immense fun." The first of these was Domingo de Ybarrondo, a clown character that Clive had written a decade earlier into a then-unpublished quartet of tales of Maximillian Bacchus and his Travelling Circus.
"Domingo De Ybarrondo is one of the most beautiful names I've ever heard, and it is written on a gravestone with no information whatsoever. I actually went into the church to try and find just something but the people in the church knew nothing. This is in Liverpool, in Aigburth, in quite an old, probably edging into the 18th century, graveyard. I've always loved graveyards and this one was not really well-kept and I wandered around. Many times I will take a notebook and I will take names from headstones. You find so many extraordinary names and very often wonderful combinations of names.
"Since his years travelling the invented roads of the Bacchus stories," Clive surmised as he wrote Cabal, "Domingo had left the circus and turned his hand to writing a book of his own. It was called, I supposed, A Bestiary of the Soul, and the quote that I had chosen from that learned tome was 'We are all imaginary animals...' Those, I decided, were the words that Domingo de Ybarrondo had written and which I chose to introduce this book about the shunned and the outlawed species of which I, as a gay man, felt myself a member. Domingo's quote, like several others in the book, was accepted without question as a legitimate quote from a legitimate source. Indeed several critics referred to the book as though they were familiar with it. I'd like to think that somewhere a clown is laughing..."
This deception continued in a full-length article on the monstrous that Clive wrote for the influential UK magazine, The Face, as Nightbreed was released, gleefully quoting numerous invented writers, coloured with the odd autobiographical touch:
"I am accused," wrote Dutch surrealist poet Jan de Mooy, in his autobiographical masterwork Another Matter: or Man Remade, "of keeping the company of magicians, anarchists, and monsters, to which complaint - a petty thing! - I plead guilty. But let me confess, I am guiltier still, for I am unable, even under duress, to tell one from the other!"
That confession, along with a number of others, cost de Mooy dearly. In 1932, a few weeks after penning the words above, he was executed for sedition, and his body was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere along the shores of Italy's Lake Como.
The unjaundiced eye may greet the sight of the monster much as it greets a thing of beauty: with awe, fascination, and a little envy. Our sensibilities may take pleasure in its multifarious surfaces. Monsters are often walking hymns to fetishism; no small bliss. Where else can flesh grow fur, and feather sprout on bare backs? In Cabal, I quote Chas Kyd, who seemed to put the point well: "Out on the town, with two skins. The leather and the flesh. Three if you count the fore. All out to be touched tonight, yessir. All ready to be rubbed and nuzzled and loved tonight, yessir!"
But why stop with only three skins? The monster, at its best, transforms and transforms, like a dream-mate, responding to every nuance of desire. As de Mooy said, the line between the magician and the monster is often difficult to draw. But what of the anarchist he speaks of in his confession? Why does he confuse the seditionist with the monster? Perhaps because, like the seditionist, the monster has no respect for the law; is single-minded and unapologetic, obliged by its condition to be marginal and to pursue its intention with the clarity of one whose moral code is its appetite.
For appetite marks the monsters as celibacy does the nun. Our imaginations have designed them as if to represent the hungers that we all feel but can never hope to satisfy, presented - as we are daily - with an infinitely appetizing world and senses pitifully numbed by custom and education. The monsters concede no such limitations. Among their tribe, eyes, ears, mouths, teeth, tongues, limbs, bellies and genitals are designed to devour experience on a scale we dream of as children, thinking it will be the reward of adulthood, only to find in maturity we were freer as infants.
It was Guy Eskapa, in the final paragraph of what many consider the seminal work on monsters, The Divided Eye, who, after listing every conceivable type of creature, went on to say: "I meet at dawn of every day the nemesis of those I have named, and am haunted by it all my waking hours, excepting those when drink or ecstasy drives it from me. I mean, of course, consciousness of self, which forbids both monstrous genius and the monstrous foolishness; which patrols at the limits of civility and wags its finger at excess; which says it knows beauty and will not be persuaded that my loins know better. I will kill it one day; and if that killing is self-murder, then Amen to that."
He died in 1973 at the age of 101. He is reported to have greatly enjoyed going naked at this advanced age, saying he was at last looking fit to join "the other tribe."
The above may be untrue.
In contrast to Weaveworld's epic scale, Cabal is one of Clive's shorter works. In this at least, he was resisting any similarity between the two books:
"I wanted to do the reverse of what I did in Weaveworld which was to really cross the t's and dot the i's, give every detail of psychology and so on. In Cabal I wanted to present a piece of quicksilver adventuring in which you were just seeing flashes of things: Boone, Lori, the Breed, each character's psychology reduced to impressions. Part of the fun for me was to write it in short, sharp bites. It's the right size for the novel. I think you've got to allow stories to occupy the length that they need to occupy. I could have certainly made it into a much, much bigger novel - whether it would have been all the better for that I think is a moot point. I think, probably, it's better short and sharp.
No space is wasted on describing Boone's background or profession in Cabal and, while we know Lori works 'in an office,' we are not even told her surname. The hints of 'destiny' as to why Boone is spared death when he steps before a truck are unfulfilled, with Baphomet simply charging the destroyer of Midian with a task to rebuild the Breed's place in the world. However, if Cabal fails to provide detailed answers to all the questions that it raises in its 250 page span and leaves the narrative unfinished, the promise of two further volumes in a planned three-book sequence offered ample space to satisfy those demands. Cabal 2 and 3 were two of the titles that formed part of a 1988 four-book publishing deal with Collins (the other two being The Second and Third Books of The Art) but the Breed's continuing adventures were rendered less pressing once Cabal's movie adaptation had failed to set the film world alight...
Screenplay: London, 1988
Despite the experience of writing The Hellbound Heart and seeing the success born of its immediate adaptation into a screenplay, Clive did not write Cabal with the idea of filming it. "I'm nervous of the idea of doing books as first draft screenplays. I'm wholly committed to the word, wholly obsessed with the word. Ideas get re-routed to the movies, if you like, but they don't start off that way. It would be very disruptive to the way I write to think that way. However, as I was finishing it, I realised that it would lend itself very nicely to movie adaptation."
That translation to the screen would ultimately go down as a failure, the first blot on Clive's previously unblemished public copybook and a bitter personal disappointment. The footage was edited down from Clive's epic sweep to a fast-paced roller coaster ride in which key plot elements were discarded, leaving the remainder confused if tantalisingly visually elegant. A tacked-on ending and other reshoots focussing on Decker's character moved the emphasis back to the 20th Century monster at the expense of the intended celebration of the inhabitants of Midian.
For many years feared lost, the recent discovery by Mark Miller of two in-progress VHS workprints from before the re-editing process got underway allows a sense of the original vision. The composite cut prepared earlier this year from these workprints by Russell Cherrington and Jimmi Johnson is entitled Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut to distinguish it from the theatrically-released version, an appropriate titling for Clive as he recalls that, "When Morgan Creek bought the film rights they insisted on a more commercial title. They thought Cabal didn't mean anything and they could be right. Who knows?"
The new title did, however, reflect Clive's clear intention not to reproduce the book on screen but to make a subtle shift of focus within the filmed version.
"The movie is the book deconstructed and then reconstructed in a different formulation," he notes, "so the movie is less about how two human beings come to be involved with the Nightbreed and more about the delirium of monsterdom. The book is about Boone and his journey. The movie is about the Nightbreed, this hidden tribe of mythological beings, shape-changers and strange people who come from the Old Country of the imagination."
There are several ways in which the footage that Clive filmed varied from its source novel as its author recognised the different demands of film and embraced the opportunity to favour different points of focus in the new medium.
"There's losses and gains when you make a movie out of a book," he reflects. "A movie is a two hour experience, whereas a book, even a short one, is a longer experience containing psychological materials that you can't put into a movie because film is essentially visual. That subtext has to be translated into visual terms... Books allow you to get inside the characters' heads. Movies are about surface, about the way characters look and act - you lose the internal life of the characters - you can't address how they are all thinking. Transferring Nightbreed from the page to the screen therefore entailed losing a lot. You lose the complexities of how somebody gets from the rejection of the monsters to embracing them, because much of that is internal workings. You also lose Lori moving forward through the erotically-charged dream-states which are in the book."
Rather than dwelling on such losses - redemption and forgiveness, self-doubt and self-renewal - Clive sought to embrace the exotic possibilities conjured by the creation of a bizarre and enthralling world in both sound and vision, as he continues to explain, "What you gain, however, is two things: firstly, the music, which in the fantastique is very important as an indicator of feeling, and a way of sweeping people along; the other is the power of the image - you gain the ease of presenting a creature which turns into a little girl, and there is something immediately poignant about showing that little girl.
"One of the things I love about making a movie from something I've written is the pleasure of being able to reinvent your imagination: you've done it once, you know the way it looked when you wrote it, and then you reinvent it entirely. All the walkways and stuff isn't the Midian described in the book - it's all very, very vaguely described. Nightbreed doesn't look the way I imagined it when I was writing Cabal. It turned out to be much larger in scale than I originally anticipated... For example, Baphomet isn't even described in the book. Baphomet is 'in flames,' and the technical problems of making that work on film made me think about it until I dreamt it. I literally dreamt it, and there he was. I think in the film he is actually better than I described him in the book!
"A subtle thing in one way, though it's mammoth in another, is that in the book the Breed are represented very impressionistically, you only get two or three paragraphs about them, but you can't do that in a movie. In the movie they have to be realised in great detail.
"My first job was to go to Bob Keen and his boys and tell them 'My vision of the Breed is this.' They had to translate those notions into concrete forms, make them into prosthetic reality. Hieronymus Bosch was my inspiration: I was trying to create on screen his pictures of beasts in every corner. You'll get glimpses of stuff. I like the idea of all this stuff going on behind the level of the story... I want people to get the impression that there's this great gallery of characters and you're not seeing them all; almost a sense of frustration that you're not seeing it all, like the cantina sequence in Star Wars the first time you see it.
"On film, the Breed exist; they have a lifestyle, a religion, a concrete sense of life. We have life histories for them, little family units, a sense of them developing as a colony." Like any fully-fledged colony, the Breed has a collective history too, as documented on the walls of the necropolis - a mythology which Clive delights in exploring.
"That wasn't really present in the book, and I felt that this was the perfect time to examine that. Certain mythological elements have increased, such as the fact that Boone is now revealed as the seventh saviour come to save Midian, as opposed to just being a guy who happens along. He is someone who has been prophesied - and finally he gets to save the tribe - and I love the chance to increase the mythological resonances..."
The earliest screenplay draft of what would become Nightbreed was not written by Clive but did have his direct involvement and, while being a largely faithful adaptation of the novella, the text immediately establishes the need for a visual approach, rich in imagery, setting the title sequence with a romantic opening:
1. NIGHT SKY (ABSTRACT)
The screen is a blank midnight blue. Vague suggestions of mist drift across it slowly.
It suggests a night sky without directly representing one.
Slightly treated, giving an evocative and incantatory quality to what is said, a female child's voice is heard as these abstract mists continue to play.
On the next wind, let him come.
If not now, then tomorrow.
Using the motif of moon-lit skies and tapping into the rich seam of lunar mythology, the screenplay layers the foreground action of murder, deceit and broken vows with reminders that we are being told a tale that draws on old-world hopes and fears - the legends of were-folk and smoke-spirits, psychic powers and prophecy.
The draft accelerates the plot, intercutting scenes of Lori's exploration of the Necropolis (finding Babette in distress) with Sheryl's exploration of Midian's streets (finding Decker). It seeks out opportunities for characters to be given depth through visual cues - Boone's mental departure from man to monster as he burns all traces of his human life, and a dual-edged note that he leaves for Lori - "You never knew me," breaking his vow which opens the novella - "I'll never leave you," and setting Boone up as someone who disappoints others and himself. The text gives Sheryl and other characters a little background whilst adding brief visuals of Decker to maintain his forbidding presence - deft touches allowing the complexity which the authorial presence gave in the book to now translate onto the screen. This version also introduces the Calgary police Captain who would later be fleshed out as Joyce and the early murder of Mary and Munro Hendrickson - later the Rickman family.
Clive had no initial plans to write Cabal's adaptation himself, with his sights set instead on a movie called Harry D'Amour and the Great Beyond, a big budget feature which remains unmade. A lucrative deal with Morgan Creek for three completely new movies changed his mind and he started afresh, generating his own first draft screenplay in September 1988 under its new title.
Clive leaves copious notes as he works through the various draft screenplays but whilst scenes are cut, amended and rearranged, in Nightbreed's case it is the opening and closing of the movie that are given notable attention. 'Straight in with moon and monster images,' he decides, and then - ahead of Ralph McQuarrie's impressive creation of a painted mural - he looks for the imagery of the titles to be married to a mosaic that a Dog-headed Man is creating in the movie to document the Nightbreed's place in the world, an overview of the persecuted tribes and the cyclical nature of fear, discovery, destruction and renewal. The images serve as both history and prophecy, handed down to be endlessly repeated and retold and the opening and closing title sequences make it clear what our focus will be with, "glimpses of fantastic monsters: erotic, mysterious, terrifying, beautiful. Music, a mystic theme: slow, incantatory." As a blazing orange sun sets across the sky, we are in fact handed a dawning which heralds the birth of a new world.
Linking with the novella's roughly bookended vow of "I'll never leave you," promised by both Boone and Lori, Clive considers making these the opening words of the movie as he looks for the best way to give his lovers context. Using the Calgary skyline as a start point he first suggests an 'E.T. shot' where Boone, 'stops on a hill-road; looks down on the city.' The next version uses the skyline but brings the camera into the city, into Boone and Lori's apartment, giving us startling flashes of Boone's surreal hallucinations. Hoping instead for a visual motif that might better grow from the title sequence's creatures, Clive considers an exotic bird - maybe animals frozen in time in a photography exhibition - writing short sequences for Lori and Boone in Calgary Zoo, but he ultimately settles on a light to burn away the darkness of the night sky:
Rather than moon, let's do
Night and Day.
The two sides of human consciousness.
The buried, the forbidden, on one side - the bright, conscious, rational on the other.
The light is aggressively bright - a welder's torch - and so we have a suitably macho occupation for Boone, with grease marks below his welding mask intended to prefigure his etched Nightbreed face. The black leather jacket matches this rugged outward appearance but Clive describes Boone as 'haunted' and begins to expand his backstory:
Welding going on when we first see Boone. What about his own family were
It's the anniversary today.
He's seen as a tough man from the beginning.
A calendar in his locker. Days marked off.
Pills on the shelves. He strips off.
With his two colleagues - Dwayne and Eddie (!) - Boone's welding sequence was shot but later replaced by a simpler scene in which he wakes from dreaming the title sequence.
Lori is given her own context, as a nightclub singer with a manager / boyfriend - Niles - who Boone is replacing, in one respect at least. Her relationship with Boone is unbalanced and she has to cajole him into seeing her sing, with Boone pre-empting Babette's prayer as he replies:
(thru phone - laughs)
If not tonight, tomorrow,
I promise, word of honour. Okay?
The end of the screenplay also revolves around the two lovers - literally in the first adaptation, where the camera circles them on the hillside:
She sits up and slips smoothly into his arms, covering his joyous laughter with a deep kiss.
BOONE/CABAL, without breaking the kiss or the embrace, lifts them both to their feet.
Shadow erupts from his body, swirling and dancing around them, embracing, enfolding them as they spin and turn in each other's arms.
For the ending, to replace the novel's potentially expensive-to-film description of the Breed in various cities, hiding from the world and waiting for their saviour, the early screenplay suggests an aerial shot of nameless fields and buildings with a soundtrack of whispered voices incanting the word 'Cabal' over and over. The camera settles in a plain boarding house where Babette kneels by a window, watched by Rachel, as she murmurs the Breed's prayer into a moonlit night, 'On the next wind, let him come. If not now, then tomorrow...'
Clive's own first draft looks for a 'Les Misèrables conclusion,' overlaid by thunder and 'Blade Runner music':
They are found. At first we think Babette is alone.
Then Kinski. Then Rachel. Then many others. We move away from them.
Fade out, into darkness of the hill.
Culminating in a shot of Boone and Lori that echoes their representation in the Dog-headed man's mosaic, the ending neatly leaves the viewer where we began, in the continuing history of the Nightbreed.
As the mythology was further developed in the movie, so were the specifics of the look of Midian itself, although the physical characteristics of the cemetery had always been clear in Clive's mind, inspired by a specific location in North London: "I've always loved Highgate, it's really a necropolis like Midian. It's one of those places which started out small and got bigger and bigger through the Victorian period with massive mausoleums built to the great and wealthy. There are some that are actually the size of houses. It decayed because the families didn't have the money to keep up these vast mausoleums."
Midian itself, originally pin-pointed in the novel as the deserted mining town, then as the cemetery beside the town, is finally revealed as the labyrinth beneath the cemetery. Even there, the concept of Midian itself in the author's mind is fluid, "Midian is a place of the imagination," he agrees, "It's a place of dreams as much as it's a place of nightmares. Everyone thinks of me as exploring this terrifically grim material, but that's just a matter of definition, isn't it? It's the imaginative that's always fascinated me, not just the dark imaginative.
"Midian appears in the Bible as a place full of devils, but in a weird way is full of angels... This, again, is the flipside... The creatures in the medieval vision of Heaven and Hell, the creatures that live underground and would be the devils, are in fact the human forces. Here the monsters are the good guys, the creatures are the sympathetic ones. They are humane. And humanity, represented by priests, cops and analysts - the three forces of authority - are absolutely, unreservedly bastards."
In expanding the narrative and giving audiences a clearer explanation for Lori's sympathy for the Breed's cause, Clive's screenplay and movie restore in large part two sequences that he'd written in prose form in an early draft of the novel but dropped in the final draft.
The two sequences occur together in the book's draft text, with Lori's drive from the burnt-out restaurant to rescuing Boone from his cell in the police station accompanied by Rachel (and Babette) as well as with Narcisse. In the first sequence, Rachel's shapeshifting is used to enter the cell block (as in the movie) while, in the second, during the drive the deleted text describes Babette showing Lori the scenes of the Breed's historical persecution at the hands of humanity that, in the movie, happens earlier, when Lori wakes in the skull chamber. The vision given to Lori is 'like a Brueghel she'd once seen, The Triumph of Death,' and she sees:
...a History. Its subject: Persecution. The victims were the Nightbreed - the aberrants, the anomalies, the unwelcome miraculous. Their tormentors, her species: Humanity. Everywhere they had the Breed in chains and fire; or trapped by sunlight, or running water; or broken on wheels, or opened up with swords. Lopped heads were raised in triumph, changeling children piked in their cribs, dogs disembowelled to unravel the shape-shifters beneath.
In her ears, the cries of the tortured and the dying mingled with the names they were being murdered for: demon, incubus, cannibal, sodomite, ghoul -
No doubt some of the prisoners were guilty as charged, she thought: of eating human flesh, or of desiring it. But who could look with pleasure on the revenge her people were taking, with all its calculation and its care? The genius squandered on devices designed only to torture or cremate; the saviours discredited because their priests, barely able to hide smiles and erections, took their gospels for bludgeons?; the land tainted by atrocity; the minds the same?
And for most of these victims, what was the essential crime? To be not human. That was the little difference it took. If found guilty all tenets of Christian forgiveness were suspended, all hopes for heaven crushed, all supplications, prayers and pleas dismissed. You became brute, and beneath mercy. And should the torturer shrink for a moment from his duty he became suspect in his turn and fodder for the wheel.
As the vision turns from the persecution to follow one of the survivors making their journey to Midian to create their refuge, bearing caskets containing pieces of their wounded god - 'Baphomet, Who Made Midian; male, female, beast and star in one body, now divided' - Lori finds her allegiances changed:
Any thought of these pilgrims as monsters had left Lori's head. They possessed a strangeness she longed to comprehend; perhaps even to share... They were extraordinary; their glory dark but no less fabulous for that.
In the movie, Rachel expresses these thoughts to Lori just before the historical vision is given to her:
Rachel: To be able to fly? To be smoke, or a wolf ; to know the night and live in it forever? That's not so bad. You call us monsters but when you dream, it's of flying and changing, and living without death. You envy us. And what you envy...
Lori (softly, understanding): ...We destroy...
These are lines which reverberate around the mind of the viewer long after the credits. The more quixotic characters in the screenplay often allow Clive's voice to be translated from the internalised thoughts of the book into memorable phrases, while also adding colour to a character, such as Peloquin when he says:
God's an astronaut. Oz is over the rainbow.
And Midian's where the monsters live.
And you came to die.
Narcisse's own mantra, which we sense he has repeated as he searches for a place of solace, turn rumour into a treasured promise for him that inspires Boone's own journey:
North of Athabasca.
East of Peace River.
Near Shere Neck, north of Dwyer.
Much of the film's poetry leaves the viewer with an altered mindset - entertaining the notion that there is an angel, not just in every treetop but behind the faces of those we might least expect.
Given such a wealth of exotic, poetic material the screenplay needed to be given a structure and a relatable point of view. Aaron Boone could perhaps be seen as that everyman, but he is not just troubled but highly susceptible to manipulation - indeed a gift for Decker:
29. INT DR DECKER'S OFFICE DAY
...When you first came here you know, you were a lost cause. Most of my colleagues would have walked away from a case like yours. Schizophrenic, with psychotic episodes. Severe hallucinations. The most they would have done is drug you.
But you... you intrigued me. All the talk of monsters. And Midian.
This also makes him a suitable - if unlikely - saviour for the Breed with his lack of self-worth and need to be one of a tribe, of many:
"You're not Nightbreed. You're meat. Meat for the beast."
The words were an agony profounder than the ache in his legs or his lungs.
Even here, amongst the monsters of Midian he did not belong.
When the Breed begin to escape the necropolis, Boone despairs, 'before he'd a chance to know them - and by knowing them, know himself - he was losing them... Too late.' He later fears he has lost Lori - a 'most lamentable failure' - as he turns his back on her: 'too late... Oh God... too late...' Although, as readers, we might share Boone's sense of persecution (and this is something of the appeal of Nightbreed), the adaptation to film gives us a more stable point of view - in the character of Joyce.
Taking the suburban murder from the early adaptation and writing it up into a fresh scene, inserted early after we first see Boone's troubled state of mind, Clive offers a note for the score - to echo the pounding before 'Epiphany' in Sweeny Todd whilst the Rickman family are slashed with knives - it is the aftermath of this ghastly scene which greets Captain George Joyce. He is painted as a sympathetic character (in contrast to Eigerman and his colleagues), angered by the disrespect of a junior officer and troubled by the crime:
JOYCE (half to himself)
Got to save the children...
There's monsters out there.
If we can't save the children,
what the hell use are we?
As the screenplay progresses, Joyce is woven in to give us both continuity and a grounded character without an ulterior motive. He introduces logic and tolerance in surroundings of bigotry and bias and invites the early sense that Decker is not all he might appear to be. The stability he offers gives us a clearer view of Eigerman's monstrousness in particular, and prevents the story degrading into a simplistic 'them and us' confrontation. In return, Clive gives Joyce his own story arc - despite his unease at the sight of the Breed and the apparent crimes of Boone, he is far more disturbed by the vicious and blinkered attitudes of the Shere Neck posse and, handed a vision of the Nightbreed fleeing Midian, he is dismayed that he has lived in ignorance. As he stands witness to the destruction his compassion moves him to help:
238. INT. NECROPOLIS. NIGHT
The DOG-FACED-MAN lies dead at the door and beside him, BABETTE, her face subtly bestial. JOYCE hears BABETTE weeping; her cries hit him hard. He goes to her, gathers her up gently in his arms. BABETTE clings to him; he sees her arms are partially transformed into claws, but he keeps holding her.
As he later returns the child to Rachel he inadequately despairs:
(to BOONE / CABAL)
...I never understood...
nobody ever told me...
He steps away from them and the night engulfs him.
and he ends the movie - like so many others - an altered man.
Nightbreed: Pinewood, 1989
Although Nightbreed in its poorly marketed and confusingly edited state failed at the box office on release, it found new life in the comic book adaptations from Epic and found an audience on VHS and later DVD which, increasingly educated that the version they held in their hands was not its author's true vision, developed into a devoted following. As such, it fulfilled much of its creator's hopes that he expressed at the time of making it:
Hellraiser was unapologetically a movie set out to make your palms get clammy and make you shift around in your seat. You weren't sure you wanted to see what was coming next. That isn't the case with Nightbreed. It is much more benign in its intentions. This picture is much more upfront about the fact we don't want to see the monsters die. We actually find them interesting. And sexy. We're not really on the side of the cross-wielding Christians, we're actually on the side of the creatures of darkness...
I think that we will perceive the living from the point of view of the dead, we will perceive the natural from the point of view of the unnatural, we will perceive ourselves from the point of view of something other than ourselves - whereas conventionally in horror movies, at least today, you perceive the Other from the place where your head is when you go into the theatre. Nightbreed is a hymn to variegation. No Breed looks like any other Breed... I think Image Animation has once again created some immensely memorable images - creatures that are monstrous and beautiful in the same moment, which has always been my favourite condition for any creature.
I think this movie will be a kind of ride - not a ghost train ride because that's too grim; not a fairy tale ride because that's too grim as well; but sort of a ride through the space between my ears, a trip through Clive Barker's skull. There's some very dark stuff in there, some sexy stuff and some funny stuff as well. I hope it will be the kind of dream you don't want to wake up from, the kind of dream that when you've opened your eyes you think, 'I wouldn't mind going back there.'
What I'd like to be able to get at is that, although the world of the Breed is a bit intimidating at first, it's a world you'd prefer to see survive at the end - and when it doesn't survive, your hope is that the re-establishment of that society in the second picture will succeed..."
When will its author turn his hand to The Unmaker of Midian again? Perhaps on the next wind. Or the one after that... Until then, what's now above remains above, living among the naturals; watching and waiting for a sign...
Phil and Sarah Stokes, London, September 2012
Clive Barker's written works The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser, Cabal, Nightbreed, A Thing Untrue, A Fool Rises and introductions to Sacred Monsters, Visions of Heaven and Hell and The Making of Nightbreed, including drafts held within the author's archive.
Interviews with Phil and Sarah Stokes for the Revelations website at www.clivebarker.info and for the Memory, Prophecy and Fantasy series of books.
Peter Atkins and Clive Barker - Knocking on the Glass: The Mind's Menagerie and Other Conceits in Time Out, 1-8 June 1988
Clive Barker - talk at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, Los Angeles, 17 May 1992
Marjorie Billow - Set Piece in Film Monthly, Vol 1 No 4, July 1989
Nigel Floyd - Frights of Fancy in 20/20, No 2, May 1989
Nigel Floyd - Preview in Time Out, 26 September - 3 October 1990
Lionel Gracy-Whitman & Don Melia - The Blanket of Banality in Heartbreak Hotel, No 4, July/August 1988
Kathy Hacker - He Delights in Horror in The Philadelphia Enquirer, 22 September 1987
Dave Hughes - Clive Barker in the Flesh, Skeleton Crew, No III/IV, 1988
Alan Jones - Clive Barker's Nightbreed in Cinefantastique, Vol 20 Nos 1 & 2, November 1989
Alan Jones - In the Heat of Nightbreed in Starburst, No 133, September 1989
Stefan Jaworzyn - Nightbreed Preview in Horrorfan, Vol 1 No 3, Fall 1989
Stephen Jones - Nightbreed production notes, 1989
Mark Kermode - Lost Be My Tribe in Monthly Film Bulletin, Vol 57 No 681, October 1990
Graham Linehan - Ripping Yarns: Clive And Dangerous in Hot Press, Vol 12 No 20, 20 October 1998
Maitland McDonagh - Future Shockers in Film Comment, Vol 26 No 1, Jan-Feb 1990
Janet Morris - Raising Hell in Hollywood in Film Review, November 1991
Kim Newman - Hell on Earth in City Limits, No 398, 18-25 May 1989
Philip Nutman and Stefan Jaworzyn - Meet Clive Barker in Fangoria, No 51, January 1986
Philip Nutman - Bring On The Monsters! in Fangoria, No 87, October 1989
Philip Nutman - Clive Barker: Lord Of The Breed in Fangoria, No 91, April 1990
Michelle Olley - Sympathy For The Devil in Skin Two, No 10, 1990
Cathie Lou Porrelli - Clive Barker Digs Deep for Horrors in Cabal in The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 31 October 1988
Mark Salisbury - Babel's Child in Fear, No 2, Sept/Oct 1988
Mark Salisbury - Chains of Love in Fear, No 3, December 1988
Mark Salisbury and John Gilbert - A Hymn to the Monstrous in The Making of Nightbreed, 1989
Lisa Tuttle - Every Fear is a Desire in Shadows in Eden, edited by Stephen Jones, 1991
Elizabeth J. Young - Blood's Blue-Eyed Boy in City Limits, No 469, 27 September - 4 October 1990