Nightbreed AKA Clive Barker's Nightbreed (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Video
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (17th November 2019).
The Film

Nightbreed (Clive Barker, 1990)

Synopsis: Haunted by recurring dreams of strange, inhuman creatures who inhabit a seemingly mythical space named Midian, Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is under the care of psychiatrist Dr Decker (David Cronenberg). However, having come to find that these dreams – which were once nightmares – are no longer unwelcome, Boone hasn’t visited Decker in four months. When, one night, Boone wakes from one of these dreams in the arms of his lover, rock singer Lori (Anne Bobby), Lori convinces Boone to re-engage with Decker, and Boone arranges a meeting with the psychiatrist.

However, Boone is unaware that Decker lives a secret life as a serial killer who massacres whole families ritualistically. Decker has slaughtered ‘six families in ten months’ and, using a combination of hallucinogenic drugs and authoritative suggestion, convinces Boone that Boone has committed these crimes. Tormented and hallucinating, Boone wanders into the path of a truck; taken to the hospital, he meets another patient, Narcisse (Hugh Ross), who also speaks of Midian. As a mark of his allegiance to Midian and his desire to enter into it, using blades attached to his thumbs Narcisse degloves his face.

Managing to flee the hospital, Boone is pursued by the police and Decker. Using the vague directions Narcisse gave him, Boone heads towards Midian. Arriving at the location, he finds a cemetery. As the sun sets, Boone falls asleep amongst the headstones. During the night, he is accosted by a trio of monsters including Peloquin (Oliver Parker), moon-faced Kinski (Nicholas Vince) and meek Ohnaka (Simon Bamford); believing what Decker has told him, Boone tells Peloquin that he has killed 15 people, but Peloquin tells Boone that he can ‘smell innocence’ on Boone. Boone is bitten by Peloquin but manages to escape. However, outside the cemetery Boone is confronted by the police, who shoot him down in a hail of bullets.

Boone’s body is taken to the morgue, where it is identified by Lori. Infected by the bite from Peloquin, Boone comes back to life, however, and flees from the morgue. He returns to Midian where he is greeted by Narcisse and introduced to the Nightbreed, the denizens of Midian who are led by Lylesberg (Doug Bradley). Boone is accepted into the ‘Breed and discovers their legend: they are a tribe of ageless monsters, the Tribe of the Moon, who worship Baphomet, the founder of the Nightbreed, who is kept in a chamber in the heart of Midian.

In a nearby town, Lori meets a middle-aged woman named Sheryl Ann (Deborah Weston), who offers to drive with Lori to Midian. As Lori explores the cemetery, Sheryl waits by the car. Lori discovers a strange creature which is caught in the sunlight; a woman in a nearby crypt begs Lori to pick the creature up and carry it to her. Lori obliges; away from the sunlight, the creature transforms into a young girl, Babette (Kim & Nina Robertson), and the woman, Rachel (Catherine Chevalier), thanks Lori for her act of kindness. Both Babette and Rachel are Nightbreed. Lori returns to the car but discovers that Sheryl Ann has been brutally murdered by Decker, who threatens Lori, believing that this will lure Boone out of hiding. Against Lylesberg’s wishes, Boone leaves Midian and attacks Decker, defending Lori. Decker flees.

Lori is accepted into Midian, where Rachel tells Lori something of the history of the ‘Breed. Meanwhile, Boone (who has been given a new name, ‘Cabal’) consolidates his role as the saviour of the Nightbreed by spending time in Baphomet’s chamber; this is something none of the other members of the ‘Breed have been able to do. When Lori finds Boone, she begs him to come with her, but Boone suggests he must fulfil his destiny with the Nightbreed.

Outside Midian, Decker slaughters the inhabitants of a motel, framing Boone for these killings in order to persuade Inspector Joyce (Hugh Quarshie) and Captain Eigerman (Charles Haid) to join him in destroying Midian. Driven by an almost religious mania, Eigerman assembles a militia and plots to invade Midian, destroying everything that lives there.

Critique: With its origins in director Clive Barker’s 1988 novel Cabal, Nightbreed (1990) was the second feature film of Barker. Barker’s feature debut had of course been Hellraiser (1987), again adapted by Barker from one of his own books (in the case of that film, the 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart). Where Hellraiser had received near-unanimous acclaim, the reception of Nightbreed on its initial release was much less consistent; some critics and audiences identified issues with the film’s structure, pointing to interference by the studio (Morgan Creek) during postproduction – the studio-mandated re-edits, which largely reduced the story’s emphasis on Midian and instead threw emphasis on the more conventional protagonist/antagonist relationship represented in Boone’s relationship with his murderous psychiatrist Dr Decker, were well-documented at the time of the film’s original release. Rumours of a much longer workprint abounded for many years, until the so-called ‘Cabal’ edit of the film (running 155 minutes), with its additional footage sourced from a video-based workprint, was screened in 2012. Following an online campaign (named ‘Occupy Midian’, after a phrase used by actress Anne Bobby in a dry nod to the ‘Occupy’ movement/s that had sprung up in the 2010s), a new director’s cut of the film was assembled when the film’s negatives, long rumoured to have been junked, were discovered. With its official home video debut being on a US Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, this new director’s cut eliminated some of the redundant material found in the Cabal cut and reduced the final running time to just over two hours; 20 minutes longer than the theatrical cut of the film, the newly-assembled director’s cut nevertheless contained approximately 40 minutes of new footage (in addition to the extra 20 minutes, some alternate versions of key scenes were included). Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release of Nightbreed contains both the original theatrical cut and the new director’s cut.

In part, Nightbreed speaks of the fascination during the 1980s and 1990s with themes of therapy and psychiatry – which also worked their way into other pictures, such as Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986) or Richard Rush’s notorious Color of Night (1994), and television programmes such as The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-2007). In Nightbreed, the practice of psychiatry is connected to deviance: the murderous Dr Decker takes delight in slaughtering whole families (somewhat like the Tooth Fairy in Manhunter) whilst scapegoating his patient, Aaron Boone. Where Decker is a white collar psychiatrist, wealthy and outwardly respectable but inwardly murderous, the blue collar Boone, a mechanic, is a poor but heroic outsider. Where the former’s accusations are believed because of his position, Boone’s words are disbelieved owing to his lack of authority. As the Reverend Sydney Smith famously observed in the 1840s, ‘Men, whose trade is rat-catching, love to catch rats; the bug-destroyer seizes on his bug with delight; and the suppressor is gratified by finding his vice’ (Smith, quoted in USMDR, 1844). The fantastical grotesqueries of Midian are offset by the very human cruelty of Decker: when Boone suggests, early in the film, that ‘Midian doesn’t exist. Monsters don’t exist’, Decker tells Boone that ‘Murder does, Aaron. Murder is very, very real. It may start in the mind but then it changes into flesh and blood’. The scene in which Decker annihilates an entire family, including a young boy, is just as disturbing today – perhaps more so, within the context of a cinematic landscape dominated by escapist fantasy-based action films such as the Marvel comic book adaptations – though little is shown and the scene ends on a tight closeup of the child’s face as Decker advances up the stairs towards him. (Again, this moment seems to echo aspects of the Tooth Fairy’s crimes in Manhunter.)

Barker has suggested in interviews (and in comments echoed in the ‘introduction’ on this release) that Nightbreed’s focus on sympathetic ‘monsters’ is unique. Certainly, though the film’s opening conversation between Lori and Boone suggests that Boone once found the dreams of Midian which haunt him to be terrifying, he has come increasingly to find them fascinating: when Lori tells Boone that he should see Decker about his ‘bad dreams’, Boone responds, ‘Dreams aren’t even that bad any more. I’m actually beginning to like them’. However, to be fair, the notion of a sympathetic monster (in whom the audience can identify) has a long heritage in cinema and literature. One might think specifically of Boris Karloff’s monster in Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931), who is depicted throughout that film as profoundly sympathetic – from his first moments of life, in which he is beaten by Igor at the behest of the monster’s ‘father’, Frankenstein himself, onwards. In the context of a film made during the Great Depression, the hangdog demeanour of Karloff’s monster, dressed in tattered clothing and put-upon by figures of authority, seemed intended to capture the sympathy of working-class/‘blue collar’ audiences – which, of course, it did.

Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Nightbreed pits society against its mirror – the ‘self’ against the ‘other’; the human and the inhuman; straight society against a society of monsters. Since Barker came out as openly gay during the mid 1990s, Nightbreed (and, naturally, its source novel Cabal) has been widely reinterpreted as an allegorical representation of Barker’s own struggle with reconciling his public persona and his sexuality in the context of a society in which homosexuality was (and arguably still is) vilified and persecuted – much like the Nightbreed themselves. In the film’s narrative, Boone is torn between ‘straight’ society, to which he is anchored through his romantic relationship with Lori (‘Don’t you see they don’t need you? Nobody needs you but me’, Lori pleads with Boone), and the carnivalesque netherworld of Midian – the latter populated by sympathetic ‘monsters’ who are coded as flamboyant and camp. Some of the monsters are depicted as gay: as in the case of Peloquin’s relationship with the near-mute, effeminate Ohnaka, this is often so overt that it can’t be said to be codified or buried in the film’s subtext. Peloquin and Ohnaka’s ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ relationship foregrounds the association between the monsters and homosexuality. When Boone meets with Decker for the first time in the film’s diegesis, Decker suggests that Boone has ‘incorporated it [the concept of Midian] into your private mythology’. ‘I needed a place to escape to’, Boone tells the psychiatrist. ‘A place where all your sins would be forgiven’, Decker responds leadingly.

The Nightbreed are persecuted by a psychiatrist, Decker, and a combination of police officers and members of a hastily-assembled militia, the Sons of the Free – who pursue the ‘Breed with a relentless fury that, they believe, is given legitimacy by their co-opting of a whisky priest who was found in the drunk tank on the night of Boone’s arrest. Decker convinces Captain Eigerman to join him in his crusade against the ‘Breed by asserting that ‘Something is breeding there. Underneath the cemetery. And if somebody doesn’t stop them, there’s going to be a lot more bloodshed’. The name of this group, the Sons of the Free, speaks of their frontier mentality and their need to repress/persecute the ‘other’. (‘Whether it’s Commies, freaks or third world, Y-chromosome mutants, we are there: the Sons of the Free’, Eigerman declares as his milita prepares to enter Midian.) The Sons of the Free pursue the ‘Breed with religious fervour, their crusade against perceived deviants seeming frighteningly relevant in the context of the activities of the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. The violent response of the Sons of the Free to the ‘otherness’ of the Nightbreed has precedence, however: Rachel shows Lori a horrific vision of the Nightbreed being tortured and executed during the Middle Ages. (The iconography of this vision, however, does not tally with American history, the tools of torture and execution seeming more in line with the Spanish Inquisition than, say, the persecution of the Salem ‘witches’, and seems to suggest that the Nightbreed have their origins in Europe.) Decker, meanwhile, seems more like a self-loathing homosexual: played with quiet effeminacy by the softly-spoken Cronenberg, Decker contacts Boone by telephone near the start of the picture, reminding Boone that he hasn’t seen Decker in four months. This telephone call seems more like a call made by a frustrated man who is desperate to rekindle a romance with a reluctant ex-lover than a psychiatrist reaching out to one of his patients.

Considering the framework of Nightbreed’s allegorical depiction of the persecution of homosexuality, it is worth bearing in mind that within the context of Barker’s upbringing in Liverpool during the 1960s, male homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1967. However, the extent of the criminalisation of homosexuality is still a point of contention, as evidenced in American writer Naomi Wolf’s crucial misinterpretation of archival evidence during the writing of her recent book Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love (2019), Wolf erroneously believing the phrase ‘Death recorded’ in court records denotes executions of gay men in Britain during the 19th Century when in fact from 1823 it was a term used as a judgement in crimes where capital punishment was likely to be followed by a royal pardon (ie, capital crimes which were no longer enforced) (BBC, 2019). When Decker, the straight psychiatrist, scapegoats the occupants of Midian, the first victim is the innocent, childlike Ohnaka. He is beaten by police, who gather around him and kick him as he dies, the sunlight causing his skin to turn to ash (in a manner that seems to pay homage to the death of Christopher Lee’s Dracula in Terence Fisher’s Dracula, 1958). The scene plays out like a gay-bashing but also has echoes of the beating of Rodney King at the hands of the LAPD in 1992.

Whether or not this re/reading of Nightbreed (as a story about Barker’s ‘struggle’ with homosexuality) smacks too much of biographism is up for debate. Nevertheless, the Nightbreed themselves serve to remind the film’s viewer of the revolutionary potential of the carnivalesque, as identified by Mikhail Bakhtin. The activities of the ‘Breed antagonise and infuriate figures that represent ‘straight’ society (Decker, the psychiatrist, and Captain Eigerman, in particular). The carnivalesque, as embodied in Midian’s ‘monsters’, is presented as liberatory, with revolutionary potential (hence the resonance of Bobby’s ‘Occupy Midian’ joke, mentioned above).

Nightbreed refers frequently to the conflict between the ‘inner’ self and social roles/appearance/the ‘outer’ self – mostly through the metaphoric use of masks. When Boone meets Narcisse in the hospital, Narcisse – whose name ironically alludes to Narcissus, the figure of Greek myth – uses thumb-blades to remove his face. Narcisse does this after telling Boone that Midian is a place of forgiveness, and to enter it ‘I have to show you […] my true face [….] I’m an actor, see. There’s a face beneath this face’. Similarly, Decker commits his murders whilst wearing a strange sackcloth-style mask with a button for an eye and a zip for a mouth. However, Decker’s fascination with masks is established even before we are shown his murderous secret life: the mise-en-scène of Decker’s office, as shown in Boone’s first session of therapy with Decker, contains a series of exotic masks on a wall display. Where after committing his murders, Decker rips off his mask to reveal the ‘true’ identity beneath, after being baptised by Baphomet in Midian, Boone develops an alternate identity as Cabal, prophesised as the saviour of Midian. After Boone has been shot by the police outside Midian and his body taken to the morgue, Lori is interviewed by Decker. Lori tells Decker that Boone has ‘never hurt anyone in his life’. ‘Miss Winston’, Decker tells Lori, ‘everyone has a secret face’.

Video

On disc one, Arrow Video include both the original theatrical cut (running 101:36 mins) and the director’s cut assembled in 2014 (running 120:44). These are presented as two separate encodes on a dual-layered Blu-ray disc. The director’s cut fills 26.1Gb of space on the disc; the theatrical cut, meanwhile, fills 19.3Gb. Both cuts are presented in 1080p using the AVC codec, and both are in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

Sourced from the original camera negative, Arrow’s presentation of the Director’s Cut is excellent and looks pretty equal to the presentation of the same cut of the film that was released by Shout! Factory in the US in 2014. Detail is excellent throughout, fine detail in closeups particularly being very pleasing. The structure of the 35mm film source is retained by a fine encode to disc, and there is no overt evidence of digital tinkering. In terms of damage, there are a few minor blemishes and scratches that are no more than a few frames in length (such as in the high angle long shot that shows Lori entering the cemetery that stands above Midian for the first time). Colours are rich and deep, skintones being naturalistic and consistent. Contrast levels are balanced, with well-defined and rich midtones. This is accompanied by a good, subtle drop off into the toe where rich and deep blacks can be found. Low-light scenes fare excellently, shadow detail being present to a satisfying degree.

The theatrical cut, on the other hand, is more disappointing. Identified as being sourced from an interpositive, the theatrical cut has a distinctively lo-fi appearance, texture and fine detail seeming to be scrubbed away. This is presumably an aged master, possibly the one used for Warner’s DVD release of the theatrical cut back in 2004. This is very different to Shout!’s presentation of the theatrical cut, which written materials would seem to suggest was also based on an interpositive source, and one wonders whether Shout! may have reassembled the theatrical cut from the director’s cut materials and composited into it the scenes exclusive to the theatrical cut from the interpositive source. Certainly, the theatrical cut here has a more washed-out colour palette, and compositions are slightly different to those on the director’s cut, the framing being noticeably tighter on all four sides. It’s a disappointing presentation of the theatrical cut, but the director’s cut of the picture is arguably the main draw of this release.



Full-sized screengrabs comparing the presentations of the theatrical cut and director’s cut are included at the bottom of this review. Please click to enlarge them.

Audio

Audio is presented on the director’s cut via a choice of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track or a LPCM 2.0 track. (The theatrical cut only has an LPCM 2.0 track.) Both tracks are rich and deep with good range, the 5.1 track sounding ‘newer’ in its use of the soundscape but being very atmospheric, sound separation creating a strong sense of place. Optional English subtitles for the Hard of Hearing are included. These are easy to read and free from errors.

Extras

Disc contents are as follows:
DISC ONE:
- Theatrical Cut (101:36)

- Director’s Cut (120:44)

- Commentary by Adrian J Smith and David Flint (Theatrical Cut)
. In a new audio commentary, critics Flint and Smith begin by talking about the different versions of Nightbreed and the challenges faced by Barker when Nightbreed was released, based upon the reputation that had been built for him by the success of Hellraiser. As they suggest, Nightbreed is ‘more fantasy horror’, as compared with the ‘visceral horror’ of Hellraiser. They talk about the ‘epic’ canvas on which Nightbreed is painted, and discuss Barker’s original plans to make a series of films based on the Nightbreed universe; they draw parallels between Barker’s intentions and the recent spate of ‘universe building’ comic book film adaptations. They talk about the relationship in the film of the ‘slasher elements’ (focusing on the character of Decker) and the ‘monster elements’, reflecting on the casting of David Cronenberg as Decker. It’s an excellent commentary track, rounded and with depth, Flint and Smith speaking in an informed manner and with ease about the film’s production and reception.

- Commentary by Clive Barker and Mark Alan Miller (Director’s Cut)
. This commentary, which was featured on Shout! Factory Blu-ray release, Barker and Mark Alan Miller, the VP of Barker’s production company Seraphim, Inc., discuss the genesis of Nightbreed and Barker’s approach to the material. Barker offers some vivid recollections of the production, discussing some of the decisions made in designing the production (eg, the use of cold greys and blues for the scenes featuring Decker, which are offset by the use of earthy browns in Midian). Barker suggests that the ‘true nightmare’ is the ‘cold room with the cold man and the cold secrets’ – in other words, the world of Decker’s psychiatric practice. Naturally, there is much talk of the studio’s interference during post-production and the re-assembly/restoration of Barker’s director’s cut of the film. It’s an insightful track, Barker’s affinity with the genres of horror and fantasy fiction being evidenced throughout. Miller acts as a superb foil for Barker’s ideas.

- Introduction to Director’s Cut by Clive Barker and Mark Alan Miller (5:32)
. Barker and Mark Alan Miller, the VP of Barker’s production company Seraphim, offer a brief introduction to the director’s cut of Nightbreed that summarises the turbulent editorial history of the film.


DISC TWO:

- ‘Memories of Midian’ (30:34). Nicholas Vince, who played the moon-faced Kinski in the film, is interviewed about his experiences on Nightbreed. Vince talks about his working relationship with Barker, Vince having played one of the Cenobites in Hellraiser. Vince says that if one is to speak with Barker, ‘you have to be on your best game’ because Barker is incredibly intelligent. With Hellraiser, Barker’s experience of filmmaking was extremely limited and he learnt on set about the mechanics of making a movie. With Nightbreed, Barker was more confident in his abilities, and the story was much more expansive. Vince discusses the makeup for Kinski and the process of preparing for the character, which involved dying his chest hair, which was blonde, black. As well as his work as Kinski, Vince also talks about his performance as one of the Berserkers featured during the climax of Nightbreed.

- ‘Walking the Line Between Heaven and Hell’ (23:31)
. Critic and podcaster Kat Ellinger offers an appraisal of Nightbreed, discussing her personal response to Barker’s work and Barker’s role in shaping the paradigms of contemporary fantasy fiction. Ellinger talks about Barker’s positioning as a writer who came to prominence during an era in which his chief audience, of young people, were experiencing disillusionment with the rampant consumerism of the Thatcher/Reagan eras. She reflects on the visceral nature of Barker’s writings and the epic canvases he creates, drawing a connection between Barker and writers such as Baudelaire.

- ‘Speaking Up for the Monsters’ (18:17)
. Critic Kim Newman talks about Barker’s various skills – in theatre, writing, filmmaking and art – and suggests Barker is a ‘renaissance man’ of sorts. Newman reflects on Barker’s hopes that Nightbreed would initiate a franchise, and considers why this project failed. Newman, who was on the set of Hellraiser, visited the set of Nightbreed and comments that some of the footage he watched being filmed wasn’t seen on screen until the Cabal cut was screened. Newman says that Barker told him that Nightbreed was mis-marketed by the distributors, whose promotional artwork for the film repurposed some of the designs used for the 1988 film Bad Dreams (Andrew Fleming). Newman suggests that Barker’s approach to humanising monsters was comparable to the late 1960s/early 1970s Westerns (such as Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man) that asked their audiences to look at Native American culture in a different light.

- ‘Tribes of the Moon: Making Nightbreed’ (72:04)
. This documentary about the making of Nightbreed features input from Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Hugh Ross, Doug Bradley, Simon Bamford, Christine McCorkindale. The participants talk about working with Barker, reflecting on his authorship of the picture. Bamford, Bradley and some of the others talk about their work with Barker pre-Nightbreed, with the avant-garde theatrical troupe The Dog Company. They discuss Barker’s transition from the world of theatre to writing, and then to filmmaking – and the journey from Hellraiser to Nightbreed. The actors reflects on their roles, Bamford talking about the fact that Marc Almond was originally cast as Ohnaka but was let go from the production owing to his contractual obligations in terms of his music career. The performers talk about their roles, Anne Bobby suggesting that ‘there’s quite a lot of leading man in Lori’. They also reflect on the filming of some of the scenes in the picture, and they talk about the editing of the film and their responses to the original theatrical cut.

- ‘Making Monsters’ (42:06)
. This documentary focuses on the work of Bob Keen, the designer of the creature makeups used in the film. Keen talks about his response to the script, considering its relationship with the source novel, Cabal. Keen considers Barker’s art style and how this fed into the design of the film’s creatures – and how the design of the creatures was linked to the building of their characters. Martin Mercer and Paul Jones, of Image Animation, talk about their work with Barker on Hellraiser, and they discuss their approach to designing the creatures on Nightbreed. There is some detailed consideration of the mechanics of creating the makeups, prosthetics and body suits used in the film.

- ‘Fire! Fights! Stunts!’ (20:22)
. Andy Armstrong, the film’s second unit director, talks about his work on Nightbreed, discussing how some of the action was staged. The approach to action was ‘multi-layered’, with action happening in the foreground, midground and background; the intention was to make the film look much bigger and more expensive than it was.

- ‘Cutting Compromise’ (13:52)
. Mark Goldblatt, who edited the film, discusses the film’s postproduction. The initial edit was by Richard Marden, and Goldblatt suggests that in his opinion the first edit of the film needed some extra work – though not to the extent that the studio mandated. Goldblatt talks about how he was approached to work on the film when the studio felt that the picture was too long and wanted to foreground some of the ‘scares’ in the film. The studio, Goldblatt says, ‘wanted to have a tighter film’ with ‘a more propulsive feel’; Goldblatt brought his experience of editing action films to the cutting of Nightbreed. Goldblatt talks about the reshoots and the new scenes which the studio asked Barker to write, in order to foreground the horror elements – including the scene with John Agar, and the scene in which Decker kills a receptionist.

- ‘The Painted Landscape’ (5:05)
. This short featurette looks at the work of concept artist Ralph McQuarrie for the film, which includes the mural on the walls of Midian that outlines the history of the Nightbreed, some of the concept art, and the designs for the matte paintings.

- Deleted and Alternate Scenes (22:49)
. These scenes include a visit by Inspector Joyce to the scene of the familicide committed by Decker early in the film; an alternate version of the scene in which Boone awakens in the hospital after being drugged by Decker; two alternate/extended versions of the interrogation of Lori by Inspector Joyce and Decker; and extended version of Lori’s first meeting with Sheryl Ann; an alternate version of the scene in which Lori rescues Babette; an alternate version of the scene in which Boone fights with some of the ‘Breed in order to rescue Lori from Decker; an extended version of the scene in which Captain Eigerman shows Decker the weapons used by the Sons of the Free; two new scene fragments in which Decker hears his mask talking to him; a new scene in which young members of the ‘Breed fight against the Sons of the Free; an extended version of the scene in which Father Ashberry finds Baphomet’s chamber; two alternate versions of the scene in which Inspector Joyce encounters Babette during the Sons of the Free’s assault on Midian; alternate version of the scene in which Boone approaches Baphomet towards the end of the picture; and the film’s original theatrical ending. Some of the footage is from film source/s; other footage is from the VHS workprint.

- Extended Torture Scene (3:27)
. This is a much extended version of the medieval flashback torture scene.

- Monster Prosthetics Masterclass (11:13)
. Makeup effects supervisor Bob Keen is interviewed about the incredible array of monster makeups used in the film. Keen talks about the issues with actors and prosthetic makeups, and he reflects on the process of creating these makeups.

- Matte Painting Tests (8:59)
. This is a compilation of various matte painting tests used during the production of the film, offering different versions/interpretations of the cemetery above Midian.

- Makeup Tests (4:54)
. A compilation of test footage of some of the makeups used in the film – including those for Narcisse and Peloquin.

- Stop Motion Lost Footage (6:56)
. Bob Keen speaks about the stop motion effects footage that was prepared for the film by Image Animation and then aborted owing to budget cuts. Keen suggests that with the plans for stop motion animation, Image Animation were somewhat behind the times. Some of the stop motion effects shot for the film are presented for the viewer.

- Rehearsal Test (2:58)
. This is a short snippet of rehearsal footage.

- Theatrical Trailer 1 (1:08)
.

- Theatrical Trailer 2 (2:00)
.

- TV Spots (1:05)
.

- Image Galleries: Early Sketches (5:10); Deleted Scene (6:50); Poster and Pre-Production Art (1:40); On the Set of Nightbreed (38:02); The Cast and Crew (10:30); UK Launch Party (5:20); A Human’s Guide to the Nightbreed (2:10).

Overall

A much more ambitious film than Hellraiser, Nightbreed divided audiences at the time of its original release and, no doubt, will continue to do so. The story aspires to the qualities of an epic, and the incredible array of monster makeups impress just as much today – perhaps even more so – when set against the current ongoing fad for CGI-heavy effects work. The new director’s cut of Nightbreed is a much more cohesive piece of work than the original abbreviated theatrical edit, though one can see what the studio was attempting to achieve with the theatrical cut (ie, through the foregrounding of Decker, a shift away from Barker’s emphasis on fantasy horror towards a more convention slasher film-like focus on Decker’s activities).

With the caveat that the presentation of the theatrical cut is quite disappointing, Arrow’s new Blu-ray release of Nightbreed is superb in all other respects. The director’s cut is arguably the main draw of this release, and it looks superb – easily the equal of Shout!’s presentation in the US. Arrow’s release also contains an excellent array of contextual material, carrying over the extra features from Shout!’s release and adding some superb new ones – including the excellent commentary on the theatrical cut by David Flint and Adrian Smith, and the interview with Nicholas Vince. This is a superb release of a film that until the assembly of the director’s cut, had been much maligned and misunderstood. UK fans of horror and fantasy cinema, and especially fans of Clive Barker’s work, will find Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Nightbreed to be an utterly essential purchase.

References:
BBC, 2019: ‘Free Thinking: Censorship and Sex’. [Online.] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00057k4

USMDR, 1844: ‘Sydney Smith’. The United States Magazine and Democratic Review (June, 1844).


Please click to enlarge.

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