Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut (1990) Blu-ray Review (Shout! Factory)

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Any readers of horror fiction and fans of it will know the name Clive Barker all too well, as will fans of horror movies, such as Hellraiser and Lord of Illusions. Barker has brought the world many fantasy-cum-horror tales that drip with the darkest of nightmares and surreal imagery. Back in the February of 1990, Nightbreed, based on Barker’s novel Cabal, was released into theatres. Barker had a vision for the film, but the studios had other ideas and cut Nightbreed to pieces, trimming off almost a full hour of the movie in the process, leaving the film a hollow and lifeless version of what was intended by Barker when he created it.

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Since then fans have clamoured for a director’s cut of the film to be released, but for years it was thought that the original cut scenes were lost, unable to be found. That is until 2010 when two VHS tapes containing said lost footage were uncovered and, with Barker’s consent, work began on redeveloping and restoring the original vision of Nightbreed using the newly found scenes and the existing content from the theatrical cut, to the image that Clive Barker had envisioned originally. The film took shape and after a series of successful screenings in the UK and USA, the film, now titled “The Cabal Cut” wound up with a much-needed US distributor in the form of Shout! Factory.

With more scenes and footage uncovered from the vaults, thanks to Shout! Factory and Warner Bros, something vital to the process, and some two and a half decades on from its original release, the true vision of Nightbreed has finally found a release. Now available with a wonderful 140 minutes of splendid monster-horror-fantasy that only Clive Barker could think up. Finally, in 2014, Nightbreed has found a home on Blu-ray in the USA in the form of this new cohesive and exceptional version called, fittingly, “The Directors Cut”, and will hopefully, if there’s a Baphomet in the world, see a release in the UK and elsewhere too, sooner rather than later.

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So, now that the ups and downs, ins and outs, what’s and where’s and who’s are all done with, we have a chance to see Nightbreed as it was meant to be seen, and I for one was super excited about this, especially given that my prior experience with the film was seeing only small bits of the old UK VHS release as a young man. I know that many fans in the UK have shown disappointment that the film has yet to find distribution here, and I am also disappointed. I hope this is sorted out soon. I was, though, lucky enough to take a good look at the Shout! Factory release on Blu-ray, and was very impressed.

Now, I have heard from many people that the previous release of Nightbreed, the “theatrical cut” that was cut to pieces, was incoherent, messy and chaotic with very little in common with what it should have resembled. Here, though, things are different. Boone (Craig Sheffer) and Lori (Anne Bobby) are looked at more intimately, and their relationship is given more time, with the movie opening and finishing with the two of them in different ways. The new footage helps their arc along, giving it depth and more reason. The story of Boone, a young man who suffers tormenting dreams is drawn into Midian, a land of monsters that exists beneath a cemetery. He is being framed, for lack of a better word, by his “therapist” Decker (David Cronenberg), who is doing his best to see Boone caught by the police. When Boone is shot dead by a group of cops who believe he is a killer of families, he finds himself taken to Midian and meeting the various bizarre and magical monsters that live there. Both a bringer of chaos to the city of Midian, as well as a potential liberator, Boone must also try to save his girlfriend, Lori, who is being chased by a masked killer. It is a twisty and turny fantasy-horror that has a brilliantly built underworld of contorted creeps, growling giants, wide-eyed freaks and mutilated monsters. It’s a story of finding a place in the world, finding that not everything is like you might have originally thought, and of love, life and death.

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The audio and visual presentation of the release is top notch. It looks like a million bucks, and sounds just as good. I wasn’t expecting it to look as good as it does, and as far as the actual film, well, I loved it. I was almost expecting to be disappointed after building it up in my head for so many years, but it exceeded my personal expectations, it was just a blast, and it is great to see it finally released in the form that it was supposed to be have been originally, 25 years ago. It is a world that I loved visiting, with characters that were incredibly intriguing. Midian is a place I would really like to see elaborated upon, it was one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a Barker directed film, for sure. The negative aspects of the release are minor. Other than the obvious disappointment of the release not being made a worldwide one, there is little to complain about here. This is the best the film has ever looked and sounded, and it is restored in a way that shines vastly above other cuts of the film, without doubt.

The Scream! Factory version features the following special features;

* Introduction by Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller

* Audio Commentary by Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller

Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed featuring interviews with Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley and more…

Making Monsters: Interviews with makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Martin Mercer, and Paul Jones

Fire! Fights! Stunts!: An interview with Andy Armstrong (20 minutes)

* Original Theatrical Trailer

Nightbreed is available in the US on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, now.

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