AVAILABLE ON REGION ‘A’ BLU-RAY?: supposedly SOLD OUT from www.therealclivebarker.com, but see at the bottom of this review, it’s a strange situation!
RUNNING TIME: 145 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Aaron Boone dreams of Midian, a city beneath a cemetery where monsters live and are accepted. At the request of girlfriend Lori, Boone is seeing psychotherapist Dr. Phillip K. Decker, who convinces Boone that he murdered six families, acts that Decker, a serial killer, actually did himself and he’s trying to frame Boone for them. Struck by a truck whilst under LSD given to him by Decker and taken to a hospital, Boone meets Narcisse, who seeks to enter Midian and tears off his own face. Escaping, he finds his way to Midian and encounters two of the ‘Nightbreed’, one of whom bites him. Boone flees and runs straight into a squad of policemen who gun him down….
To me, it only seems like a few months ago, rather than three years ago, when I watched and reviewed the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed on Blu-ray. Rather than repeat myself throughout, this review here of the Cabal Cut of the film will be primarily concerned with examining this fabled version and comparing it to the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut. Despite its awkwardness in places and obvious storytelling flaws, I’m a big fan of Nightbreed [a film which for the life of me I can’t understood why it isn’t more popular at least amongst horror fans] even in its Theatrical Cut, and you can read my extensive thoughts on Clive Barker’s crazy monsters vs. serial killer flick which also happens to be a very personal hymn to the outcasts and the misunderstood immediately below.
The one thing I probably ought to quickly recap for readers who aren’t familiar with what I’m reviewing here and who don’t have the time to make their way through the very lengthy write-up above, is what this Cabal Cut is and how it most certainly isn’t the Director’s Cut. It’s basically something quite close to – though not identical to – the original rough cut of Nightbreed before the distributors begun to exert more and more control over the movie, demanding extensive reshoots and cuts. The final act was changed dramatically and the role of serial killer Phillip K. Decker expanded, resulting in original editor Richard Marden angrily leaving the project. In 2009, most of the cut and altered material was found, and a version called the Cabal Cut running 145 minutes which toured festivals was pieced together which combined the theatrical version with all this newly discovered stuff, though the extra footage looked very poor. In 2014, producer Mark Alan Miller and Barker put together the 120 minute Director’s Cut which was 21 minutes longer than the theatrical version. It contained some – though certainly not all – of the extra Cabal Cut footage, lots of alternate versions of existing scenes, different audio in places including actor Dirk Lylesberg re-dubbing himself, and lost some footage from the Theatrical Cut. Barker and Miller promised an “entirely different movie” which it honestly isn’t, causing myself to be slightly let down by it, though it is better, the extra material in the first act significantly improving the rushed pacing of the first act and the new events towards the end now making more sense. The oddest thing is that Barker opted for the added Decker material to remain despite it having been added at the behest of the studio.
While a little bit of the Cabal Cut material that wasn’t put back into the Director’s Cut was shown on the Scream Factory Blu-ray as deleted scenes, some fans were disappointed that certain moments, such as Decker talking to his mask, remained not in the movie. And so now we have the Cabal Cut in a [very] limited edition Blu-ray, containing nearly everything except for that Nightbreed sex scene seen on the earlier Blu-ray and of course those reshoots. One important difference that people who were lucky enough to see the Cabal Cut before will no doubt notice right away is that far more of the footage is now of good quality. This is because they were the bits that were added for the Director’s Cut and therefore remastered, though sometimes they don’t contain the new re-mixed audio that was created for them which results in some of them having poor quality sound and you may need to turn the sound up on your TV. But visually, all that new material featuring Boone and Lori, including Lori performing that song, is present and looks just fine. And of course the moments from the Theatrical Cut not used in the Director’s Cut that don’t alter the story back to the way it was in the Theatrical Cut are back in, such as Boone and the priest Ashberry in the cell, those silly one-liners from the cops, and a couple of weak special effects shots. I should probably also mention that the Theatrical Cut scenes that were slightly re-edited for the Director’s Cut are in their original form.
Now as for the totally new stuff. What we have here is a situation quite similar to that of the Superman Extended Edition which I reviewed a few weeks ago. That version of Richard Donner’s wonderful movie, basically a rough cut from which edits were always planned to be made which ended up being shown on American TV a few times, was great to have for me personally as I’m such a fan of that film. But aside from four brief scenes which brought in two deleted subplots, pretty much all the new material was scene extensions, sometimes notable [i.e. the destruction of Krypton], but quite often not, usually just amounting to a few extra shots here, a few lines of dialogue there, so much so that even someone like who thinks he knows the film by heart probably missed some of the additions, and overall the movie was still much the same, just a little slower. And it’s much the same with the Cabal Cut of Nightbreed, with the obvious difference that much of the new footage can’t help but stick out because of its terrible quality. However, if it all looked the same, I honestly doubt I would have noticed every single addition [though granted, I haven’t seen Nightbreed anywhere near as many times as Superman]. It’s nearly all scene extensions, some of them quite long, but the overall film isn’t altered much at all, at least from the Director’s Cut.
A good example is early on in the first Decker and Boone scene. In the middle of it, Boone almost breaks down and Decker hugs him, so the picture and sound suddenly go bad for a bit and then revert to type. The latter happens very often, so anyone expecting a smooth watch will be in for a shock. However, it’s fascinating to see all these extra little bits throughout, and they’ve manage to lengthen or repeat score cues to lay over some of the added material without it jarring unless you know Danny Elfman’s terrific score back to front. As with Superman, none of these bits are essential and in some cases one can see why they were cut, but they’re good to see and a few scenes do benefit from being longer, notably when Lori accepts Boone for who he is, which has a great more passionate kissing and in my opinion is all the better for it. I think this version of the scene should have been in the Director’s Cut, but then again they probably didn’t want a version that was almost two and a half hours long. The only addition to the story provided by al these extra bits and pieces is the stronger emphasis on the relationship between Lori and the shapeshifter child Babette, the two sharing a psychic link which suggests that Lori could become like her. But do we need to see an extra minute or two of Lori carrying Babette around in her dog-like form? Probably not.
So overall the Cabal Cut is probably essential to have for fans, though I can’t imagine many people watching it very often and like Superman is probably most of all an interesting showcase in how films can be edited down. Of course in Nightbreed‘s case it was definitely weakened [though not as much as some say] for its Theatrical Cut, and now we should probably now consider the Director’s Cut as the “true” version of the film, yet that omits a lot of Cabal Cut material and uses the cut down versions of many scenes. I guess my preferred version would be somewhere between the Cabal Cut and the Director’s Cut – I love those two little ‘Decker talking to mask’ scenes damn it – though it will definitely still be the Director’s Cut that I will most often return to in future when I want to watch the film. But it really is fantastic that this has finally been released after so many years of trying. And we do seem to be living in interesting times, when early cuts of films can get released in this manner and people will buy them. You never know, we may now get to see – for example – the original cut of Batman Forever one day.
The situation with the Blu-ray release of this is bizarre. Seraphim Films initially said that they were only producing 250 Blu-rays, 200 of them being deluxe editions containing lots of extra goodies for which even I wasn’t willing to pay $250 for, and 50 of them being a more standard release containing just two audio commentaries. However, soon after all these discs sold out, some extra copies of the standard version appeared on www.therealclivebarker.com and I was able to snag one before they were all sold out. It now seems that Seraphim actually produced 1000 discs, but Morgan Creek the film’s official distributors weren’t too happy and some wrangling has occurred until yesterday when they gave Seraphim the go ahead to sell the rest. These will be up for sale on Monday, so if you want to get this, you better get in quick!