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Cabal by Clive Barker

By gp | Book Reviews | March 12, 2010 | Comments ()


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Aaron Boone is very troubled. He has gruesomely bizarre dreams that he discusses with his psychiatrist, Dr. Decker. Decker (played brilliantly in my mind by director David Cronenberg) convinces Boone that his dreams aren't dreams, they're memories of murders Boone has committed. He shows Boone some crime scene pictures he lifted off the police connecting the dots between bloody points before prescribing Boone some pills to help him rest.

Boone reacts badly to the prescription, trips balls, wishes he wasn't estranged from his girlfriend and tosses himself in front of a semi. He wakes in the hospital where another patient hounds him, begs Boone to take him to Midian. Midian. That's a name from my dreams, Boone thinks, but before he can ponder any further, the patient takes some hooks and rips his own face off.

Boone escapes the hospital, heads out of town, looking for Midian. And he finds it. It's an old cemetery. There's no one in Midian that can give him any answers. Or is there?

Soon, Boone is meeting with some of Midian's inhabitants, Old World shapeshifters and worshipers of religions lost to time. They want nothing to do with Boone, it is forbidden to fellowship with outsiders. Boone is demanding, the Nightbreed is his last hope at sanity, at belonging. He tries to convince them he is a monster, that he's killed innocent people...

And he is almost eaten by a rebellious Peloquin, but gets away and runs from Midian, only to be met at its gates by Decker and a squad of armed authorities. Decker informs them that Boone has a gun and they waste no time executing the family-murderer.

Boone wakes up in the morgue, his gunshot wounds healing before he even climbs off the cold slab. The bite Peloquin gave him must have imparted something in him. He runs from the morgue.

Lori is distraught. She wants to see the spot where her boyfriend was killed by the police. She makes her way to Midian, still not believing Boone could do the awful things they are saying about him. Sure, he was different, sometimes moody, a little dark. But so were most the guys she went out with, before Boone. But his sensitivity and care had won her over. She fell for him harder than anyone. And suddenly, he was gone, and his memory was sullied with blood and dirt. If she could just see Midian, maybe she could understand why...

But then she saves a little Nightbreed girl by bringing her out of the deadly sunlight into her mother's arms in the safety of shadows and learns what lives beneath Midian.

The movie Nightbreed gets airtime around my house every Halloween. It is a perfect little monster movie for rooting for the monsters. I hoped when I started reading Cabal that I would have the same emotional ties to the characters in the movie. I didn't. If anything, I now love these characters more. Lori isn't as annoyingly needy in the book. And Boone's torments are explained further. Decker is still very creepy, possibly more so.

But the monsters impacted me on a different level all together. There is a scene in the movie where Rachel (played by Catherine Chevalier, Tiffany's mother in Hellbound: Hellraiser 2) explains why humans fear monsters, out of jealousy that the Nightbreed can do things humans only dream of: flying, turning into smoke, etc., and we see their farcical crusade against the monsters unfold. It's an awesome bloody ending that causes the audience to favor the monsters winning over the ignorant redneck mob backed by various law enforcement agents...

The book actually told it better.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read. For more of gp's reviews, check out his blog, Never Passing this Way Again.



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