Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Review - Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut (1990/2012 - Dir. Clive Barker / Restoration Director: Russell Cherrington)

It has been a long time since I originally watched Nightbreed and read the book on which it was based, 'Cabal'. In the intervening years the two things seem to have merged in my brain and the version of the film that I can remember is very similar to this new cut.

Obviously this is just my brain playing major tricks on me because it is very evident that this has been a labour of love to put The Cabal Cut together from a variety of sources, including VHS work copies. The differences are plain to see due to the grainy old footage. It is great to see a version that is closer to the director's original vision rather than a exercise in studio butchery. Is anyone really surprised that the studio execs couldn't understand how monsters could be the heroes of a film?

Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer looking a bit like David Boreanaz with a huge mullet) keeps having nightmares about monsters who live in a mythical place called Midian. Whilst having psychiatric treatment, Dr Dekker (David Cronenberg) convinces him that he's really a serial killer. (Cronenberg is excellent as Dekker and is a more complex character in this version.) Boone decides to try to find his fellow monsters and meet his destiny.

Nightbreed is entertaining enough for the most part. I can remember being disappointed when I first watched it due to its lack of gore, especially after Hellraiser, so it improves dramatically with different expectations. There is a bit of face ripping but for a more extreme version of visage rippage, watch Dagon. This is more of a fantasy film than a horror, as with much of Clive Barker's work.

This cut feels overly long, especially in the final third, and the ending is a bit of a mess. But bearing in mind that this is still a work in progress, hopefully heading to a Blu-ray quality version, there are still improvements that can be made in the editing suite. Another niggle is that Boone, a white innocent all-American fellow, is the destined saviour of the monsters in a similar fashion to Avatar

The monster effects are great - Bob Keen is a top bloke, I wonder what he's up to now - but the designs look dated probably due to the fact that they have been homaged so many times by Xbox games. There are some great visuals, the sequences in Midian are especially memorable.

It took me quite a few Clive Barker books to realise that I'm not actually that keen on his work, but Barker lovers will lap up this new, improved version of Nightbreed. The one big question is why we haven't seen Buttonface make any other appearances.

If you like this you could also try:
Hellraiser, Dust Devil, Lord of Illusions.


  1. I liked Hellraiser, which I saw recently. I had the Night Breed amiga game in the early 90s, that was the creepiest game I've ever played, especially for a 9-year-old kid! Maybe scared me away from checking out the movie, which it is based on. Which cut is the best, do you think?

  2. Hellraiser is definitely the better film. It's maybe worth waiting to see what happens with a Blu-ray release of Nightbreed. Russell Cherrington, the restoration director is hoping to find all of the original footage on film, rather than a grainy VHS copy, edit it together and release the cut on Blu-ray. It's ages since I saw the original so it doesn't seem fair to comment, but this is enjoyable enough.