• Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 28th, 2014.
    Director: Clive Barker
    Cast: David Cronenberg. Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley
    Year: 1990
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    The Movie:

    After the success of Hellraiser, Clive Barker’s name was a hot property. That film’s box office success allowed him to move onto shooting an adaptation of another of his stories, this time the novella entitled Cabal. Barker’s intentions were to create an entire world of monsters, a world that would suit the vision he put down on paper when he wrote the source material. He was given a budget five times what he had to work with on Hellraiser and so he set out to create Nightbreed. As anyone who was paying attention to horror movies at the time knows, the film was heavily cut and altered in ways that Barker was none too happy with. The studio imposed some reshoots and edits and original editor Richard Marsden somewhat famously walked away from it, upset that the original vision for the film had been seriously compromised. Barker’s original cut was to be over two hours long, the theatrical cut wound up almost half an hour shorter than that. Almost twenty-five years later, Warner Brothers handed over the original footage and work began on putting together Barker’s ‘director’s cut’ of the film and now the results are available for fans to finally see – something a lot of us figured would never, ever happen.

    As to the story itself, the film follows a troubled young man named Boone (Craig Sheffer) and his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) who is having some difficulty dealing with his issues. He’s been seeing a shrink named Decker (David Cronenberg) but since doing so, things have gone from bad to worse as Decker has convinced Boone he’s responsible for a series of brutal murders that have recently taken place in the area. Boone has no recollection of this at all, and Decker’s motives for this soon become clear when it’s revealed that he’s the one who has been out slicing and dicing with his face covered in a creepy cloth mask.

    So Boone essentially goes on the lam, hiding out from Decker and the authorities alike while hoping to find sanctuary in a place called Midian, a place filled with strange creatures, monsters even, that previously seemed to exist only in Boone’s dreams. Things are strange enough as it is but once Boone gets shot ‘dead’ by the cops, he winds being reincarnated as one of the monsters who call Midian home. When Lori figures this out and starts searching for Boone, Decker is smart enough to follow her and once he does, the creatures that populate Midian find themselves having to defend their land from the human invaders that live aboveground…

    With Nightbreed Barker brings to life the ‘world of monsters’ he first started playing with in Cabal, the book on which the film was based. As far as scope goes, it’s a very ambitious film that literally creates this underground land inhabited by scores of bizarre creatures and in this cut of the film, there’s a lot more focus on them. The human element plays out well here but it’s not until Boone becomes one of them that the story really starts to get interesting. As he transformation the effects it has on his relationship with Lori gives us something a little more grounded to latch onto and it’s off of this that he cleverly stages the scenes in which we explore Midian and get to know the Nightbreed that live within it. It’s a very different and unique approach to the monster movie as most of us know it and while even in this much improved cut it still has some issues, for the most part it works quite well.

    The movie falls short in making Boone as fully fleshed out as he could have been. He doesn’t really get as emotionally involved with his plight as we could and should have and Craig Sheffer’s performance is a bit wooden (or maybe just distant) but Anne Bobby does fine as the understandably concerned woman in his life. Cronenberg tends to steal the show as far as the human actors are concerned. His Decker is a frightening character and the man best known as a director proves to be a fine actor here as well. He’s cold, calculating and more than a little bit twisted. Not surprisingly though, the monsters are more interesting than the humans in this film. Barker’s imagination runs wild here and the makeup and prosthetic effects employed to bring the countless denizens of Midian to the silver screen are still impressive all these years later. Let’s be honest, the guy with the moonface is annoying to look at to be sure but pretty much every other one of the creatures we see show some great attention to detail in the design work and stand out in interesting ways.

    Indeed, the production values and design work behind Nightbreed really do set it apart from other ‘man meets monsters/becomes a monster’ type stories. Midian is the Mos Eisley Cantina of the horror movie world, it’s so littered with eye candy that you can’t help but get pulled into it. This new cut helps with that even more by improving on some of Boone’s character a bit more, giving certain key monsters more screen time, expanding the big battle that makes up the finish of the film and delivering a new and very different ending. As it stands in this edition, it definitely feels closer to the source material and like a much more accurate representation of Barker’s visions for the project as a whole.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Nightbreed arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory Time in an AVC encoded transfer framed in in an aspect ratio of 1.78.1 widescreen. Typically speaking the transfer here is quite good. There is some minor haloing evident in spots but colors look to be well produced and black levels are pretty stable. Detail is definitely improved over the previous DVD release while skin tones, at least on the human characters, appear pretty natural. The image is also fairly clean, showing only some minor white specks here and there, no big nasty scratches or anything like that. Some shots do look noticeably softer than others but it’s a safe guess that this has more to do with the camerawork than the transfer. All in all, this is a pretty decent looking image.

    Audio is handled by an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with optional subtitles in English only. An alternate English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is also included. The 5.1 mix is front heavy and it doesn’t use the rear channels as often as a more aggressive mix might have, but it sounds good. Balance is never a problem and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. Dialogue stays clear and the score is spread out well through all channels in the mix. Bass response isn’t overpowering but when the movie calls for LFE your subwoofer will deliver. No issues here outside of a few scenes that do sound a little bit thinner (maybe taken from different audio sources) than the vast majority of the movie. The movie sounds just fine.

    Extras start off with an introduction from Clive Barker who is joined on camera by restoration producer Mark Alan Miller for a five minute talk about how Barker had issues with what was done to the movie for its theatrical debut and then about what went into putting this particular version of the movie together. The two also deliver and audio commentary that goes into more detail about these particular issues but the track also offers up quite a bit of insight into what Barker was going for with this script, where some of the ideas came from for the various characters that populate the movie, the film’s effects work and the different cast and crew members he was involved with on the film.

    From there, we dive into a trio of featurettes starting with Tribes Of The Moon: The Making Of Nightbreed which is a massive seventy-two minute piece that documents the making of the film and is made up of a bunch of interesting interviews with cast members Anne Bobby, Christine McCorkindale, Craig Sheffer, Hugh Ross, Simon Bamford and of course, Doug Bradley who had worked with Barker before on the Hellraiser movies and therefore had a stronger relationship with him than the others. The interviewees discuss their characters in a fair bit of depth but also share some stories about working with Barker on the shoot, some of the makeup effects that were involved in bringing some of these creatures to life, their thoughts on what happened to the movie and quite a bit more. This is well put together and pretty engaging and if Barker isn’t in it, well, he covered most of his ground in the commentary and intro.

    The second featurette is simply called Making Monsters and as the title implies it details what went into the creature makeup effects that are so integral to the movie. Interviewed here are makeup artists Bob Keen, Martin Mercer and Paul Jones and they spend forty-two minutes and they point out all manner of interesting details about the work they did and also share plenty of background information on what it was like dealing with the technical side of all of this during the shoot. There are some good stories here about working not only alongside Barker but alongside some of the cast members who had to wear all of the makeup in the first place.

    The third featurette runs twenty-minutes and is called Fires! Fights! Stunts! It’s essentially an interview with second unit director Andy Armstrong who talks about having to bring in some fairly intense and complicated action scenes without going over what was a fairly low budget considering what was involved. He also shares some interesting stories about collaborating with Barker on certain aspects and goes into a fair bit of detail as to some of the technicalities involved in the shoot.

    Rounding out the extras is a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release there’s also a DVD version of the movie included inside the Blu-ray case. That case fits inside a nice cardboard slipcover. Note that a limited edition release that also includes the theatrical cut and second disc of additional extras has also been released by Shout! Factory. Completists may want to shell out for that one.

    The Final Word:

    The fact that all these years later the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed has actually emerged on Blu-ray is a bit of a miracle and the fact that it’s here in good quality also reason to celebrate. The movie is vastly improved in this edition, it has a better flow and stronger characters and because of this the whole thing just works in much more interesting ways than the theatrical cut. A decent selection of extras on this director’s cut release is the icing on the cake.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!