2014 has been an eventful time for Scream Factory but Nightbreed: Director’s Cut is their most prestigious release of the year. It’s not just a special edition reissue, it’s a full-on reconstructed director’s cut that incorporates the direct participation of writer/director Clive Barker himself (the logo for his company Seraphim Films appears in the opening screens of this new edition).
This director’s cut blu-ray/DVD dual edition contains the newly-minted director’s cut (there is also a 3-disc edition that includes a blu-ray of the theatrical cut). Fans will be happy to hear that this cut, which incorporates over 40 minutes of previously unseen footage, looks fantastic. The muted yet deep color scheme comes through nicely, detail is impressive and the blending of old and new footage is seamless. Those who watched the “Cabal Cut” will be impressed how good the newer footage looks here, particularly on the blu-ray.
A 5.1 stereo mix accompanies this transfer, in DTS form on the blu-ray, and it’s an appropriately dense and active mix, particularly during the finale. It sounds great, especially in how it uses Danny Elfman’s bombastic musical score.
Scream Factory fleshes out this presentation with plentiful extras. The first inclusion is a commentary track that pairs Barker with Mark Miller, who played the key role in restoring Nightbreed to its current incarnation. The combination of these two ensure that the track has a warm, celebratory vibe to it: Barker frequently oohs and aahs over the restored footage and his luck in being able to put it all back together.
However, Barker also addresses the heartache of the theatrical cut, including a frank assessment of how the studio soured on the film and what it was like having to participate in the re-editing/re-shooting of his own work. Miller provides context by pointing out the restored scenes and getting Barker to discuss their importance to the storyline. Fans are likely to enjoy this informative and jubilant track.
It’s also worth noting that the Barker/Miller duo provide an intro for the film itself: they give a thumbnail sketch of how the film was resurrected while also expressing gratitude to the fanbase that cheered them on.
Next up are a trio of retrospective featurettes. The first is “Tribes Of The Moon,” an epic 72-minute piece that explores the creation of Nightbreed from the perspective of several key cast members. Leads Craig Sheffer and Anne Bobby are prominently featured as well as Doug Bradley, Hugh Ross, Simon Bamford and Christine McCorkindale. Everyone involved looks back at the film with a complexity of emotion, enthusing about the work yet recalling troubled feelings over how the studio mishandled it.
This piece smartly uses its length to give the viewer a lot of specific detail that a smaller featurette couldn’t cover. For instance, Bradley and Bamford have known Barker for decades and are able to provide some interesting information about his years as a playwright and theater director. Each actor also gets to talk about the challenges unique to their role – McCorkindale had to undergo intense physical training while Bamford had to develop physical language for a mostly non-verbal role – and all of them commiserate about the challenges of dealing with their elaborate makeups. Sheffer and Bobby show a nice appreciation for their director’s work, with Bobby providing a rush of memories at the close that makes a nice capper for the piece.
“Making Monsters” comes next and it focuses on the massive amount of special effects makeup used in Nightbreed. Design honcho Bob Keen is the key interview subject here and his memories are supported nicely by former assistants Martin Mercer and Paul Jones. They provide a lot of wonderful insights into the makeup process: Barker did the initial sketches for them, they had histories for each character they designed and they replaced the usual sculpting process that starts the process by experimenting with construction first and using the knowledge gained from those experiments to sculpt. Keen speaks with great frankness over the hurt caused to him and his team by the way the studio rejected the film’s monster angle but takes comfort in the film’s reconstruction.
“Fire! Fights! Stunts!” is a 22-minute chat with second unit director Andy Anderson. He discusses how he worked with Barker to create an approach to action that both filming units shared, providing lots of details on how specific sequences were done (the “truck crash” explanation is a highlight). He praises Barker’s visual storytelling skills as well as cinemtographer Robin Vidgeon and makes a nice case for Nightbreed being the last of a breed of films where elaborate effects and action were done using an in-camera approach.
The theatrical trailer closes the extras package and provides an interesting insight into how poor the original marketing for Nightbreed was. This brief spot pitches the film like a generic shocker, radically downplaying the role of monsters to make it look like more a slasher film.
All in all, Scream Factory has assembled an impressive package for this reconstruction effort, pairing an impressive transfer with highly detailed extras that Barker’s fanbase will appreciate. The results were take their place in the company’s history as some of their finest work.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Nightbreed: Director’s Cut, click here.