Review for Clive Barker's Nightbreed
Clive Barker's Nightbreed is an adaptation of his novella Cabal which (like Hellraiser) he wrote and directed. Aaron Boone dreams of a place called Midian, this is an underground hell-type place where all kinds of monsters live. Convinced by his Doctor, that he has murdered a number of people, he goes in search of this place but is killed and it is up to his girlfriend Lori to find out the truth behind the killings and what has happened to Boone. Boone must come to terms with being part of the Midian community and that maybe not all hideous monsters are monsters after all.
This film feels so strange to watch. When I looked at the views of the film it is either an absolute classic or a huge misstep of every proportion. Much of this is due to the fact that omce completed the Studios (Morgan Creek and Fox) cut the film to shreds to make it more appealing. In doing so, no one liked it and the film bombed. However, after now watching both the Original and the new Director's Cut I'm not sure whether this film works in either version.
Now, I should start by saying this film looks amazing. The effects, make-up and design of this film is flawless and I was amazed by how unique all the characters were. When Clive Barker stated this was going to be 'the Star Wars of horror films' this must be what he meant. However, great effects and make-up do not mean this is a great film. The acting by everyone is fine, the casting of Director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Crash) as Dr Decker is an odd choice, but fine in general and the rest of the cast do a good job, but no one really stands out and neither Craig Sheffer as Aaron or Anne Bobby as Lori are particularly interesting to watch.
My main issue with the film is simply that it is not scary. When you see the poster and all the gruesome creatures, which after Hellraiser Barker has become synonomous for you would have expected this to be pushing this to another level. Instead, it felt like he was just retreading the same points again. Apart from the make-up effects, the only other truly brilliant thing about the film is the score by Danny Elfman. This feels like the kind of thing he would have created for Beetlejuice or Batman and is so atmospheric. However, it is used on a loop on all the menus and many of the features and so you may becomed tired of it by the time you are finished with this set.
As for the two versions, they are clearly two different films. Many fans (and critics) suggest that the Director's Cut is closer to Barker's original book and they are both worth a watch, but not something I would go out of my way to watch. The original cut features a commentary by critics Adrian J Smith and David Flint. My issue with this is that as they have no association with the film, this comes off more like two fans gushing over a film they have seen multiple times. The commentary on the Director's Cut by Director/Writer Clive Barker and the Restoration Producer Mark Alan Miller (who also provide a shirt introduction beforehand) is much more interesting and entertaining to hear from those involved in the creation.
It is a shame that they also don't include what they describe as 'The Cabal Cut' which was the rough version of the film created when they found all the deleted footage. During all the extra features there are glimpses of this and yes the quality looks awful, but for a complete set this would have been a great addition to see how the film developed to what it is now.
There is a whole disk of special features. Much of this has been created for this set and so if you do own any other version of the film, this is a nice bonus for fans of the film.
Tribes of the Moon: Making Nightbreed is an over an hour look at the creation of the film. This is a fascinating look at the film and I expected to hate it, because I wasn't too impressed with the film. However, I feel that the making of the film and the way it was cut to meet an audience (who hated it) and then the story of how the cast saw it when it was released and were so disappointed it is great to hear how they found and created the new 'Director's Cut' and the people in the documentary sound like they are so happy that the film will experience it properly.
There is a new interview with Nicholas Vince. He had starred in Hellraiser and also appeared in this film. The fact he is interviewed for nearly thirty minutes is fine and he spends much of this telling back stories about Clive Barker. However, I still couldn't tell you who he played in the film, but maybe that's just how great the make-up effects were.
Interview with critic Kat Ellinger is also new and also quite lengthy. It is a good analysis of the film and if you are a fan of Clive Barker this is clearly a fan's opinion of the film and Barker's work in general. The following one which is by film critic Kim Newman who is always great to listen to and his analysis of the film is so precise and enthusiastic (and yet very balanced) which is just a joy to watch.
Interview with Andy Armstrong, who was the Second Unit Director whose main role was to direct the action and stunt sections. This was fne, but it could have been cut down or maybe some of his stories added to the documentary.
The interview with Editor Mark Goldblatt is short, but he almost has to take responsibility for the cuts that many people hated the original release for. He admits that he had to compromise between Barker and the studios to finally settle on a film.
The Painted Landscape is a look at the Prophecy painting that is on the set in the film and the work Ralph McQuarrie did on it. McQuarrie was the concept artist for films like Star Wars , Star Trek a Cocoon. The video consists of his concept art and the actual mural that was created as a montage. His work here is amazing and I only wish there was more of this and maybe a voice over discussion rather than the music.
There are over Twenty-Two Deleted Scenes, which is not surprising considering the history of the film. Some are simply just pieces cut from scenes already present, some such as Dr Decker speaking to his mask are either brilliant or silly, I couldn't quite tell which. There is also a seperate Extended Torture Scene which I expected to be unbearably gruesome, but was just extra shots and more lingering moments with the characters in the scene.
Making Monsters looks at how all the costumes and make-up was created for the multitude of monsters and creatures in the film. One of the best aspects of this film is that it isn't just one standard monster, but every single character had its own design and look. Bob Keen, the creator of this make-up talks so lovingly about the work that you can feel how much he really enjoyed working on it. He is also interviewed for a more indpeth look at the prosthethics on the film, which is also great to look at them. He also discusses an abandoned Lost Stop Motion Footage, which if I'm honest looked awful in the finished film and I'm glad they didn't take this any further,
There are three 'Test' features. Matte Painting Tests is just that, B-Roll footage of the Matt paintings and how they look in the film. This really needed someone to point out the Matte Paintings as some are not noticeable, which I suppose shows how good they are. Make-Up Tests is also more of the same, just looking at various makeup effects. Rehearsal Test seems to be just the actors trying out sequences without make-up and so on. None of these are very entertaining and more for those who love hearing that Danny Elfman music which features throughout.
Finally, we have the two Trailers, some TV Spots and the Image Galleries. These are proof (if proof is needed now) just how much the studio didn't know how to market this film. In the galleries there are some great looks at the make-up, behind the scenes sections and the 'Human's Guide to the Nightbreed' which is a nice write up by Clive Barker of who all the characters are.
Nightbreed is a fantastic set, but a rather average film. I think I enjoyed watching the special features more than the film itself and that's not necessarily a nightmare to keep you up all night. It is not scary or creepy enough to really stand out, but I have to appreciate what was created here and if you are a fan of Clive Barker or indeed of this movie then this will be like finding the holy grail.