Nightbreed Director's Cut Blu-ray Review
Broader in scope, clearer in vision, more epic in feel and with better defined characters
Nightbreed Director's Cut Limited Edition Blu-ray Review
“I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker” - Stephen KingA quote absolutely true about the horror maestro’s literary output, but not quite his contribution to film. After blazing onto the directorial circuit with the outstanding Hellraiser, a multilayered gem of a movie that drew on plenty of Barker’s passions, it nevertheless only hinted on his true art: that of humans becoming real villains who persecute ‘other’ beings, normally into extinction. Nightbreed was to try and readdress that. At least that was initial vision. However, the studio had other ideas and took the film, re-edited it and released it in a form that bore little resemblance to what was originally written.
Now, some twenty five years after the fact, Barker has been able to go back to the editing suite, complete with all his original footage, thought lost for years, and put together his own version, a true ‘Director’s Cut’.Nightbreed is now broader in scope, has a clearer vision, is more epic in feel and has better defined characters. The story is much the same, Boone is manipulated into finding Midian, the home of the monsters, but instead of laying down becomes its champion, as per the prophecy, and leads the inhabitants out of death and destruction where a new world awaits. But over this there are now elements of love transcending all, even death.
Unfortunately, this new cut is still not perfect, there are some pacing issues and the feeling that it is trying to deliver on more than the substance it contains, however, it remains a curious piece with plenty of ideas that make a great deal more sense, and is far, far more watchable and enjoyable than it ever was before.
Nightbreed Director's Cut Limited Edition Blu-ray Picture QualityThe disc presents a widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to A.
The picture has been lovingly restored by all those invested in the project and the result is a miraculous picture, though not without its problems.
First up: detail, and on the whole this is quite stunning, from skin texture, both ‘normals’ and ‘breed’, is clear and distinct (makeup is so good, you can’t see the joins), to clothing weaves, check out Decker’s mask, never before has it looked to haunting.
Backgrounds hold edges extremely well, check out the myriad of details in Midian itself, form the decaying rocks to the faded murals. One thing, the extra detail does show up the matte background paintings to a certain degree, but you kind of expect that.
Colours are very well realised, the whole thing has been re-colour timed (Baker mentions in his commentary that the film has never looked this good, excepting the very first print) to bring out the nuances of the cinematography. Thus reds hold sway, greens are pasteurised and blues are sublime. Normals skin is mostly natural, has a tendency to be a bit orange in the beginning, but soon settles down.
The picture has been lovingly restored by all those invested in the project
Contrast and brightness are set to give very good blacks that never grey, give a decent depth to the frame and hide within just enough shadow detail to entice. This is best seen in Midian itself, though the climactic battle is no slough either.
Original print damage is mostly cleaned up, with only the odd nick and pop visible, the occasional tram line is even rarer. The biggest problem comes with the grain, which whilst giving a nice organic structure to the piece can, in places, look a little bit ‘digital’, as if it hasn’t scanned quite right. This, in turn, leads to what appears to be compression artefacts in a number of scenes coming across as macro-blocking. It drew my eye, but, honestly, isn’t that much of a big deal.
Digitally, there were no compression problems or any edge enhancement, no banding, jaggies or judder. In all very nice picture that scores a very strong 7 out of 10.
Nightbreed Director's Cut Limited Edition Blu-ray Sound QualityI went for the English dts-HD MA 5.1 surround track which, whilst built from a stereo source, never sounds artificial and is mixed to give a very strong surround environment. Dialogue is natural sounding and dominated by the frontal array.
The surround speakers are used, primarily, to fill the ambience, though they do come into their own during the final battle where effects come thick and fast matching the onscreen action to a tee. Elfman’s score makes full use of all the speakers and has the best of the dynamic range.
Bass itself is somewhat limited and can sound very ‘thick’ to ‘squashy’ rather than having any tightness; this can flatten the sound stage temporarily. There is a decent enough kick low down to many of the effects, but a tighter more controlled depth would have provided paid dividends.
The mix does come across as well layered and nothing is ever lost, and the clean-up means that there is no hiss or crackle, nor does it becoming tinny when at reference.
Nightbreed Director's Cut Limited Edition Blu-ray ExtrasThere are a whole host of extra features spread over three Blu-ray discs.
Houses the Director’s cut of the film which runs twenty minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but contains forty minutes of new footage.
Introduction by writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller – lasts a couple of minutes and is exactly what it says.
Audio Commentary – With Clive Barker and Mark Alan Miller (plus a couple of other fellows not introduced, that participate in the background) who enthusiastically regale us with stories of the film in an almost non-stop barrage of information and anecdotal tales. Plenty of information to be had here though, I’ll be honest, it is hard to listen to in one chunk as Barker’s voice is …. difficult, that and his hesitation in getting his words out as his brain works faster than his mouth can deliver.
Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed – a feature length look at the making of the film through interviews with those involved in it, including (amongst others) Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Hugh Ross and Doug Bradley. Starting off with a chat about Barker’s early career and how he came to be involved with this film, as well as the production of it and the subsequent treatment afterwards. Thoroughly recommended viewing.
Making Monsters – Shorter feature (at 40 minutes) featuring interviews with makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Martin Mercer and Paul Jones as they talk about their early careers, involvement with the film and stylistic choices that produced (at the time) the most monsters ever in a feature film.
Fire! Fights! Stunts! 2nd Unit Shooting – Shorter feature (at 20 minutes) and interview with Andy Armstrong who discusses his time as 2nd unit director, how he got involved, his relationship with Barker etc.
Original Theatrical Trailer
Disc 2 (Exclusive to this limited edition)
Deleted Scenes – Includes alternate takes as well of varying quality (some taken from the ‘Cabal Cut’ VHS tapes). Runs for about 20 minutes with each scene having a title card, nothing of much significance here, all that had worth is already back in.
Monster Prosthetics Master Class – Obviously filmed at the same time as the ‘Making Monsters’ feature this is a closer look at the make-up creation process with some behind the scene material thrown in for good measure.
Cutting Compromise – Fascinating interview (roughly 15 minutes) with Mark Goldblatt, and editor with serious credentials, brought in to ‘tighten up’ Barker’s edit and change it to the theatrical cut that was released. He speaks very candidly about what went on and goes someway to readdressing his side of the story, a perspective I daresay few will have heard, or have sympathy with, nevertheless it is another insight into what went on behind the scenes of the production of this film.
The Painted Landscape: The Concept Art of Ralph McQuarrie – Best known for the conceptual artwork that gat Star Wars made, here we see his paintings for Nightbreed.
Matte Painting Tests – As the name suggest, features the matte paintings used in the film.
Make-up Tests – Again as the name suggests test of make-up on various actors.
Stop Motion Lost Footage – Explanation of the grand designs for stop motion in the film only to be slashed as the budget got cut, here presented is a part that was filmed but ultimately not used.
Extended Torture Scene – At just over three minutes this is the full flashback sequence of the killing of the Breed during Rachel’s story.
Rehearsal Test – Boon’s dream that opens the film with the actors in no make-up rehearsing their movements.
Extensive Still Galleries – Split into titles (Early Sketches, Deleted Scene, Posters and Pre-Production art, On the Set, The Cast and Crew) but can be viewed with the ‘play all’ function; many, many pictures.
Theatrical version of the film – New transfer from the inter-positive.
Original Theatrical Trailer
Booklet – Containing stories and essays as well as factual information and photographs about the film and this restoration.
Appears to be a genuine Limited Edition of just 10000, mine is numbered 3380.
Is Nightbreed Director's Cut Limited Edition Blu-ray Worth BuyingCabal, or Nightbreed, as it was meant to be seen in Clive Barker’s own cut of the film finally comes to disc twenty five years after its original release is something of a story in and of itself. However, the film does go a long way to restoring the original vision of the film which relies far more on Barker’s own vivid imagination of worlds within worlds and love transcending boundaries than the theatrically released ‘slasher’ film that it was clearly never meant to be.
Boone framed for murder seeks refuge in Midian, a fabled world that takes in monsters and outcasts, then returns from the dead and leads the inhabitants of Midian when the humans seek to destroy their fragile existence – is the basic plot of the film, though it is filled with Barker’s creations, pathos and vision. Unfortunately it is not the lost masterpiece that many thought it might be, it still feels a little rushed and incomplete with regard to motivations and structure, but it is, nevertheless, a far more coherent and well-paced film and one that goes a long way to readdressing the balance between what was released and what was meant to be.
A spectacular set worthy of the Limited Edition tag
As a Blu-ray package, Shout Factory! has released a spectacular set worthy of the ‘Limited Edition’ tag (and appears to be a genuine limited release) with both versions of the film on Blu-ray plus a separate disc filled to the brim with extra content as well as booklets and a hard-case in which to house them. Yes it’s a lot of money, but with a release such as this, I think it’s worth it. Pick it up if you can find it.
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