Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut (1990) Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo


My love and thanks to Mark Miller and all those who made this happy reunion possible.— Clive Barker

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut.

I simply and utterly cannot believe I just wrote those two words in the same context with one another.

Do you people know how significant that is?

If you’re a fan of Author/Director Clive Barker you already know, if you’re a Barker newbie let me educate you a little on why you should be in awe.

I remember reading about the movie back in Fangoria magazine and the one thing that stayed with me was Barker explaining it as “the Star Wars of monster movies.” I have always loved monster movies and for someone to state he was making the “Star Wars” of them resonated with me. To make a long story short, Barker did just that, but when Morgan Creek saw what he made, they didn’t like it. I don’t know what happened, but Barker has talked in length about it on the pages of various issues of Fangoria and on his official website. They wanted a certain kind of movie so they chopped an assload of footage out of it and reshaped it into something they thought they and the public wanted. The theatrical cut clocks in at an hour and forty-one minutes, and it’s a testament to Barkers directing and storytelling that even the truncated theatrical version makes an impression, so much so it’s not a film one easily forgets after seeing it. I fell in love with the novel when I first read it and did the same when I first saw the movie in a theater back in February of ’90.

So, there ya have it, my newbs. Keep in mind I have yet to dive into any of the extra features or even watch the movie yet, so I can easily assume Barker will go into greater detail on the ins and outs of Morgan Creek’s butchering, for now consider my seriously truncated version above to be a wet teaser.

I think it was around 1987 when I became a Clive Barker fan. It was his first three Books Of Blood he had in circulation here in America that turned me on to him. I remember they sat at the local bookstore for what seemed like forever before I felt the need to read them. It was because of the gruesome covers, especially in volume 2 , that turned me off at the time. It was a macabre death mask of a face with white eyes and blood around the rims. Eye trauma in movies freak me out and that particular photo reminded far too much of Horror Express (1972). A film that traumatized me as a kid and at that time I still wanted nothing to do with anything that reminded me of it, but at some point I obviously relented. Not sure if it was with volume 1 or with volume 2, or even the third one, but I remember picking one of the books off the shelf and reading the back. I can’t tell you what prompted me to buy it, but I did and when I got reading it, I went back down and bought the other two.

There were two more books in his Books Of Blood but they were eventually released over here under the alternate titles, The Inhuman Condition and In The Flesh, a third overseas was released but those tales got added to his Cabal novel, which were never advertised on the back of that book. I just remember looking at the contents and seeing four short stories listed at the end; that was a nice surprise.

I’ve read all the novels he wrote when he was in his prime: The Damnation Game, Weaveworld, The Great and Secret Show, Everville and The Thief of Always. The only things I failed to read was his Hellbound Heart novella and that phone book sized opus, Imajica. I tried to get into Imajica put it just didn’t pull me in. Hellbound Heart I simply couldn’t find in print anywhere at the time.

I’ve also seen a lot of the movie adaptations done on his short stories; it’s hit or miss with them, but there are some damn good ones, even the ones that miss the mark, like Rawhead Rex (1987), I absolutely love.

His work from 1996 on has failed to strike any interest in me I’m sad to say, but with the announcement lately that his long in production novel, The Scarlet Gospels, is set to be published in 2015, and the plot around that involves his detective from his short story, The Last Illusion, Harry D’Amour tangling with his Hellbound Heart novella creation, Pinhead, the Cenobite, has on the other hand struck major interest with me.

Ideally, what I wanted to do with this review is get the Limited Edition and view the theatrical version and then the Director’s Cut, that way I can see first hand what was restored, but review copies weren’t given out of the Limited Edition so any comparisons I now make will have to be based solely on what little memory I have of it. In the meantime I managed to re-read a good portion of Barker’s novella, with only three chapters left to go, so what I can do is at least compare it to that with some certainty, and I have to say even though I love this movie, more so with this new cut, I think the novella is better.

In both versions Boone (Craig Sheffer) and Lori (Anne Bobby) are a couple and Boone is an emotionally unstable person. Mentally ill, basically, but in the novella you get a better sense of history of his illness and the dynamics of their relationship as it pertains to it. I can better understand Lori’s position of wanting to remain in love with him than I could in the movie, and that’s basically because you can convey certain things better in written form than you can in celluloid. Inner worlds of individual’s thought patterns, fantasies, idiosyncrasies, etc as well as the moments and situations they’re in can be better fleshed out in this form. There were many times in the movie that I saw the characters simply going from point A to point B to point C where as in the novella their venturing on this is laced with more detail.

I understand as a movie you have to move things along, I get that, so I’m not begrudging the medium in any way in this regards, at least not consciously, it’s just having recently re-read the source material puts that nature of the beast in better perspective. In fact, off hand, I can’t think of any short story, or novel, or novella, that I’ve ever read where the movie version was better.

Just putting that all in perspective as I continue to compare both.

I do like David Cronenberg’s portrayal of Boone’s psychiatrist, Decker, the one he’s been seeing for years and out of the blue calls him back to the office to give him some bad news about how the cops recently delivered some crime scene photographs to him asking if he had anyone in his care who could do such awful things.

He didn’t give Boone up right away, but showed him the photos and began connecting them to the sessions they had and the things he mentioned, but Decker has a secret. It’s all bullshit. Decker is a serial killer and he’s working Boone, grooming Boone’s unstable psyche into believing he did these things, so Decker will have a scapegoat that’ll go to prison for him.

In the novella this grooming takes place over a period of weeks, in the movie it’s one scene. Also in the movie version, in this new version, I should stress, I guess it’s important that we know what Boone and Lori do for a living. He’s a mechanic and she’s a singer. Scenes I don’t recall were in the theatrical version, but I may be wrong.

During the course of Boone’s life where’s he’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals he’s heard strange tales of a place called, Midian, where sins are forgiven, told by those who have fallen to their lowest. In the novella, Midian, isn’t yet a major issue, in the movie, Boone’s dream’s a lot of this Midian and it’s a source of much talk among him and Decker. The murders and Decker wanting him to recall details of them take momentary prescience over the Nightbreed’s abode in the book.

After a “suicide attempt,” where Boone walks in front of a truck, he wakes in an emergency room and this is when he formally starts moving towards Midian shores. The scene is pretty much exactly like in the book. His meeting with Narcisse (Hugh Ross) (in the movie no one ever mentions Narcisse’s name) spurs Boone to actually go in search of it, having been told where it’s location is by Narcisse. In the story, Boone’s trek to this mythical place is a bit more arduous, for it’s perceived to be in the middle of nowhere. In the movie a long car ride gives you the impression it’s really not that far from civilization.

There’s an abandoned town situated next to the Breed’s necropolis home, and it’s in one of these buildings where Decker and the cops find Boone and shoot him dead. In the movie that whole scene is moved to the front gates of the cemetery. There is no abandoned town in the movie version.

Lori and Sheryl Ann’s (Debora Weston) first encounter with Decker, who wears a mask when he slashes his victims up, also takes place around the outside of the cemetery in the movie, while it takes place in a burned out restaurant he lures the women too one evening in the novella, killing Sheryl Ann inside and then confronting and stabbing Lori through the hand.

At this point I’m wondering if it was a good idea to have gone back and re-read the source material. I probably shouldn’t have, but despite all these points I’ve brought up about the novella being better, I really do love this new Director’s Cut.

When Boone finally reaches Midian he encounters Peloquin (Oliver Parker) and another Breed member in the cemetery as they capture him and intend to eat him, but he insists he’s monstrous like them, and its during this exchange he figures out Decker lied to him. It’s Peloquin’s bite that turns Boone into the very thing he assumed he was all along, and from here on out we learn Boone’s coming has been prophesied. He was destined to unmake Midian, be re-christened Cabal and charged with finding them a new home by their God, Baphomet.

The novella at its core is a love story and the Director’s Cut brings that out more. My memory of the movie when I first saw it has mostly been ground down now to only remembering in any great detail the last act when Midian is getting “unmade,” and in this new cut the added scenes I recognized give that apocalyptic unmaking more time to unfold.

The ending is now drastically different, too. Actually it has three. After all is said and done Boone and Lori have theirs (exactly the same as the book), Sheriff Eigerman (Charles Haid) and Ashberry (Malcolm Smith) have theirs (drastically different from the book), and the surviving Breed members have theirs, still in that barn, but without Narcisee and Boone. Narcisse doesn’t survive in this new cut (just like he didn’t in the novella) and Decker is never resurrected.

I like this new ending(s) better, for each one is also a set up for new beginnings that as you all know never transpired. The latest news I heard was that Barker was toying with a Nightbreed series.

Back on October 28th Shout! Factory’s horror sub-label, Scream Factory, released Barker’s cut in two versions: the Blu-ray/DVD combo and the Limited Edition set, which consists of three discs, the Director’s Cut, the Theatrical Cut and a third disc full of extra features. The Theatrical Cut and this third disc of extras are not included in the standard Blu-ray/DVD combo.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio/English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English subtitles only

Shout! Factory stated once that if all they had to work with was The Cabal Cut, that VHS footage that was included probably couldn’t have been fixed any more than what was there. And I saw some of that footage on YouTube, some of the scenes were unwatchable, but lucky for all of us that original footage that had been cut that Barker thought may have been lost forever was actually found. Miller and Barker talk of this as well in that introduction on the disc. Now we have a quite gorgeous looking remaster, and I should point out this is not The Cabal Cut that was being used and shown in festival screenings. Once the lost footage had been found Barker went back and created a whole new cut, the cut he wanted to hit theaters back in 1990. This is that version.

As for extra features here’s what you get on the Blu-ray/DVD combo. These same features are also included on the Limited Edition.

  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Clive Barker and Restoration Producer Mark Alan Miller.
  • Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed (1:12:17)
  • Making Monsters: Interviews with Makeup Effects Artists (42:11)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Fire! Fights! Stunts!: 2nd Unit Shooting (20:20)

Note: Clive Barker and Mark Alan Miller recorded an introduction that starts up the moment you press play and both give a quick history on the movie’s problems and the creation of The Director’s Cut. 

First up, the commentary, as with all commentaries Barker does, is excellent. Required listening, in fact, if you’re any kind of fan. Both he and Miller go into detail on the production and most importantly what went wrong, why it went wrong and how it eventually got fixed once Miller placed a call to Barker years ago saying he was going to go looking for the missing footage. And both point out some of the new footage. The ones I felt looked new I was right about, but there was one scene I thought was in the Theatrical Cut they wasn’t. Plus Miller says 90% of the new footage is in that final hour. I’d say from the point Boone is arrested and thrown in the cell is where all the new stuff really begins.

Craig Sheffer (Boone), Anne Bobby (Lori), Doug Bradley (Lylesburg), Hugh Ross (Narcisse), Christine McCorkindale (Shuna Sassi) and Simon Bamford (Ohnaka) all headline the Tribes Of The Moon doc as they relate their experiences working on the movie. You also get a ton of behind-the-scenes footage woven into it.

Bob Keen of Image Animation and a couple of his co-workers/friends (Martin Mercer and Paul Jones) talk about the Breed FX they created in the Making Monsters featurette. Interesting to note the Berserkers were anatomically correct, as in they had dongs attached to them, which can be seen in some of the behind-the-scenes footage, but can just barely be seen in the movie itself.

The Fire! Fights! Stunts! featurette interviews Andy Armstrong who was in charge of the 2nd Unit and he talks about stunts and so forth.

I’m still a little disarmed by the fact that I found the novella to be of greater detail than the movie, which I completely wasn’t expecting to feel, but any doubts I generally have about any movie I see can sometimes be alleviated by a really good commentary, and listening to Miller and Barker has made me see this movie, even the Director’s Cut, could never be the novella. No movie that has a printed word/fiction counterpart could. And their adoration of this new form, the form that should have been, is helping me make piece with this.

dark-was-the-night 1710628bh


About Shawn Francis

Movie collector and horror writer.
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