Published Oct 28, 2014In 1990, there was no reason to doubt Nightbreed wouldn't follow in the footsteps of Hellraiser. After Clive Barker turned his novella, The Hellbound Heart, into a bona fide horror classic, three years later it was believed that he could do the same with another novella, Cabal. Instead, Nightbreed became one of the most legendary cock-ups in cinematic history.
The film that hit theatres on February 16, 1990 was a far cry from what Barker had envisioned. After Morgan Creek rejected Barker's finished version, they edited the film into an abomination that was misleadingly promoted as a slasher flick. Not only did it flop at the box office, it also sent Barker to therapy. But a funny thing happened over time: Nightbreed built a cult following fixated with Barker's admission that his version was still out there somewhere. More footage eventually leaked over the years, resulting in a re-edited, 160-minute version nicknamed the "Cabal Cut." An obsessed internet movement known as "Occupy Midian" pleaded to have it released, and now, after years of waiting, it's here. Well, almost.
Set in Calgary, of all places, Nightbreed stars Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It) as Aaron Boone, a young man who suffers from intense dreams of an underground world of monsters called Midian. His psychiatrist Dr. Philip Decker (David Cronenberg) frames him for a series of grisly murders, with which Boone is charged — but not before he discovers and enters Midian. When Boone's girlfriend Lori goes looking for him, Decker follows her to expose Midian to an army of monster-hatin' authorities and rednecks, and all hell breaks loose.
Much like Hellraiser before it, Nightbreed is wondrously unique, and full of Barker's fantastical and gory signatures. It's also delightfully cheesy and philosophical in how it presents monsters as the heroes and humans as the threat. Packing elements of thriller, horror and fantasy, there is no definitive genre for this film — it's simply Nightbreed.
It is important to note that the Director's Cut is not the same as the Cabal Cut. The former is, according to Barker, the closest adaptation of what he originally imagined; the latter was literally every second of footage compiled and sewn together without much consideration. Although there are bound to be die-hards unhappy with what Shout! Factory has put together, this edition, featuring 40 new minutes, is what every fan should want: a significant and cohesive advancement from the nonsensical shit-show that hit theatres.
The extensive bonus features demonstrate how much Shout! Factory wanted to make this edition special for the fans. A behind-the-scenes documentary called Tribes of the Moon is an exhaustive retrospective featuring all of the main cast members (minus Cronenberg) who go into painstaking detail of how this film was made. Most amusing is hearing actor Simon Bamford discuss the lengths he went to get Frank the Boston Terrier to co-operate, which included covering his legs in Marmite and holding on to sausages. Making Monsters interviews makeup artists Paul Jones, Bob Keen and Martin Mercer about how they brought the monsters to life, while Fire! Fights! Stunt! 2nd Unit Shooting interviews action unit director Andy Armstrong about how everything tricky shot in Midian was handled.
Rounding it out is an audio commentary by Barker and Mark Miller, the restoration producer and the one responsible for making this all possible. Barker, of course, is animated, informative and giddy throughout, giving you the impression that having the opportunity to watch this cut is as important to him as it is to all the Nightbreeders out there. Thankfully for newcomers, Barker and Miller point out most of the changes, including the brand new scenes when they arrive onscreen. (Shout! Factory)