What was released in 1990 was about a 100 minute horror/slasher movie that was truncated from about two and a half hours. That’s a lot of lost footage.
I saw Clive Barker’s Hellraiser back in college. I didn’t know that much about Barker at the time, but I had heard of his Books of Blood. But I was a big horror movie fan and Hellraiser looked really unique and word had it that it was gory, so it was naturally something I had to see. After that I checked out the Books of Blood, and had bought The Damnation Game, but gave it to my mom for a birthday present. She liked horror novels. I figured I would read it after she did. So, since then, I’ve been reading his Abarat books, but not much in between. I guess that’s terrible to say, because it’s not like I don’t enjoy reading, and surely the books are always better than the film adaptations, but there’s just so much film to watch, it’s hard to find time for both.
So, Cabal never made it into my reading schedule. But when Nightbreed came out in theaters, there was no way I was going to miss it. Another Clive Barker written and directed film? Yes! However, little did I know that what we saw in theaters at the time was not at all what Clive had intended for us to see. Clive Barker was already told by Producers to change the name from Cabal, to Nightbreed, because they thought it would be more accesible to audiences. Alreedy messing with things they shouldn’t. Yet, a film about a lost city where monsters live? That was a premise upon which I could get on board.
Aaron Boone is a young man plagued by dark dreams of a place called Midian where all manner of monsters can live, safe from the outside world. But are these dreams simply that, or is there more meaning to them? Boone revisits his psychiatrist, Dr. Philip Decker, at his behest. We find Dr. Decker has a dark side and convinces Boone he has murdered people, when in fact, it was Decker. Everything culminates in the residents of Midian having to defend their home – and their very existence – against those that would see them destroyed.
What was released in 1990 was about a 100 minute horror/slasher movie that was truncated from about two and a half hours. That’s a lot of lost footage. As Clive Barker tells it, Morgan Creek, the production company that green lit Nightbreed, was co-owned by Joe Roth and James G. Robinson. Roth was the guy that supported the project, but during filming he couldn’t take any more of Morgan Creek and left, leaving Barker with Robinson, a man that had no real understanding of what Clive was trying to do. He had the film cut to pieces, leaving a film to which Barker had little interest in attaching his name.
Years pass, and in 2009 Mark Miller, co-head of Barker’s production comapny, Seraphim Films, went on a search for the missing footage, finding that either no one had any of the original missing footage, or that no one really cared enough to do anything about it. It’s amazing sometimes that anything worthwhile ever gets done in the film industry. Preserve the creator’s original vision? Bah! Where’s the money in that?! Suits sitting at desks often don’t have any clue about the creative process or anything of creative value. They don’t understand that generally, if you let the creators actually do what they do best, you will likely have an end product that you can be proud of, AND make money. Yes, there are exceptions, but you know what I mean.
Turns out, after all this searching, the reels of film they were looking for were under a stack of porn in Clive Barker’s closet the whole time. Those are Barker’s words, not mine. And keep in mind, most of this is either VHS or old master reels – and all of it very grainy and degraded. Some of this footage was barely watchable. Russell Charrington, a senior lecturer of film and video production at University of Derby, reconstructed Nightbreed into a now 155 minute version dubbed The Cabal Cut. Mark Miller said those working on it amusingly referred to it as The Kitchen Sink Cut because every bit of found footage was put in. And it is indeed a much more interesting film with so much more depth. It’s definitely more of a love story between Boone (Craig Scheffer) and his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby). And there is certainly more development of Dr. Decker and of the inhabitants of Midian. The great majority of this footage is a great improvement on the film. Is it a little too long? Yeah, at 155 minutes you can find some things that probably don’t need to be in there. But that’s normal (using that word to describe anything involving Clive Barker just seems wrong) for practically any film. There are always going to be SOME edits. Just not half of it. Of course, an example of the other side of that coin is Peter Jackson’s King Kong. They could have chopped almost an hour off of that movie. But I digress.
So now it’s about taking this new cut of Nightbreed and just making it the perfect cut; the Director’s Cut. Will we see that? A glorious and resounding YES! Clive Barker and Mark Miller have said there will indeed be a director’s cut slated to release next year on Bluray by Shout! Factory through their horror label Scream Factory. It will be great to see this footage get cleaned up for a Bluray. This is a major coup. Fuck you James Robinson for trying to crush the creative vision! Thankfully enough demand exists to make this a reality. Needless to say, I’ll be picking that up when it comes out.
~ Neil T.Weakley, your average movie-goer, happy to finally see NIghtbreed for the film it really should be.