Clive Barker. Clive Motherfucking Barker. The man is an underappreciated genius. And like many geniuses, he doesn’t get the credit/respect he so richly deserves. For the most part, Barker is regarded as a Horror-Guy, but any close analysis of his work shows his stories are just as rich in fantasy. Several of his stories have been adapted into film with somewhat mixed results (Transmutations and Rawhead Rex being examples of things not working out so great). The Barker directed Hellraiser was a shining example of the brilliance he could churn out if given sufficient creative freedom. After finishing the novella Cabal, Barker realized it would make a good film, originally envisioning a trilogy of films which had the makings of being the Star Wars of Horror films. This was to be Barkers crowning a achievment in film… Then the studio (Morgan Creek) decided to fuck with things.
Anyone who has seen Nightbreed can tell you the film they saw was a unfocused, confused mess with a confusing narrative, and poorly defined motivations for the characters. The film has many incredible ideas and plots that seem to go nowhere. We see a fantastical mythology hinted at, a world full of monsters glimpsed, a poorly executed love story, and a slasher plot all crammed together amidst the core story which somehow got lost in the editing. When Barker saw the initial marketing push for the film, he was aghast to see that his film was being marketed as a Slasher film and the supernatural elements were all but ignored. According to Barker, the head of marketing for Morgan Creek never watched the finished film, saying that it “disgusted and distressed” him. Night breed was a film that was neither understood nor wanted by the studio. The original version ran 2 and a half hours…but after the final bit of studio butchering, clocked in at 102 minutes.
There is a happy ending though. For years, a bootleg directors cut had been rumored to exist, and even traded amongst diehard fans. After many years, this version was finally released, dubbed the Cabal Cut. Upon viewing this “complete” version of the film, we finally have clarity. Suddenly the relationship between Lori and Boone takes on a new light, Davis Cronenberg’s portrayal of Decker shows clearer motivation and makes his flat portrayal all the more chilling, and the ending is much different. Now the film has a clear direction with potential for the planned sequels. Aside from a far more detailed look into the fantasitcal underground city of Midian, and its denizens, the most significant change from the original release is that the Night breed themselves are portrayed in a far more sympathetic light. The original intent was to depict humanity as the true monster in the film, however that concept did not sit well with the producers, so additional footage was shot to portray the Nightbreed as more aggressive and more threatening, and expanding the role of a masked serial killer to fill the need to have a “villain” to satisfy their need to fit in to the mold. Nightbreed cannot fit into any mold. As you can tell, I’m trying very hard to avoid spoilers. I want EVERYONE to see the Cabal cut of Nightbreed. Do not deprive yourself of the chance to finally return to Midian, to where the monsters live.