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Clive Barker’s ‘Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut’ Sees the Glorious Light of Day

By  · Published on October 13th, 2014

Scream Factory

Clive Barker’s second feature film as a director hit theaters in 1990 in a compromised and heavily molested form thanks to the meddling suits at 20th Century Fox and Morgan Creek, but while Nightbreed died a quick death on the big screen the desire for Barker’s full vision lived on in the hearts and minds of fans. Rumors swirled about lost footage, and when years later much of those scenes were found the world was treated to a “restored” cut of the film featuring these rediscovered scenes dropped into the existing feature to form the Cabal Cut. The resulting cut had its pros and cons ‐ my full review is here ‐ but it was a kitchen sink version and never meant to be construed as Barker’s preferred vision.

Happily, and somewhat miraculously, that vision is now getting its day in the sun as Scream Factory releases the lovingly restored, Barker-supervised director’s cut complete with a beautiful high-def remaster. There’s no arguing that this new cut looks and sounds great and is long overdue, but is it an improvement over the theatrical release? Is it any good at all?

The answer to both questions is a pretty resounding yes.

Nightbreed tells the story of Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), a young man plagued by dreams and visions of a dark place occupied by monsters, and his remarkably loyal and understanding girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby). Boone’s psychiatrist, Decker (David Cronenberg), has him convinced that those dreams belong to a man guilty of murder, and he accuses Boone of being responsible for a series of horrific slayings. The place in question is Midian, and when Boone visits in a daze he comes face to face (and skin to teeth) with some of the creatures hiding there leading to his welcoming into their monstrous fold.

His journey into the night is paired with his pursuit by Decker and locals including both authorities and drunken townspeople, but one of the main stories above it all is the love shared between Boone and Lori… between monster and human. The theatrical version of the film short-changed that element in favor of Decker’s slicing and dicing as a masked serial killer, and it was equally unforgiving towards Midian’s citizens being perceived as anything but monstrous creatures.

The director’s cut restores Barker’s intent on both the love story between Boone and Lori as well as his desire for the monsters to be the sympathetic heroes of the film, and the result is a vastly superior film to its theatrically-released cousin. The movie’s roughly 20 minutes longer than the theatrical version, but there’s actually nearly 45 minutes of new footage included as scenes were swapped out for alternate takes or replaced with whole new sequences.

Boone and Lori are given more time together both before and during his journey towards the supernatural, and it’s a world of difference. Whereas before we wondered what she saw in him we now see the attraction and affection between them, and it’s a good thing too as the new ending pushes that love to an otherwise untenable conclusion. We see more of Lori’s efforts to track down Boone, but we’re also treated to a musical number with her performing a rousing song onstage at a bar. It adds little to the narrative, but it shows her to be a more lively and energetic character apart from her presence as simply “Boone’s girlfriend.”

But enough about love.

We also get more of the real heart of the movie ‐ the monsters. There are a handful of scenes throughout that give brief looks at the new creatures, but the majority of them are on display in the film’s third act as Midian comes under attack. Some characters also get new fates leaving the survivors in a different stasis than we get in the theatrical cut. This version brings the romance and the monsters together in a specific way, and while I can see some people being hesitant as to its execution there’s no doubt that this fits more in line with the classic tales of years gone by, albeit with a slightly more hopeful bent.

The new cut doesn’t fix all of the original film’s issues ‐ it’s still a fairly cheesy movie, Cronenberg is still a terrible actor, and the bit with the female motel clerk trying to pick up her disgusting creme-filled pastry is still the worse scene I’ve ever seen in a movie ever ‐ but it addresses the thematic and character weaknesses in strong fashion. Beyond viewers’ reactions though it’s great to see Barker’s vision restored to what it should have been in the first place. Would it have made a difference at the box office back in 1990? Who knows, but better late than never I suppose.

Scream Factory

Scream Factory is releasing two editions of Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut. Both versions include the restored cut of the film, audio commentary with Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller, the theatrical trailer and the extras featured under disc one below. The standard release also includes the director’s cut on DVD, but the limited edition includes two exclusive Blu-rays. One is a bonus disc of additional special features (see disc 2 below), and the other is the Nightbreed theatrical cut on Blu for the first time with a new transfer from the inter-positive. Both cuts look stunning in HD, and I can honestly say there are only two things I would liked to have seen added here ‐ a featurette with Danny Elfman on his absolutely fantastic (and possibly best?) score, and some kind of explanation as to the very cool looking big-mouthed Peloquin glimpsed in the title sequence.

The details of the special features are below, but it’s worth noting ‐ especially at its $79.99 price point ‐ that the limited edition comes in a beautifully-realized, open-sided case housing two Blu-ray cases as well as a 36-page color booklet featuring photos, artwork and a detailed essay by Miller regarding the evolution of Nightbreed up through the creation of the director’s cut.

Disc 1: The Director’s Cut

Disc 2: Bonus Disc (available only in the limited edition box set)

Scream Factory’s release of Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut should be a day one purchase for fans of Barker’s work, and while the price of the limited edition may be an understandable deal breaker for some I’d argue the cost is justified not only by the package and presentation but also by the work that went into the film’s recovery, reassembly and remastering. (Happily the best part of the entire release is the director’s cut itself which is available as a standalone Blu-ray.) The difference between the theatrical and director’s cuts is significant, and while the cheese remains, both romantic and otherwise, this cut of the film is far more cohesive and affecting. More than that, a restored Nightbreed is something I never thought I’d ever get to see, so immense thanks to all the folks who had a role in bringing this project to an epic close.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.