Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Scariest Characters in Cinema #28 - Decker

One of three movies on this list based on the work of Clive Barker, Nightbreed is about a young man named Boone (Craig Sheffer) who (after being framed for murder) discovers Midian, an underground city populated by an eclectic community of monsters and supernatural beings. Directed by Barker and based on his excellent novel Cabal, Nightbreed was famously meddled with by its producers, and the movie definitely feels compromised (a two-and-a-half-hour cut was screened at a Horrorhound Weekend in Indianapolis last year). Yet it retains the strength of Barker's imagination and feels like a precursor to the films of Guillermo del Toro - as with many of del Toro's films, Nightbreed has a lot of sympathy for its monsters.

It's the human characters that are truly monstrous, particularly Dr. Phillip Decker (David Cronenberg), Boone's therapist, who frames Boone for the murders that he, in fact, committed. Casting Cronenberg as a murderous sociopath was a brilliant choice; the coolly rational director is different from most horror filmmakers in that he has little interest in the supernatural. No characters from Cronenberg movies appear on this list, because the horrors in his movies are rarely personified - the monsters in a Cronenberg film are things like disease, insanity and death. Cronenberg's soft-spoken, well-mannered presence is the perfect exterior for a character who uses reason to conceal unspeakable evil. And Decker's mask, faceless except for button eyes and a zipper mouth, never fails to creep me out.

No comments: