Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut
Reviewed by Andy
Nightbreed is a film with a chequered history – based on the visionary novella Cabal by Clive Barker, the original theatrical release was marketed as slanted towards the slasher genre despite and despite a wonderfully creepy turn by David Cronenberg in a rare acting role, felt disjointed and reassembled yet with occasional glimpses into the epic that many suspected had originally been filmed. Over the years since its original 1990 cinema release, there had been much work done trying to find some of the reported major amounts of footage edited out, and finally while spring cleaning Clive Barker’s office a VHS tape marked “Nightbreed” (who’d have thunk it!) turned out to be the start of a holy grail… what was shown at Frightfest was still a work in progress to an extent (v5 so far!) – the festival showings which include footage cut together from multiple sources including the original print and VHS tapes is heading towards a full restoration which will have reportedly also have some of the VHS footage replaced with film from Fox so will look more consistent.
For those unfamiliar with the previous release, the film follows Boone (Craig Sheffer, here providing the template for the look of Angel in Buffy that would eventually come full circle in Hellraiser: Inferno), who has been trying to bring himself back to normality following recurring dreams of a town of monsters called Midian. Accused of serial murders by his psychiatrist Dr Decker, Boone has to go on the run – but what of his love Lori (Anne Bobby) and could all of his dreams have been real?
Unsurprisingly considering its subtitle, this version is much closer to the original novella, and feels much more complete for it. While there is still some footage missing – some of the creatures in the promo materials are still absent for example – this is much more of an epic, and a much more coherent story too. Lori’s role is fleshed out, as is Rachel’s, and the climactic siege is much more fully realised. The quality of some of the footage makes occasional elements difficult to follow, yet it’s still easier than the theatrical cut which speaks volumes. The design is still brilliant and really hasn’t aged; a testament to practical effects and Clive Barker’s vision. It’s only really things like hairstyles that have dated at all as the film’s focus on the monsters’ story has always felt ahead of its time. A brilliant event and something well worth following, as the DVD/Blu-Ray release promises to be something very special indeed. ****