After the amorality of Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls (1988) (which I also read recently but can’t be bothered to post about here), I was much refreshed by the profoundly moral concerns of Cabal. Like a lot of queer writers, Clive Barker is interested in identifying and exploring the distinctions between morality and moralism. Cabal is a wonderful story about otherness and Barker locates the source of evil, not in the monstrous Nightbreed, but in the institutions of law, psychiatry and the church. The hero, Boone, is a “mad” man accused of committing terrible crimes. Persuaded that he is indeed guilty, he sets out to join the Nightbreed a mythical race of undead beings with magical powers of transformation. The Breed may be monsters, but it turns out that they have a sense of integrity and community which Barker envisions the “normal” world as lacking. There is clearly an allegory here about the position of queer people in the ultra-homophobic 1980s. But Cabal is also a story about unconditional love. Boone is aided by his lover, Lori, and the absence of misogyny in his depiction of this character was also a relief after the misogyny of Lost Souls. Lori’s story is not that of a woman mindlessly pursuing some silly notion of “true love”, it is about someone discovering inner resources she couldn’t imagine and having the capacity to take risks and love beyond boundaries. My only complaint about this book is its brevity. At times the action feels rushed and I really think this story could have supported a longer novel.
The movie adaptation is terrible though. I watched it when I was incredibly drunk and it was still awful.