The Film (4/5)
Nightbreed, in its theatrical form may be the greatest tragedy of studio interference over the outcome of a film in the 1990's horror period. The 1990's were a decade of decline in the horror genre, with only a late period spark of Whodunit horrors sparked by the success of Scream to show the genre was still alive and well in the mainstream. Studios, much as they have always been (except for seemingly a short spot in the early '70's)were clueless about how to market films that were made with sensibilities that are outside the mainstream. Into this comes Clive Barker, the director of Hellraiser with a concept for a fantastic horror film, where the monsters are not so much the good guys, nor are they evil, but they are the centerpiece of the film, and the protagonist that drive the plot. This simple enough conceit sends Morgan Creek's marketing department into a frenzy, and their editors into overdrive. They re-edited Clive Barker's sophomore effort of fantastique monster mayhem, Nightbreed, into something akin to the slasher films which were still popular at the time.
It is now nearly 25 years since the theatrical release of Nightbreed, and we now have before us an object that many in the horror community thought we would never see, a director's cut edition of the film. For many years fans have heard of the missing scenes from Nightbreed that turn Barker's film into a greater, deeper entity, but it hasn't been until recent times that it has been possible to see the actual footage. In 2008 Barker through his company Seraphim Films began searching for the lost footage, and after searching for some time uncovered a VHS tape containing Barker's workprint of the film. This footage was integrated into the theatrical version of the film to create what has become known as "The Cabal Cut". The Cabal Cut is now the longest existing version of Nightbreed (it's not included on this set), and it was toured around the country to gain attention for a restoration of the film. Having gained that attention, Barker managed to secure a deal with genre distributors Scream Factory to put a Blu-ray and DVD release of the film, the problem was Nightbreed's found footage was on VHS, how could it possibly be restored to Blu-ray? Scream Factory and Seraphim Films began their search anew, and is it turns out the missing footage was never actually lost, but with Warner Brothers the whole time waiting for Barker to come back and recreate his lost vision for a new audience. We now have Clive Barker's Nightbreed the Director's cut on Blu-ray with 20 minutes of new footage, and 20 minutes of alternate footage which changes the film quite a bit, and while some of the new scenes aren't integrated perfectly into the overall whole, this is Nightbreed as it was meant to be seen.
Clive Barker could be considered a renaissance man of the fantastic, he began his career with a pair of short films in the 1970's Salome and the Forbidden, these films were more avant-garde in nature, but showed off the developing visual style of the young Barker. He would then become known in the world of horror for his Books of Blood (Volumes 1-6), and for his novella the Hellbound Heart. He would then turn in two screenplays to be directed by George Pavlou Transmutation and Rawhead Rex. However, being unhappy with the on-screen results he decided to take his visual future into his own hands, when he adapted the Hellbound Heart into the now classic feature film Hellraiser.
Hellraiser, was a film that was certainly grounded in the horror genre. However, Nightbreed his second feature, which adapts Barker’s novel Cabal, would blend fantasy and horror showing off the skills the director and writer had previously developed and point the direction for much of his future work. Nightbreed is an effective horror experience with many visceral thrills, but really comes to life upon arrival in Midian, where at least for a while the film offers an atmosphere that could be described as Fellini-Satyricon with monsters. It is a beautifully visual world that Barker has realized in these sequences, which would be more horrifying if it wasn't so fascinating (That is a compliment, not a criticism).
Nightbreed for those unaware tells the tale of Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), a young man who has been having dreams of Midian, a city underneath a cemetery "Where the monsters live." He has been sharing these dreams with his psychiatrist Decker (David Cronenberg). As the film opens Decker convinces Boone that he is a serial killer, and Decker will turn him in, unless Boone himself does it. He loads Boone up with drugs and sends him on his way. He attempts to find his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby), and determine a course of action, but ends up hit by a car and brought to a hospital, where he runs into another entity aware of Midian, and takes that as a sign that must be where he has to go. He leaves the hospital, and heads to Midian where he becomes a monster, and begins life amongst them. However, both Decker and Lori will not let him go. Lori wants to be with her love, and Decker wants Boone for his own purposes.
After all the hullabaloo over the years about varying sources I had to wonder how Nighbreed would look when it finally came to Blu-ray, and the answer is fantastic. The film comes to Blu-ray with a 1:78:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer in it's director's cut form (the TC was again not available in this version). This is a very natural looking transfer with well-defined grain, and excellent detail throughout. It has very solid blacks, and colors are wonderfully vibrant where they need to be, and more naturally otherwise. For a film that was noted to have come from a variety of source material, the film has a consistent image quality throughout.
There are 2 audio tracks present a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Both tracks are quite solid, but for the purpose of my viewing I primarily stuck with the 2.0. The dialogue comes across nice and clearly as does the films score, and FX. I did not detect any issues with the audio track on my listen.
This is just the 2 disc Director's Cut Version, and yet you see that score it's still a 4/5. Even though this is the cheaper version that Scream is offering they have seen fit to include a wonderful bounty of extras to the fans of Nightbreed. This disc kicks off with a lovely introduction by Clive Barker an Mark Miller discussing the restoration and search for the missing material. We also, get a commentary track by Barker and Miller. Next up we get Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed an hour and twelve minute documentary featurette about the making of the film. We then get (possibly my favorite extra) the 42 minute Making Monsters which interviews members of the FX crew on the making of the film. This is followed by a 20 minute piece on the 2nd unit Crew, and the film's theatrical trailer in 1080p.
The fact that this release exist at all is a miracle. The fact that it looks and sounds as good as it does, and is this loaded with special features makes that even more so. If you are a fan of the horror genre, you owe it to yourself to have Scream Factory's Nightbreed Blu-ray in any of it's forms on your shelf...so yeah....HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.