Director: Clive Barker
Screenplay: Clive Barker
Starring: Craig Sheffer, David Cronenberg, Anne Bobby
Year: 1990
Duration: 102 mins / 120 mins
Country: USA
BBFC Certification: 15

Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) has been having nightmares in which he sees a city where mutants and monsters live. He strongly believes the city, called Midian, is real but he doesn’t know where it is. He tells his therapist, Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg), of his dreams and Decker interprets them as signs of Boone’s subconscious telling him that he’s responsible for a series of violent and brutal murders in the area. As Boone becomes more and more agitated, Decker secretly drugs him and admits him to hospital. There Boone meets an addict named Narcisse (Hugh Ross) who is raving about Midian. Thinking that Boone has been sent to take him there, Narcisse reveals its location and Boone escapes.

Boone finds the location; a graveyard situated in the countryside and encounters hostile inhabitants. He tells them he belongs in Midian because of the murders he believes he has committed, but they attack, forcing him out of the graveyard. Unfortunately, the police and Decker have followed him, and he is shot down. When Boone’s body goes missing from the morgue, his girlfriend Lori believes he has returned to the Midian and goes to look for him, not knowing what she will find.

Nightbreed, based on Clive Barker’s 1988 novel Cabal, was his fifth screenplay to be produced, and his second film as director. His directorial debut was Hellraiser, which was a surprise success and Morgan Creek were quick to sign him up to produce a big budget adaptation of another of his novels. However, studio interference led to an unhappy experience for Barker, with him being forced to heavily cut his film and even shoot extra scenes he hadn’t originally written. Where Barker had originally envisaged a dark fantasy film with biblical overtones, the studio wanted a gory slasher film. What was finally released was a film that was neither and confused audiences. Needless to say, it flopped, but it did develop a cult following after its release on video.

Jump forward to 2014 and after hundreds of reels of discarded scenes and unused footage were tracked down to a vault in Ohio, Scream Factory released a reassembled and digitally restored version in the US that was faithful to Clive Barker’s screenplay and storyboards. This 120-minute Director’s Cut has now been released in Europe by Arrow Video on Blu-ray as a 2-disc Collectors’ Edition which also includes the 102-minute theatrical cut, allowing viewers to compare the two very different films.

I’ve always enjoyed the theatrical cut despite its many flaws, but as a fan of the original novel I have always wanted to see Barker’s original cut. I’m glad to say that the Director’s cut is vastly superior and is as you would expect much more faithful to the source material, adding more significance to Boone and Lori’s relationship and improving the representation of the citizens of Midian, making them more sympathetic characters. This leads to an increased emphasis on the “us vs them” theme that Barker was trying to portray, keen to show that although the inhabitants may look like monsters it is the humans that are truly monstrous. Another noticeable major change in this cut is the role of Decker, who now seems to have less focus on enabling the character of Boone to develop more.

That being said, this new cut is still not perfect, with some pacing issues and the feeling that Barker is overstretching his material a little. However, it is now a film worthy of the original novel.

This release from Arrow Video comes with each version of the film on its on disc, both packed with extras, including:

Introduction by writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller – a quick recap of the troubled history of the film and how the Director’s Cut was assembled.
Audio Commentary on the Director’s Cut – with Clive Barker and Mark Alan Miller, who enthusiastically recount stories about the making of the film.
Audio Commentary on the Theatrical Cut by critics Adrian J Smith and David Flint.
Walking the Line Between Heaven and Hell – a new video interview with critic Kat Ellinger who discusses the films multiple themes.
Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed – a feature length look at the making of the film including interviews with Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Hugh Ross and Doug Bradley. Thoroughly recommended viewing.
Making Monsters – featuring interviews with makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Martin Mercer and Paul Jones as they talk about their early careers and their work on the film.
Fire! Fights! Stunts! 2nd Unit Shooting – a short feature and interview with Andy Armstrong who discusses his work as 2nd unit director.
Deleted Scenes – includes alternate takes of varying quality.
Monster Prosthetics Master Class – a look at the make-up creation process with some behind the scene material.
Cutting Compromise – an interview with Mark Goldblatt, who the studio brought in to ‘tighten up’ Barker’s edit and change it to the theatrical cut that was released. An interesting alternative insight into what went on behind the scenes of the production of the film.
The Painted Landscape: The Concept Art of Ralph McQuarrie.
Matte Painting Tests.
Make-up Tests.
Stop Motion Lost Footage.
Extended Torture Scene – The full flashback sequence of the killing of the Breed during Rachel’s story.
Rehearsal Test.
Extensive Still Galleries.
Original Theatrical Trailer.

Nightbreed is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video.

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About The Author

Neil is a practicing Buddhist with far too unhealthy an appetite for violent films and video games. His young son also objects to his love of grindcore music, claiming it "makes his ears bleed". Kids, eh?

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