|Scream Factory's 3 Disc Limited Edition Release|
Ever since it's initial theatrical release, Nightbreed has always been a favorite film of mine. I was a huge Clive Barker fan as soon as Hellraiser first came out. After that, I soon set out and collected every single short story and novel Barker had done up until that point, with Cabal being one of them. Even when you watched Nightbreed back before there was ever word of this mythical Cabal Cut, you always felt like something was missing from it, that a lot of it felt rushed or incomplete. It wasn't until word started spreading that a Cabal Cut was hitting the festival circuits and conventions, and it's impending petition to push this version into realization for all to see that all the behind the scenes stories and details began to emerge from the man himself, Clive Barker, that we really got the full story and intentions of his film. Little did I know that Nightbreed had always intended to be a horror trilogy, the Star Wars of the horror genre as Mr. Barker has put it. Sadly, studio meddling all but prevented his original vision to see the light of day. Fearing that they wouldn't know how to market a monster movie, and worse yet, make any money, they decided to sell it as a slasher film, complete with inconspicuous poster and a trailer that makes it look like the film is all about Decker being a serial killer, which in retrospect, would have been cool regardless if that had always been the intent, because after all, Decker has become just as big a figure in the horror community as the Nightbreed. Come to think of it, now I want a slasher film about Dr. Decker.
Well here we are, 25 years later and through a lot of hard work, and a petition to spearhead the effort (Morgan Creek initially had no desire to both look in their vaults for any archive material, nor did they think anyone actually cared about Nightbreed enough to warrant any future releases, that just wasn't in the cards) that took off like a bat out of hell, pretty much forcing Morgan Creek to take notice of the fact that Nightbreed is indeed a valuable property, and that we would take anything and everything Nightbreed related. I have been a strong supporter of this cause, often promoting the petition here on my blog, twitter and facebook as often as I could, with utter glee and excitement at the possibility that one day I may be able to see this Cabal Cut of one of my most favorite horror films. So here I am, a lot older than I was when in 1990, but nonetheless excited to see if all the hard was worth it, or if it paid off.
I have to admit, as big a fan as I am of all things Nightbreed and Cabal, I was a bit letdown by this new version. With all the things I'd heard about the Cabal Cut and all the new elements found, restored and presented into this new DC, I honestly didn't feel it changed anything drastically enough to say that it feels like a more "complete" film or a "new" version altogether. Trust me, no one is more shocked than I to hear me say this, but it's true. First of all, let's set the record straight; this is NOT the Cabal Cut. There are still plenty of scenes shot and missing from this version that were on that spliced together VHS Cut that took the underground circuit by storm. This is more of a streamlined version of that, because while there is a lot more footage out there, it doesn't all necessarily belong in the film for one reason or another.
I'll admit, I had very high expectations, and that coupled with the fact that I've been such a die hard fan of this film from the beginning may have contributed to my overall feeling of being underwhelmed, but it's how I feel and I simply just can't help it. Not that I disliked it or anything, on the contrary. This new version offers a lot of new things to admire, and some not so much. Overall on a technical level, they cut out 20 minutes of footage from the theatrical cut, and incorporated 40 minutes of all new never-before-seen footage, while also making some slight changes to the structure. The result is a bigger emphasis on Boone and Lori's relationship, and the world of Midian is a much bigger presence than before. Though I had read countless times that Decker's role has been minimized dramatically, I honestly didn't notice. He's still a strong driving force behind why everything falls into place and responsible for the demise of Midian, so he's still a very large and important piece of Nightbreed.
|Narcisse doesn't make it through to the end in this version|
Other new welcome additions are little tweeks like Doug Bradley finally providing his own voice as Lylesberg, and when Boone is Cabal, he's not using a forced strained growl like in the Theatrical Cut. I always found that annoying. It's almost as if Christian Bale modeled his Batman voice after this. In this version, when Boone is Cabal, actor Craig Sheffer is using his own, less gruffy voice, and it sounds a lot better, and less forced. And as I mentioned before, 20 minutes have also been omitted, with some other editing tweeks that slightly change the structure of the film.
Having seen Nightbreed as many times as I have, I easily noticed every single new shot in the film. That alone could be a blessing and a curse, depending on how hardcore you are about this film. For me, it was slightly somewhere in the middle. I liked the new scenes and got excited at each new shot I'd never seen before, yet my mind was so focused on picking out these new scenes that I found it hard to focus on the film itself. Maybe the problem is that I just need to watch it all over again? While the new scenes were cool to see, I didn't need to see Lori singing an entire country song in a bar to add anything to the experience. There were also a lot of new scenes integrated into the climactic battle between the monsters and the town of Shere Neck. These scenes were a mixed bag because some were a welcome addition, like the one with Decker holding Narcisse's head on his knife, while others looked amateurish or unnecessary. There was one scene I found important though. It's a scene of Lori and Sheryl Ann when they first meet at the bar, yet in this expanded version, we see the moment Sheryl Ann meets Curtis, who ultimately turns out to be Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg). Very welcome addition in my opinion, yet I wasn't a fan of the way it was shot. You see a closeup of a hand, after you've been slightly misled when Sheryl Ann looks over at the table and the camera pans to a fat guy in a flannel shirt. I would have chosen a different approach to that whole scene.
I think I should re-watch it again without interruption and see if my opinion changes. As it stands now, I have no problem with the Theatrical Cut, except for maybe the "safe" ending the studio forced onto Barker. It's pace is a lot faster with a slightly different structure. Yet, I wouldn't say the DC is smoother, on the contrary. I found it to be sluggish in a few spots and underwhelming in others, but I don't dislike it. This new Director's Cut is a fine example of an alternate take on an already fantastic film, it's just that I didn't feel that it made the experience any better for me. I'm glad I shelled out for the Limited Edition version though, so now I'll also have the Theatrical Cut on Blu ray also should I choose to revisit Nightbreed the way I remember it. I know I am in the minority on this one, and I'm sure I'll get a lot of flack for not being in love with this new version, but believe me, nobody is more surprised than I at this development.
As you all know, there is so much more to this new release than just the film itself. For the first time we get a shitload of new behind the scenes material that makes the purchase totally worth it, whether you go for the standard release or the Limited Edition. Of course, the Limited Edition has that 3rd disc with more special features, but the 2 disc version still has plenty to "ooohhh" and "aaahhh" over. By now, you've done your research and know what all that entails, so I won't bore you with another list of every single supplemental material included, but believe me when I say, it's fucking gold. The blu ray discs themselves are impressive, but not anywhere near the quality I was expecting for a blu ray release, though I will admit that it is leaps and bounds better than the one DVD release this film ever got. And the same can be said for the newly added 40 minutes of footage. If you weren't a die hard fan of this film like myself, who's seen it countless times in the 25 years since it's release, you'd never know which ones they were as they are on par with the quality of any other image in this film, with smooth transitions and nothing to indicate something's been added.
This is the product of a LOT of hard work, determination and passion. It was a 25 year long wait for most of us (the old ones), and we honestly thought Clive Barker's vision would never see the light of day. I can't think of another example of a movie that was essentially forgotten about in the horror community for so many years to basically come out of nowhere and take the horror and film community by storm, bringing together fans, nerds, geeks, and die hard enthusiasts together with an outstanding and fucking impressive release that will be the talk of the community for years and years to come. This new Directors Cut of Clive Barkers original vision didn't blow me away as I had hoped, but I'm glad I saw it, I'm glad I own it, and I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. It's an important release, if anything than for the power of the petition, but more importantly, because it was a great film ahead of it's time that needed to be brought back to the forefront of horror cinema. Too many people had either forgotten about it, or never gave it a second thought. So this release is important for a myriad of reasons, and Shout!/Scream Factory should be commended for doing something that we never thought could happen.
I've since revisited this cut for a second time, and while my original feelings generally remain the same, when I watched it again, I did appreciate some of these new sequences and scenes a little more. These new scenes, while doing nothing to really change the story, do add a bit of substance to the story and fleshes out some sequences that felt a little too rushed before. Most importantly, Barker was trying to showcase the love between Lori and Boone, making it front and center instead of being somewhat glossed over in the Theatrical Cut. In this new version, you see what drives her to put her life in danger repeatedly to rescue the man she loves. That was barely touched on before. And the new ending epicly and beautifully ties all that together.
Ultimately, I'm still divided. I like both cuts equally. I grew up with the Theatrical Cut, having seen it close to 100 times. That's just a guess though. So I'm fine with that cut. The Directors Cut adds a little more depth, but doesn't make it any stronger in my opinion. All in all, I'm sure I'll be revisiting the DC more often than the TC, just because the ending is so much better. When originally released in 1990 severely cut and altered by the studio, I'm not entirely sure that Nightbreed would have done any better had Barker been given free reign to make, cut and release the film he wanted. Personally, I think Nightbreed was ahead of it's time; simple as that. The world wasn't ready for it then. 25 years later, we've come full circle, and I think this is the perfect time to embrace the tribes of the moon.
~ Jason Elizondo (robotGEEK)