First published back in December of 1988, the novel ‘Cabal’ followed on from the release of the hugely popular ‘Weaveworld’ (1987) by the worldwide renowned British horror and fantasy author Clive Barker.  The United States first saw Cabal published as part of a small collection of tales, comprising of Cabal alongside four additional short stories (that were included in the later volumes of the ‘The Books Of Blood’). 

The book begins with a fictitious quote from one of Barker’s earliest creations, the character Domingo d’Ybarrondo who appeared in The Adventures Of The Maximillian Bacchus (2009); with the purely imaginary quote “We are all imaginary animals...” from the equally fictitious book ‘A Bestiary of the Soul’.  Indeed, Barker doesn’t stop there with his purposefully fabricated quotes, and carries on to insert a number of similarly fictional quotes from entirely fabricated individuals throughout the length of the novel, which are designed to fit in perfectly with his ideas within the unfolding storyline.

DLS Synopsis:
Boone is a young man suffering from a life-altering mental illness.  His condition has him taking regular sessions with the renowned psychiatrist, Dr Philip Decker.  However, when Decker informs Boone that he is responsible for the horrific and brutal murders of eleven people within the city of Calgary in Canada, Boone struggles to accept what he is being told.  He has absolutely no recollection of any of these blood-thirsty events taking place, and so begins to feel that he no longer knows himself.

And so thinking that he is responsible for these despicable crimes, Boone attempts to take his own life, only to fail in the attempted suicide.  But his bleak outlook changes somewhat when, whilst in recovery, Boone learns of a mysterious underworld city known as Midian, where a race of monsters known as the Nightbreed live, hidden away from humankind’s eyes.

Now fully accepting his fate as a monstrous outcast, Boone goes in search of this semi-mythical place known as Midian that he believes is a sanctuary for real life monsters.  Monsters that he is now one of.  However, upon arrival, after discovering the underground city of the Nightbreed, he is refused entry by two of it’s monstrous residents.  Furthermore, before he manages to escape from these monsters of the Nightbreed, Boone is bitten by the one appropriately known as ‘The Beast’.

But not all is as Boone has been led to believe.  Before he is shot down by the police force directed under Decker’s guidance, Boone learns of the true nature of those crimes that had uprooted his life so dramatically.  And, as he exits his human life, he takes with him the lasting memory of who is responsible.  The real monster.

However, all is not over for Boone.  Following his death, Boone finally becomes fully accepted into the Nightbreed.  But his new life within this underground community is only a temporary break from what put him there.  With the arrival of his former lover, Lori, who is searching for him in Midian., what she unknowingly starts in motion will affect not only the lives of Boone and herself, but the whole of the Nightbreed as well...

DLS Review:
From the very beginning, Barker offers up a story that turns all of our preconceived ideas about horror fiction on to its head, with this inspired and imaginative tale of misguided humanity.  As it
s conceptual backbone, the story subtly tackles the authors personal battle with the conception, wrongful judgment, and hateful ridicule that is so often projected upon the homosexual community.  Here, Barker carefully portrays the gay community as this wrongfully judged Nightbreed, with the whole premise being of such a close and personal nature for him - with Barker himself a homosexual man.

Throughout the length of the novel, Barker keeps up with the unnervingly dark undertones that so powerfully embody the atmosphere of the tale; playing off the deeply atmospheric mystery and inherent fear with this underground race of supposed monsters.  Furthermore, the troubled emotional state of our principal protagonist and his subsequent acceptance and admittance into the throngs of the Nightbreed, are awash with this bitter depth and sorrowful emotion.

The twists and turns that await the reader throughout the tale turn the story on its head time and again; cleverly challenging the readers preconceived judgements at almost every opportunity.   On top of that, Barker pours into the novel undercurrents of the very real and biting frustration that is clearly so deeply felt by the author.  These emotionally fuelled undertones emerge and accompany the storyline over and over again; each time brought out in displays of sheer head-spinning turmoil for Boone’s character.

The characters within the Nightbreed are all rich with imagination, displaying vividly depicted personalities and their own bold characteristics.  Barker once again unites horror with that of wildly elaborate fantasy in this dark tale of passion, love and persecution. And in doing this, the author’s limitless imagination has constructed a truly inspired and fantastical tale that captivates the reader early on, with the quiet whisperings of this private yet tormented world in which the Nightbreed live.

The novel builds to a gut-wrenching finale, with all hell breaking loose with a seemingly impossible survival for our new found home amongst the Nightbreed.  Barker forges on with a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to this dramatic love story, leaving the reader feeling beaten, emotionally-drained, but somehow still alive.

The novel runs for 268 pages, with some versions including pen and ink drawings by the author illustrating various aspects of the story throughout the book.

The tale was later adapted into the film entitled ‘Nightbreed’ (1990) with Clive Barker taking on the role of both Director and Screenwriter.  Interestingly, fellow director and writer - David Cronenberg starred in the film as the deranged Dr Philip Decker. The cult success (but alas not financial success) of the film, spawned a ‘Clive Barker’s Nightbreed: The Making Of The Film’ (1990) book, ‘The Nightbreed Chronicles’ (1990) film companion book, a series of twenty-five Nightbreed’ (1990 - 1993) comics (as well as a Genesis collection of four of the comics), a Nightbreed computer game released by Ocean Games, as well as various other promotional and related items.

The film, although impactful and honest in its delivery of the original story, struggles to truly portray the various complex elements that give the original novel its overall depth.  Although the film is still a great piece of horror cinema, it is barely a patch on what the novel has to offer.  In 2012 a version of ‘Nightbreed’ which is far closer to the novel and indeed Barkers original vision, was pulled together from two varying workprints of the film and screened to an eagerly awaiting audience across the world.  This version, ‘Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut’ was the product of the hard labours from director Russell Cherrington, Editor Jimmi Johnson and Producor Mark Miller.

© DLS Reviews

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