Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut Blu-ray (Scream Factory) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, November 27th, 2021  

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut Blu-ray

Studio: Scream Factory

Oct 27, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Fresh off the success of his cult smash Hellraiser, director and author Clive Barker inked a multi-film deal with Morgan Creek that would begin with Nightbreed, to be loosely adapted from his own 1988 novella, Cabal. The impressive $11 million dollar budget would allow Barker to fully realize a world where grotesque monsters lived in hiding, exiled from the world of humans—their natural enemies. Nightbreed was supposed to spring a franchise of horror-fantasy films set in its world and starring its heroes and villains, but that never came to be; the film flopped in theaters, was panned by critics, and failed to find a fanbase until it hit video rental shelves.

In Nightbreed, hunky mechanic Boone is haunted by dreams of a hidden city called Midian, where monsters live freely. He seeks help from a therapist by the name of Philip K. Decker, who plants the idea in Boone’s head that he’s been committing gruesome murders while dreaming. (The film is quick to reveal that Decker is the actual serial killer, and his patient an opportune scapegoat.) In a dizzying series of events that ends with Boone killed in a police shootout, the young man finds himself in the mythical Midian—which is hidden under a Canadian cemetery—and a member of the Nightbreed, with a set of newfound monster powers. It’s up to Boone and his girlfriend Lori to stop the maniacal Decker, who is suddenly rallying a human militia to march into Midian and carry out monster genocide.

Nightbreed was famously retooled against Barker’s wishes, re-titled and re-cut so heavily that the product which hit screens barely resembled the filmmaker’s original vision; the first cut reportedly spanned two and a half hours, but the theatrical version ran only 102 minutes. This all-new director’s cut of the film runs just over two hours but does little to rectify all of Nightbreed’s numerous issues. As ambitious as Barker was with the project, it still feels like a jumbled mess, with perhaps too many ideas tossed into the pot and not enough thought given to how it would all coalesce on screen. The plot unfolds with sudden jerks; less attention seems like it was paid to this film’s story than worldbuilding and mythologizing. (All the chatter about ancient tribes and prophecies feels like something out of Cannon sword-and-sorcery film.) It’s so clear that Nightbreed was building a foundation for a series of movies, but the movie’s characters and plot never merited a sequel. For all of its blockbuster aspirations, the clumsily vulgar script and uneven performances leave it mired in b-grade horror territory. (David Cronenberg—who plays the evil Decker and delivers line after line in a calm, dazed monotone—may be a great filmmaker, but a great actor he is not.)

None of this is to say that Nightbreed doesn’t have a lot of things going for it. The visual effects and monster makeup are still jaw-dropping in all of their grotesquerie. Barker brought in Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie to help bring his monsters to life, and each unique creation still holds up today, even in high definition. (The city of Midian resembles Star Wars’ Mos Eisley cantina, if it were located in Hell rather than space.) There’s a sequence in the film where Boone’s girlfriend, Lori, stumbles through Midian’s labyrinthine corridors as Barker and McQuarrie’s nightmarish creations leer at her; this may be the most horrifying portrayal of Hell ever committed to screen.

Scream Factory went above and beyond with their release of Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut. Packed with extra features—the limited also edition includes the theatrical cut—with audio commentary, documentaries, concept art, interviews, outtakes, and more content than can be processed without an entire free weekend to devote to the task.

While Nightbreed still isn’t a great film—even in this new director’s cut—Scream Factory should be lauded for allowing Barker to release his favored version after two and a half decades. The amount of included bonus material is really outstanding, and should surely knock any fan of the movie off their feet; even those who don’t care for Nightbreed should find the level of context and depth these features provide to be engrossing.

Author rating: 5/10

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