Anyone who knows me or knows this site knows what a huge fan of I am of Nightbreed. I was 13 when the film came out and it left an indelible impression. It had an air of epic mythology and backstory to it that most horror films seemed reluctant or down right afraid to try and commit to. Articles at the time billed it as “the Star Wars of horror movies” and it hit my adolescent brain in much the same way that Lucas’s space opera had held me captivated years previously. I devoured every piece of information that I could on the film, picked up the companion book (thank you, ebay, when years later it was lost in a rather fly-by-night move) read the comic series (some fantastic Tony Harris artwork out there for those who might be interested, btw) and delighted whenever I saw it make one of those “100 best movies y64’ve never seen” lists, of which it did make many.
One thing, however, never set right with me: stills of scenes that were obviously cut from the final version. Scenes, so different that when compared to their theatrical counterparts, hinted of a movie radically separated from the one we had all seen. Luckily this is where I can skip most of the details of the long gestating director’s version containing all of this new and different footage and cut right to the release of the Nightbreed Director’s Cut Bluray released this past Halloween from Shout Factory.
So, after 20 years we finally have Barker’s vision adapted from his own work titles Cabal, a tale of men, monsters and how sometimes its hard to tell which is which. The main question here is going to be, “what are the main differences”? Well, what we get is actually a much different tone from the movie that we’ve all seen, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
1. Notably, there is a love story to Nightbreed that in the theatrical version felt way too tenuous a thread to provide anything more than a backdrop for our leads motivations. It felt more like a plot device than anything else and the relationship itself was very flat and non faceted. THIS is going to be the first thing that you see as major difference in this updated version. Lori and Boone feel like the lovers that they were always supposed to be and their star-crossed predicament breeds compassion where it was absent before. We see two people whose lives are intertwined in such a fashion where separation is not an option. Lori is an aspiring musician, Boone is a mechanic and although these details might seem superfluous, it somehow lends to a more iconic and archetypal characterization of the two.
We not only get a musical number from Lori, but an extended sequence involving Boone’s unwitting drugging. The drugging itself (“you’re on what we call a bad trip, ole buddy”) is something to note as it explores some of Boone’s insecurities, showing the duplicity of his divided self and how he struggles with the monster inside long before he even reaches Midian.
- Early on we also get a few more moments between Decker and Boone which help to flesh out their relationship AND link their somewhat bizarre interaction that had always felt a little disparate in the original version. Their final confrontation makes loads more sense and we see them more as antipodes in a much bigger struggle now.
3. Lori’s descent into Midian is further explored and expanded making the necropolis seem liken even more of a trip into madness ash she falls further down the rabbit hole. More f/x work is highlighted here than we were treated to before and people familiar with the companion book will see a few familiar faces as well. I remember seeing stills in Fangoria before the film was released that showcased makeups that unfortunately hit the cutting room floor, so it was a nice surprise to see them finally turn up as well.
- Nacisse’s character gets a few moments that shows him as a formidable weapon in the struggle for Midian’s survival. More of a sidekick in the original film and opportunity for comic relief, his involvement in the Director’s cut (Boone’s jailbreak and the succeeding getway get a longer running time here) brings him a little further out of the periphery.
- The ENDING… yeah, this is probably where most of the novel’s enthusiasts felt the most confused when then film originally hit theaters. A HUGE departure from its literary counterpart, in fact, Nightbreed’s theatrical ending always felt like the poster child for too much studio involvement. In the studio’s version, Midian is toppled sending its misfits to scour the globe looking for refuge as the disenfranchised priest resurrects Decker and the film fades to black. Well, the Director’s Cut really is the more literal translation of the novel as Narcisse is killed by Decker, taunting Boone in their final confrontation, Lori, kills herself in order to receive “the bite that mocks death” insuring their union in immortality while the priest ends up assuming more of a sinister role, not resurrecting Decker but instead solidifying his resolve for a much more insidious agenda.
Again, the fight between mortals and the Breed shows us significant more f/x than the theatrical with a bevy of previously unseen makeups. This alone is a great addition to the footage we’ve already seen, but coupled with probably the most significant differences between versions here in the ending sequences, definitely elevates the film in scope.
The transfer in high definition is beautiful and really shows its brilliance when we are introduced to some of those nice blue and red color pallettes near the end of the film. Even the added footage, which I have seen criticized in other reviews, looked fantastic. We see a lot more vibrancy than the earlier dvd release and where a lot of the colors were horribly desaturated, they are nice and rich here, complimented wonderfully by full 1080p resolution.
The film, more so than anything else, just feels complete. It feels less like the cliff notes to cabal and instead a more faithful adaptation. Cabal is a love-story and one that speaks not only about love’s evolution, but about its fierce persistence when it has no choice but to evolve to transcend into something that survives our failed humanity and ultimately mortality.
I have never seen the full Cabal Cut but am now even hungrier to get my hands on a copy. Hear that Occupy Midian? Yeah, hook a brother up.
Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut is available online direct from Shout! Factory and through retailers everywhere.