Nightbreed (1990): The Director’s Cut [Blu-ray/DVD]


Thanks to the advent of home entertainment and a wonderful company like Scream Factory, director Clive Barker is finally able to realize his original vision for the cult horror film “Nightbreed.” While the film itself has gained momentum and respect over the years as a dark and morbid tale of monsters from the underworld facing human cruelty, Barker’s experience making the movie was a bitter one he often recollected with anger and sadness. With his Director’s Cut, he’s not only able to salvage old footage that he was forced to edit out of his narrative, but he re-structures “Nightbreed” in to practically an entirely new movie. One that’s better than the original cut.

Granted, “Nightbreed” is a childhood favorite and is still a great film in its own right, but Barker’s Director’s Cut just seems more like Barker. There’s a lot less slasher fodder and a lot more mythology placed on the Nightbreed and their world of Midian. To add to their reality, there is the emphases on the lifestyle of the monsters, as well as the inclusion of creatures we’ve never seen before. There are some things lost in this cut, including the greater focus on the god Baphomet, and the final scene is spliced out entirely. A lot of fans might prefer the original “Holy shit!” finale, but I like the more poetic “The fight wages on” closer. That said, the Director’s Cut is so much more focused on the social structure of the Nightbreed. There are shots of their own world, the way they interact, their greater mythology, and how many of them are just as wicked as humans tend to be.

Never fear though, as David Cronenberg’s chilling portrayal of the sadistic serial killer Dr. Decker is still present within the story, just with more restraint which adds to his overall villainous presence. The narrative just includes Decker with restraint making him more a puppet master, and less the unnecessary center of a tacked on slasher movie theme in a movie not meant to be a slasher film at all. The Director’s Cut garners what the original cut didn’t. There’s more emotional complexity, more emphases on the tragic elements of the Nightbreed. The narrative also makes so much more sense this time around. Boone’s powers also make much more sense, rather than making him look like a clunky monster from the original version. He’s much more of a leader this time around as well, forcing the Nightbreed to change their old ways in favor of a new form of thinking that keep them from becoming victimized by the world.

There’s also much more focus on Lori, whose story with Boone is given more time to breath, establishing their romance and passion, thus explaining why she is so hell bent on saving Boone, and being with him even as a monster. I always likened “Nightbreed” to a darker, more sexual, and gorier version of “X-Men,” and the director’s cut only furthers that idea, giving the residents of Midian so much more humanity and depth. Barker delights in making them in to a flawed sub-set of society that are looking for a place to live and not become outcasts or monsters. “Nightbreed” was ahead of its time and is still an entertaining horror fantasy, but its new cut is just better. It’s coherent, it’s tightly paced, and the monsters are the central focus for once. I am still holding out hope for a follow up someday, as Midian is begging for more exploration.

We were given the Director’s Cut by Scream! So this is a review for the DVD/Blu-Ray combo sans the bonus and original cut. The movie itself garners an introduction by Barker and Mark Miller, both of whom discuss their process for fixing “Nightbreed,” and how it was meant to reward loyal Barker enthusiasts (he thinks the word “fan” is demeaning). “Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed” is a one hour excellent history tome about “Nightbreed,” including its evolution, its filming, and conception. There are a ton of extensive interviews with much of the cast members and is a necessity for fans.

“Making Monsters: Interviews with Makeup Effects Artists” is another great feature clocking in at forty minutes, discussing the film’s fantastic effects. This includes interviews with folks like Bob Kern and Martin Mercer, both of whom explore the prosthetics and still striking creature effects. There’s the film’s original theatrical trailer, and “Fire! Fights! Stunts!: 2nd Unit Shooting” a twenty minute glimpse at the 2nd Unit and their skill shooting. Finally, there’s an Audio Commentary with Writer, Director Clive Barker and the Restoration Producer Mark Alan Miller. Both men are very enthusiastic about this cut and their ability to restore Barker’s original vision for “Nightbreed,” and Miller is filled with excellent questions that give Barker a chance to impart insight and anecdotes about his film.