The Director's Cut, Director's Cut
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For the first time on home video, you can experience Clive Barkers original directors cut of Nightbreed with over 40 minutes of new footage, all mastered in high definition from the original camera negative!
Boone (Craig Sheffer) may be a troubled young man, but his troubles are just beginning. Set up as the fall guy in a string of slasher murders, he decides hell hide by crossing the threshold that separates usfrom themand sneak into the forbidden subterranean realm of Midian. Boone will live among the monsters.
Hellraiser creator Clive Barker writes (adapting his novel Cabal) and directs this vivid leap into horror that asks: in the battle of man vs. monster, whos really the monster? The answer supplies flesh-crawling suspense, sudden fear, a colorful Danny Elfman score and a creepy array of shape-shifting beings. They are the Nightbreed, denizens of a world beyond death, beyond the imagination, perhaps beyond anything youve seen.
Statement from Clive Barkers Office:
The Nightbreed Directors Cut is an entirely different film than the one which was released in theaters. Its 20 minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but it contains over 40 minutes of new and altered footage. Clive oversaw the reconstruction and edit himself, personally ensuring that, at long last, he was able to tell the story he always wanted to tell, but until now, had never been given the chance. Once the scenes were reordered, and the original film footage restored, the entire film received a brand new sound mix and color pass. It is, in every way, a different movie. It contains more story, more monsters, and theres even a musical number. Ultimately, what weve delivered is a love story 25 years in the making.
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My money was well spent.
For starters, the sleeve is a very sturdy box with a frosted texture surface containing 2 blu-ray cases and a booklet. One case is the 2-disc director's cut and the second is the original theatrical release.
But what is TRULY AMAZING is how incredible the transfer is. The film has been restored by re-integrating the actual film stock that was assumed lost for 20+ years, and because it went untouched for so long, that footage looks as new as the day it was shot. The "lost" footage is in some cases in better shape than the footage that was in the theatrical edition, but the consistency of the image is very close nonetheless: the digital color correction and restoration has made both sets of footage almost identical in terms of quality. Now, the film WAS shot in 1989 so the lighting is softer and more diffused than modern films, but there's no loss of detail in this effect. Grain is surprisingly light and the blacks are quite rich, but then again, the film was lit surprisingly bright, even with the dark scenes.
The special features are a tad off-kilter because the featurettes about the making-of are split between the 2 discs of the director's cut. And sadly, Clive Barker and David Cronenberg aren't interviewed in ANY of them; aside from the video introduction prefacing the director's cut, Barker is absent from this set aside from the audio commentary, and for the life of me, I can't imagine why. NIGHTBREED's director's cut sits up there with the great long-lost studio-mangled films like THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, and NAPOLEON...Barker should be all over this thing chomping at the bit for his victory.
So the set is expensive, but for people looking for the director's cut of their favorite cult film, or for those who want an excellent historical archive edition for their collections (like me), NIGHTBREED is not a disappointment and the price tag is justified for all the stuff it comes with. Now I waited until it reached $52 and you might wanna do the same, but I recommend that you deal with the price now before it becomes a collector's item you have to buy used for $100+.
“Nightbreed” is certainly a bit of a flawed movie even in Barker’s 120-minute new cut, but at least it’s an entertaining and occasionally inspired monster mash, mixed with slasher horror and capped by a love story. If nothing else, the picture is certainly unique, and comes much closer to being a satisfying product in the Director’s Cut.
Barker’s adaptation of his short novel “Cabal” tells the story of Boone (Craig Sheffer), a troubled young man with visions of a nightmarish monster land named “Midian.” His psychiatrist, Decker (played by director David Cronenberg), though, is the real monster in the movie – a serial killer who pins his killings on Boone. With nowhere else to go, Boone finds Midian, a sanctuary for shapeshifters, demons and other creatures of the night, but the group initially rejects him because he’s a mere human. After Decker pursues Boone, though, our hero is killed and resurrected as part of the Nightbreed, leading him to help the cause of the persecuted monster-outsiders and fight back against humans who believe Boone is responsible for the murders.
Morgan Creek didn’t care for Barker’s original cut of “Nightbreed,” which balances horror with a strong love story between Boone and his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby), and also focuses heavily on the monster community of Midian. By the time “Nightbreed” reached theaters in the winter of 1990, the movie had been cut down and reshot, shifting much of the focus away from the monsters and towards Cronenberg’s Decker. Apparently thinking Decker’s slasher-villain would be more marketable to the Freddy & Jason-loving masses than the gallery of ghouls living in Midian, Morgan Creek changed the shape and very intent of Barker’s story.
The final product didn’t work and fizzled out at the box-office – yet enough of Barker’s intent seeped through, allowing for “Nightbreed” to generate a cult following. The film’s admirers have, for years, hoped that Barker’s intended cut would see a release – and several years ago, a crudely-packaged “Cabal Cut” surfaced, restoring all kinds of lost scenes off a VHS workprint dub and mixing them together with the theatrical version. The result was reportedly a bloated and unfocused 160-minute cut that needed some trimming – yet it was long thought that the deleted footage was lost in the Morgan Creek archives. The prospects of a genuine restoration appeared bleak, with murmurs floating about that some restored scenes would have to originate from a VHS source, or might be lacking audio and would necessitate subtitles.
All of those early reports, thankfully, were completely inaccurate in so far as to the newly minted Director’s Cut edited by Barker and restoration producer Mark Allan Miller goes. Showing a consistently crisp and healthy image from start to finish, with just a bit of dirt in the added scenes visible once in a while, this new cut of “Nightbreed” is a triumph for all involved. There’s little disparity between the new scenes and material derived from the theatrical version, which was sourced from an interpositive at Warner Bros., which currently distributes the film as part of an arrangement with Morgan Creek (the film was theatrically released by Fox). The 5.1 DTS MA and 2.0 DTS MA stereo mixes are wonderfully handled, offering an active sound design with a glorious Danny Elfman score (more on that in a moment).
Barker opted not to include every last scrap of material here – a wise idea since at the two-hour mark, the running time for “Nightbreed” feels just about right. Barker and Miller removed the reshot Morgan Creek scenes and added some 40 minutes of new/alternate material, resulting in a film that’s 20 minutes longer than its theatrical cut but contains more many alterations than the time disparity alone suggests. In every way, this is a superior version of the picture – the story has time to breathe in its early going, allowing for Boone and Lori’s relationship to more satisfyingly develop. The monsters are also given more focus, and that’s key to this new version of “Nightbreed.” Morgan Creek wanted more of a straight-ahead slasher movie – but Barker’s story was more of a dark fantasy than a pure horror film, and this new ”Nightbreed” is, naturally, much more aligned with what was intended all along.
Not that the movie isn’t without its faults. Barker’s limitations as a director are evident throughout the picture, which – despite having been shot on an expansive set at Pinewood Studios – is claustrophobically staged and executed. There’s no real sense of scale or scope in the movie, with Barker’s style exhibiting a vanilla, “point and shoot” type of approach. The make-up effects are striking and some stop motion animation is utilized at one point, but one can only imagine how much more visually powerful the film may have been in the hands of a veteran director.
Thankfully, Danny Elfman’s music compensates for the movie’s weaker aesthetic elements. For every composer there’s a particularly fruitful era in their filmographies, and for Elfman, there’s little disputing that “Nightbreed” fell during one of the most creative and successful times of his career. His first score written after “Batman” and prior to “Dick Tracy” and “Edward Scissorhands,” Elfman’s “Nightbreed” is, quite simply, one of the most appealing scores in the composer’s oeuvre. Sure, it’s as dark, pulse-pounding and exciting – colored by tribal percussion and chanting choral passages – as you’d expect, but it’s also gorgeous. Otherworldly, melodic and surprisingly romantic, it’s the most polished technical element in the picture (Barker has said as much), and its orchestrations are striking. At times Elfman sustains scenes with an almost Herrmann-like use of strings, while in others, he characterizes the monsters and their plight with a genuinely poignant sensitivity. It all culminates in a lovely ending – one that was unceremoniously dropped from the original theatrical release – and an End Credits track that was likewise trimmed, leaving off the redemptive final notes of the composer’s music that’s, at last, restored here.
Shout’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack of the “Nightbreed” Director’s Cut is highlighted by a commentary with Barker and Miller. It’s an engaging track occasionally stymied by a lack of focus, but fans ought to enjoy it just the same. Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby and members of the supporting cast are on-hand – minus Barker – in a 72-minute new documentary on the film that’s heavy on the actors’ anecdotes about the production, and light on the recutting of the picture (save for a few minutes at the very end). Separate featurettes on the 2nd unit directors and make-up artists were also newly produced for this release, and it’s rounded out with Fox’s brief original theatrical trailer, narrated by Charles Aidman and partially underscored with “Enemy Mine” music.
“Nightbreed” may still be a flawed film, but it’s nevertheless an entertaining, offbeat genre-bending experience that’s stuffed with imaginative elements and a sumptuous Danny Elfman score. Backed by a more satisfying ending and more emotional content throughout, it’s well worth a visit this Halloween season.