Review: Nightbreed - The Cabal Cut / Cert: 18 / Director: Clive Barker / Screenplay: Clive Barker / Starring: Craig Sheffer, David Cronenberg, Anne Bobby, Charles Haid / Release Date: TBC
Directors Cuts and Special Editions of films are more often than not complete rip offs and simply a marketing gimmick to get you to lay down 15 quid for a DVD. Mostly these versions consist of a mere minute or two of extra footage which usually consists of trimmed violence for ratings purposes. Sometimes though these versions are worthy of the tag and are a completely different film. Extended versions of Kingdom of Heaven, Payback and The Abyss are almost new films entirely and become near masterpieces in their full version as the director intended. So now we come to Clive Barker’s Nightbreed adapted from his own book Cabal and his directorial follow up to Hellraiser.
During its production Nightbreed was touted as the ‘Star Wars of monster movies’ and everyone who was seeing footage coming out in Fangoria (there was no internet then) were convinced that what they were going to see would be epic on a scale that Horror had not seen previously. Leading up to release there were tie in comics, books and a video game, all hallmarks of a modern blockbuster. Then the film came out disjointed, shallow and despite an intriguing concept and some nice make up nothing about it fully convinced. It was a disappointment to put it mildly but Clive Barker perhaps felt it more than anyone and would stay away from directing for about five years. The film was taken away in the editing stage by the producers who turned it into an abomination and tried to market the film as another slasher film; they were not convinced that the world was ready for a film where the heroes were the monsters. Despite this the cult of Nightbreed grew, the comic carried on for a few years (even at one time with The Wachowski Brothers as writers) and the film gained more and more fans on video and through showings on television. There were rumours of hours of extra footage, there were pictures of unseen creatures and make up effects but it was assumed that the footage was lost. Until recently…
The footage long thought lost and only available on VHS tapes turned up on a shelf in Clive Barker’s office and was spliced back into the film based on what footage they had and Barker’s written shooting script for the film. What we now have is Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut which premiered in a three hour extremely rough version earlier in the year. The film has since been edited down to a more digestible two hours and 30 minutes but the extra footage spliced in remains in a very rough VHS transfer quality. The process is on-going with the people behind this new version looking to gain the original negatives back from the studio so that they can do a new master for the DVD and Blu-ray release which is looking more and more likely thanks to the Occupy Midian campaign and fan interest.
So how is the film? Well even in its extremely rough form it’s everything we originally hoped it would be. What is clear from the new cut is that Nightbreed was way ahead of its time and despite the fashions being fairly late ‘80’s the film feels fairly timeless now. These days studios consider carefully which projects can go on to be a fantasy trilogy with dense mythology and think nothing of lengthy running times but back when Nightbreed was first conceived the same producers were not looking at trilogies or films that were over an hour and a half. One and done was pretty much the mantra back in these days.
The main differences between the old film and the new version are mainly what was present in the book. The characters are all fleshed out better and the relationship between Boone (Craig Sheffer) and Lori (Anne Bobby) is more of a focus rather than a token love interest, here it’s deeper and more felt than ever and the performers do great work. Decker the evil psychiatrist as played by David Cronenberg is much more of a menace in the new version, they have taken what was essentially a schizophrenic man controlled by a mask from the book and put this back in to the film which still works despite the poor sound quality of the voiceover. Doug Bradley as Lylesberg has also had the awful German accented overdub removed so that it is once again the actor’s voice and as a result, along with the extra footage, this becomes a much more compelling character. The main differences however occur in the finale and with the mythology, some of which would be played out in the comic book after the film’s release.
The siege on Midian goes on for roughly forty minutes, you glimpse a hell of a lot more creatures, you get a lot more internal conflict between characters who are killing the ‘freaks’ and people who died originally either don’t die at all or die in a completely different manner. What you also get is some of the mythology where the Nightbreed demi-god Baphomet declares Boone as Cabal and tasks him with finding them a new home, in the original cut this is limited to two confusing scenes but here it makes total sense and works towards giving the film a whole new and much more epic slant.
Even in its compromised form, Nightbreed was a major event in our youth. Seeing this new version is nothing short of revelatory for us and once the high quality re-mastered version is out there for all to see it will be revelatory for everyone else too, the extra footage is rough enough to just about hold us back from declaring this a masterpiece just yet. Had this version of the film been release in 1990 then it’s possible it would have changed cinema forever. The studio are still not convinced that the film has money making potential though, even though all this new acclaim is happening and fans are coming out of the woodwork. The film is playing the Grimmfest this October and other film festivals until the end of the year. See it, talk about it and sign the petition so that after 22 years, the film can get the release it deserves and gain a legion of new fans.
Expected Rating: 10 out of 10