Old Becomes New in Clive Barker’s “Nightbreed”

Posted by Erik Luers on 10.30.2013


Clive Barker's Nightbreed

British horror novelist and filmmaker Clive Barker has been back in the news as of late. Last week the author revealed on Facebook that he had been hired to begin work on a remake of Hellraiser, the 1987 film that started Barker’s film career. The movie was often accompanied in promotional materials by a killer Stephen King quote, “I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker.” This weekend marks another major event for Barker fanatics: the much anticipated New York Premiere of Night Breed – The Cabal Cut, screening as a part of our Scary Movies 7 series.

Released in 1990, Nightbreed, written and directed by Barker and based on his earlier novella Cabal, didn’t make much of an impact upon arrival. Debuting in theaters over President’s Day weekend, filmgoers were apparently much more infatuated with Driving Miss Daisy and its run to the Academy Awards than they were with a gory and disturbing tale of demon outsiders. Barker may have been less than enthused with the final product himself: upon release, Nightbreed had been cut by 40 minutes, as the studio whittled it down to an easily digestible one hundred minutes of mayhem. This weekend’s screening of Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut will run 144 minutes, making it by all accounts the most complete version of the film ever seen.

Defying easy description, Nightbreed follows Aaron Boone, a man haunted by recurring nightmares of a city called Midian and its otherworldly inhabitants. He informs his loving girlfriend, Lori, and his doctor Philip Decker (devilishly played by the great Canadian director David Cronenberg) in an attempt to seek help. These dreams may have effects on his real life as well. As it turns out, innocent people have been turning up dead as of late, graphically sliced and diced, and Boone may be the one responsible. After a series of misunderstandings, Boone goes on the run and discovers the real location of Midian, very much on Earth and taking the form of a desolate cemetery. What he finds confirms his fears. After a run-in with two grotesque creatures who wish to kill him because “he’s not Nightbreed, he’s natural,” Boone’s life is turned upside down as he is shot and killed by police officers outside of the cemetery. But death is only the beginning.

Part serial killer flick and part gothic wonderland, the film is fantastical in a grim world all too real. What gives the work its backbone is the way it deals with such matters as reincarnation and religious persecution and segregation. Self-described as “the last survivors of the great tribes,” those of the Nightbreed are a group of outcasts who were tortured and murdered for their beliefs. Now they exist with supernatural powers underneath the Midian cemetery, working toward the formation of a new Christ-like figure.

“We’re shape-shifters, freaks,” one character explains, “remains of races that your tribe have almost driven to extinction.” Some can be murdered by bullets, while others perish via fire or intense sunlight; the Nightbreed are Earth’s victims. It’s no secret that Barker is sympathetic of those who have been bullied—the male humans in this film are either gun-toting law officials or knife-wielding masked madmen—and by the film’s conclusion, the perception of our own kind changes greatly. Thanks to the film’s tremendous makeup and special effects work, the Nightbreed are horrific but not without an odd sense of humanity (they share an appreciation for corny one-liners and chain-smoking).

With a plethora of characters and storylines demanding more screen time—Decker’s motivations and the third act inclusion of a priest beg for elaboration—the Cabal Cut is sure to expand on the universe already beloved by its passionate fanbase. Can there ever be too much of a good thing? We doubt it.

Night Breed
Director: Clive Barker

Screens: November 2 at 6:00pm

Scary Movies 7 Official Description:

To serious fans, Nightbreed already holds a top spot in the fantasy-horror film canon (as does Cabal, the Clive Barker novella from which it was adapted, in the genre’s book canon). So to be given the opportunity to see an expanded version of the film—which incorporates an additional 42 minutes of recently recovered footage—is just the icing on the cake. And it’s delicious icing indeed. The new, richer cut presents the film as Barker originally envisioned it—with more of the subterranean world of Midian and its misunderstood mutant inhabitants, more Boone (Craig Sheffer), who is mysteriously tied to Midian through his dreams, more Lori (Ann Bobby), the girlfriend more loyal than any man deserves, more Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg), Boone’s no-good shrink, and, most frightening of all, more Buttonface, the serial killer hiding behind a spine-chilling mask. Whether it’s your first or 100th viewing, the Cabal Cut is the ideal way to experience the magic that is Nightbreed.

Please note: The additional footage is presented in VHS quality, which can be a bit jarring at first. You will adjust. At least this way there’ll be no confusion as to which scenes are "new." Restoration Director: Russell Cherrington (2012)

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