The Nightbreed Saga

Directed by: Clive Barker

I'm really surprised at how little I actually knew about this film. The history about this film is amazing, and I had no idea!
I mean, I saw it in the theater back in 1990 and have loved it ever since. Often throwing the DVD in at least once a year. I know it's written and directed by my favorite horror writer, Clive Barker. But that's really all I knew. But the most important fact that I recently learned about Nightbreed, more important than anything else is the fact that there is a "Director's Cut" out there! More on that in a bit.

Look at this poster. Right off the bat, just looking at this poster image says everything. It shows that the studio had no idea what kind of film they had and didn't even "try" to market it correctly. It's all so overwhelmingly wrong. That doesn't even look like the actual actress in the movie! Instead they make the film look like a typical slasher flick. Even the trailers, if you can remember them, gave the same impression. Not once did they show a single monster, instead relying on showing Dr. Decker most of the time as a serial killer. Not ever mentioning that the film is more of a fantasy/horror film really about monsters and a place called Midian.

Some history:
Doing some research I found a plethora of information regarding Nightbreed. Stuff that I had no idea was going on. First off, Clive Barker envisioned this as a trilogy, calling it the Star Wars of the fantasy/horror genre. He had so many ideas and so much lush and rich imagination in the design, the characters and there backstory that he envisioned spreading it all out into 3 films eventually. The studio, Morgan Creek, really screwed him over royally with this film. As i'm reading up on all the drama behind the scenes, i'm immediately reminded of David Fincher's experience on Alien3. First off, they made him change the title from Cabal, from which his novella was named, to Nightbreed. Second, they contractually obligated him to deliver an R rated film, which had to be less gory than his previous film Hellraiser. Almost impossible to even comprehend when you consider what Nightbreed is about and what the plot is. Because of this obligation, he was forced several times to cut the film. His first cut was an epic 2 1/2 hours long. After two more cuts, they made him bring it down to 102 minutes, making it 25 minutes shorter than his favored initial directors cut. This decision alone greatly affects the story in so many ways. As much as I love the movie for so many reasons, the cutting of nearly 30 minutes of story really complicates things. For one, you never know what Dr. Decker's motives are.
Yea he wants to destroy Midian and all the monsters, but why?
And what's Narcisse's story?
Why is he in the hospital when he meets Boone and not in Midian if that's where he's supposed to be?
And how the hell does he have razors in his pocket in a hospital?
The same ones he uses to rip his face off.
And what of the inhabitants of Midian?
How have they survived undetected for so long seemingly right under everyone's noses?
And what about there story?
Who comes up with all these law's that they so passionately follow?

There's just so many things with the story that are never explained and make it hard to really sympathize with any of the characters or even understand there motives. But then again, i'm sure that has to do with the drastic cuts the studio imposed on Barker. It's really sad, because in the end, it leaves the story somewhat incoherent and the movie suffered because of it, in so many ways. He was also forced to do extensive re-shoots. Hoping it would help the narrative. Even with these re-shoots all done, the studio again made him do another drastic cut of nearly an hour, further hurting the films success. And you know there's stuff missing here. You see it throughout. So much imagination and work went into designing and creating hundreds of individual creatures and monsters, with most of them only getting a mere 2 seconds of screen time. It's almost unbelievable. You know that there's more footage out there somewhere involving these things.

I really love this film. Clive Barker has only directed 3 feature length films in his career, this being his 2nd and my favorite from his filmography. This one I felt was his crowning achievement, even with all the problems it ultimately suffered. It's a great fantasy/horror film with never a dull moment. I also thought his direction in this was a vast improvement compared to his previous film Hellraiser. You can see he's grown as a visual filmmaker and the scope of this thing is epic. It's a sprawling fantasy/horror epic that looks limited by constraints. But it doesn't make it any less entertaining. It's scary, gory, violent, thrilling and even funny at times. You've also got Danny Elfman supplying the score here. And you know immediately during that awesome opening title sequence when the words Nightbreed scrawl along the screen that it's an Elfman score. That title sequence is the shit!!
Here he was at the peak of his career, just coming off the year before with Batman and that monumental theme, and then moving onto Dick Tracy, Darkman, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. His thunderous score keeps the film exciting and makes it much more grand than it would have been with anyone else handling the music. Oh! And I love that scene where the Berserkers come tearing through the ground and kill all those rednecks. Awesomeness!!

The studio just didn't know how to market this thing. Apparently, the head of marketing never even finished the movie because he thought it was too horrific. So they marketed it as a slasher flick. Big mistake, because it's anything but. It's a fantasy more than anything, with elements of horror and even a little action. I mean, just look at the poster! What does that look like? A slasher flick, right?! Idiots!
The studio also refused to preview it to critics, which is always the kiss of death. In the end, because of Morgan Creek's repeated involvement, the movie tanked. Critics were harsh (again because of the enormous cuts that were made which left the end result incoherent) and the public not knowing what kind of movie it really was stayed away. It only ended up recouping a third of it's budget. So the other 2 films in this trilogy were scrapped unfortunately. As it stands, officially there is only one version of this film available, the theatrical cut. However, 2 VHS workprints have been discovered. One being 145-minutes long and the other 159-minutes. Oh there is a heaven!! And these 2 workprints, unfortunately only on VHS, are the only known copies of these versions of the film known to exist. There is no other master copy anywhere.

Apparently this footage has never been "lost", but safely tucked away in the studio's vaults only to be discovered by an extremely dedicated and passionate fan with a lot of time on his hands who was motivated by the legends of this mythical directors cut that nobody actually knew really existed or not.
Contacted by Clive Barker himself and a legion of fans within the horror community to finally release this found footage and get a true directors cut of Nightbreed officially released on DVD and Blu-ray, the studio refused saying that they don't think there is a big enough community out there to warrant spending the money to get this thing released. They did however authorize a screening of one of these workprints at the Horrorhound Weekend in Indianapolis on March 27, 2010. I will forever be jealous of anyone who was lucky enough to attend this screening. And that's it, the only time we will ever get a chance to see this legendary directors cut, UNLESS we are able to convince the studio that there is indeed an audience for one.
Follow the link here to Clive Barker's website for more info on everything regarding the infamous Nightbreed workprint and directors cut.

On this link that takes you to his official website, you can add your signature to a petition that gets sent to the studio heads in the hopes that one day us horror fans will finally get to see the movie Clive Barker intended us to see.
Do your part for the horror genre and sign this petition so that maybe one day we will get that epic directors cut this film deserves.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched it afew days ago, the first time since ever, I didnt remember much about it.
    Now that I know, that it endured a severe cut-down of scenes , the prospect of a longer version is intriguing . I signed the petition and lets hope there is coming something good out of it. Loved the monsters and the whole feeling of it. Only the fact that they were, after all, pretty easy to find, astonished me a bit. You would think they could hide just a bit better.