Thursday, October 23, 2014

NIGHTBREED (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - A Tale of Two Discs (and Three)

Let’s run down the time line here. Cliver Barker’s Cabal. Nightbreed theatrical. Nightbreed VHS. Nightbreed DVD. Cabal Cut – Nightbreed all mashed up with new scenes (some less than stellar quality)… and then movement. The movement to have Nightbreed released as the Cabal Cut with all the extra bits and pieces… OCCUPY MIDIAN. That’s the story leading up to the Scream Factory releases, both the two disc set featuring the Director’s Cut and the three disc set featuring the Director’s Cut AND the theatrical cut. Before we continue into Nightbreed circa 2014, be clear that what we will be discussing is not the Cabal Cut. That has not been officially released. It is simply the inspiration that gave rise to have Clive Barker’s Nightbreed created anew using all the footage possible (all the good looking footage anyway). This is not a slight toward the fans, but a tribute to their efforts and mania. This is as much Clive Barker’s Nightbreed as it is YOUR Nightbreed. It’s okay to take some ownership of it when a fan rally can lead to a prestigious release. It’s definitely had a few bumps along the way, and I think it’s fitting to discuss its most recent journey. Before we delve into the release itself and what you get when you buy the Director’s Cut two disc set, we need to understand how it came into being. This is what you waited for and the opportunity Scream Factory helped create by listening to horror fans.

This is the messy part leading up to the release. We want it all out there as well as my thoughts on the preface because this release has a story. A full story. It needs to be on the table, and I assure you it has a happy ending (or it can have a happy ending if you let it).

Scream Factory announced that it was going to release Nightbreed and of course the question arose as to whether or not it would be the Cabal Cut that had been seeing small repertoire runs theatrically. It was announced that it was not the Cabal Cut as the Cabal Cut was filled simply with everything and not necessarily Barker’s vision of the film nor was all of the footage worth keeping in from a quality standpoint. This deterred some fans from jumping on board. Two editions were announced: a two disc set that would feature a host of extras including the Blu-ray featuring the Director’s Cut (not the Cabal Cut) AND the three disc set that would include handsome packaging, extras and both the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut. The three disc set had a higher price point than seemed reasonable to some fans, but licensing costs forced Scream Factory’s hand. This set was to be numbered (5000) and when ordered through Scream Factory’s site would include a collector’s poster. As interest grew, Scream Factory increased the limited editions to 10,000. This burned collectors but gave horror fans hope to actually obtain one of these sets. There had been no sign that the limit could be increased from the rights holder under after the initial limit had been set. The surprise generated a modest amount of controversy. The release of the three disc set shipped early as expected though it billed prior to shipping causing a few issues with premature cancellations. Then Scream Factory accidentally shipped some of the three disc sets to two disc purchasers. They requested these incorrect sets shipped back but offered to pay shipping cost, the purchaser could keep the poster and offered a coupon. Some have refused to send back the sets even though this was an honest mistake for which Scream Factory is trying to make good. So all of that before the release even hit your Blu-ray player!

Sounds like some negative stuff right? I wanted to revisit it because through all that in spite of all this negativity, Scream Factory’s release of Nightbreed is jaw droppingly fun, a better told story than the theatrical version and brilliant in look and sound. It’s a monster movie for monster fans who can appreciate creative story telling, practical effects and sexy monsters from another race pitting themselves against ignorant humanity in all its clumsy desperation and megalomania. The story of Nightbreed reminds me of the battle that was fought on a consumer level to get the movie into our hands in a unique version, not previously in existence. It is battle comprised of people believing that monsters are there to destroy the world you love with every action, when really, they are simply trying to create something of beauty in the world, in their special way which can often come across as scary or different or in this case, comes off as a capitalist cash grab rather than what it really should be: a horror distribution company creating something cool for fans and trying to give everyone all they can within the constraints of a world that is filled with politics and licensing rights and divisiveness. When you watch Nightbreed, take that to heart when judging Scream Factory for what you might perceive are failures. There have been lessons learned here. Growing pains, but most importantly, there has been a genuinely awesome fucking movie brought forth from the land of uncertainty. Nightbreed lives because Scream Factory made decisions, some unpopular, but all instrumental in getting the release to you. I can’t help but wonder if some of the things that created so much of a stir were Scream Factory’s honesty and forthcoming about each issue rather than going radio silent. They don’t seem to hide behind the same corporate vail that your larger distro companies do. They also don’t create vaults to lock up your favorite titles. They also had this title pulled from one of those vaults (consider it a jailbreak). Who among you are unhappy that 10,000 people get to enjoy both the theatrical cut as well as the director’s cut of this movie? What is your motivation behind that unhappiness? Did the value of your Nightbreed three disc set go down below the amount you paid for it? No. It didn’t. Did it go up? Did it have to? Is that what Scream Factory promised you? Did they promise you that you would make an investment in a three disc set and it would increase in value over time? Nope. They gave you three discs full of Nightbreed and extras and a nice package. It was limited because they had a deal with the rights holder that prevented more than 5,000 being made, they go an exception to that and in turn got 5,000 more into production. That means 10,000 fans (like you) get to watch it at the same price as you. They only time that you got it for less was by going to a separate distribution venue (and those venues have it lower for every release not just this one).

So here’s the rub. After all Scream Factory did to get this into your hands, they made a mistake. A shipping error. It happens all the time, but this involved horror fans getting the three disc set in lieu of the two disc set they ordered. This may seem like a nice prize for a fan short on cash to purchase the three disc set, and it might be just that if it involved a larger distributor or a large ecommerce vendor. Scream Factory takes chances on releases all the time. I cannot speak to the economics behind the scenes, but rest assured they don’t sell out of every title on the books. Success of any distro company is a fine margin of error. Risk vs. reward in considering a title. Scream Factory takes a lot of risks for us. We need to respect that. We need to remember that their business model is only as strong as our support for them. They sent out a letter requesting those who received the three disc set to return it, postage paid, offered a voucher for $10 toward a purchase and even let you keep the poster (the poster that could selling for as much or more than the retail price of the three disc set). After thinking this over I think it’s in everyone’s interest that you honor their request and return the three disc set. You’ll get the two disc set you ordered and the limited poster (which you were not supposed to get) plus a voucher. Hell, you can try to sell the poster and buy more horror (or maybe even the three disc set). The argument I’ve seen is that Scream Factory was deceitful by increasing the number of the units and by charging more than their average release. Per my previous statements, this does not hold water. We should be glad that Scream Factory helped more horror fans get a cool release like this. If you want Scream Factory to put out more limited sets, unbury lost gems and unvault the vaulted, you’ll comply with their request. Their success is based on our willingness to help them in this time when they’ve helped us with so many releases especially a seemingly nonexistent one like the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed. It’s good for their business. It’s good for your horror collection. It’s good for horror fans and you may actually end up the winner if you play your cards right.

That’s the politics and the current affairs as important as the release. Now let’s review this and talk about the good that Scream Factory has done for fans with the help of Clive Barker. We will be reviewing the two disc set today.

Do you like monster movies? I’m not talking about Frankenstein or the Wolfman. Universal Monsters are truly iconic characters, but there are other monster out there to enjoy, and sometimes I think we forget that especially around Halloween when we see werewolves and vampires and Frankies all over the place. What about the underdogs and the obscure? The creatures created in the dark recesses of the underground? Midian even. If you like monsters and monster movies than you are going to love Nightbreed. Scream Factory has delivered on a promise of getting this one to you in HD with all the trimmings. Dr. Dekker included (though he may not be the kind of monster you want to see win a battle against the “good monsters”). All the members of Midian in their beautiful practical effect makeup created splendor (and horror). Furthermore you are getting a complete story in the director’s cut. This isn’t some half baked director’s cut where you see some more tit or a they add in five seconds more of a Saw dismemberment scene. This cut helps to explain the story. This cut moves the story forward, and it corrects what the theatrical release didn’t get right. The theatrical cut kept a fully developed cast of characters subservient to studios will rather than that of a talented writer and filmmaker in Clive Barker. The director’s cut frees them and creates a more full story. A story fans can be proud of. If you loved Nightbreed before, you’re going to be scratching your head asking why we didn’t get a sequel sooner. Man does this release prompt the need for a sequel even this many years later.

I watched Nightbreed when it hit VHS in the early 90’s. I would have been ten or eleven years old. I can tell you that I loved the makeup and effects, and the story of Midian reminded me of something out of Lovecraft. A dark underworld where monsters rule the night. Some of the finer points were lost on my younger self, and I haven’t really thought much of the story since then. I vaguely remember reading Cabal shortly thereafter, but I haven’t touched a Barker book since Everworld let me down after adoring The Great and Secret Show, but when I’ve caught snippets of it I’ve watched fondly. I love the look of Dr. Decker through and through. His mask is one of the most frightening in horror history and should be counted among the great killer masks including Voorhees and Myers. It’s been underappreciated over the years even though replicas have been made available and sort of maybe reminds me of the mask used in The Collector. My most recent connection with Midian was listening to the Cradle of Filth album by the same name and trying to see where the nexus might lie with Nightbreed or Cabal. It’s a dark, storyfilled album with some haunting and catchy riffs. Maybe the Nightbreed really do exist.

My experience with Nightbreed this time around was one of awe. It’s as socially relevant as ever though I am keenly aware of its underlying themes and why Barker would have penned a book and created a movie of this type. A hidden race that breaks free into night to survive in the face of humanity’s condemnation and attack… that’s a metaphor right? That’s what Barker does. He creates beautiful, fantastical places for social ideas to exist to allow us to process them in sexy ways or in a violent ways or in a horrific ways or, when it works the best, in all these ways combined. That is the thing of Nightbreed. That is the story and perhaps it is the best reason why it has become more important now than it was upon its initial release.

Remember the reason we didn’t get the Cabal Cut and got a Director’s Cut was because some of the elements in the Cabal Cut either didn’t fit the vision of Clive Barker or they were not in any shape to be included. That being said this is a truly seamless work from start to finish. It all looks beautiful. It’s the way the movie should have been told and would have removed all doubt that this is a horror classic and not simply a horror effects enthusiast’s wet dream. There’s story and substance. The Scream Factory release displays that clearly.

Pay attention to Barker’s story in the introduction to the Director’s Cut. He’ll flesh out the time line and how the new release came to be. Needless to say he is extremely excited for the release and has avidly supported it online. It’s great to see him in the spotlight again after so many years. While I used to love hearing him discuss the original Hellraiser and Hellbound Heart, I feel like he received so much press for Hellraiser and for the later day failures of that franchise that good movies like Nightbreed have been eclipsed. Not necessarily by the horror nerds who know good horror, but by a larger public that knows who Pinhead is but couldn’t tell who the guy with button eyes and zipper mouth mask is. I hope Barker’s health improves, and maybe we’ll see more from him in the near future. I sure hope he hits the convention circuit as previously planned. He will KNOW that we love him.

This is a new transfer in HD and contains over 40 minutes of new footage. It changes the story. It makes the story a story rather than what a studio would want you to BELIEVE is the story. It’s mastered from the camera negative. As stated before the release comes with an important introduction by Barker himself, but the disc also include audio commentary with restoration producer Mark Allan Miller. There are new interviews with actors Craigh Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley, Hugh Ross, Simon Bamford and Christine McCorkindale, special effects make up effects artist Paul jones and action unit director Andy Armstrong. Then of course there’s a theatrical trailer which is normally just a throw in extra but seems to have more relevance now that we are not watching the theatrical cut of the movie. I wonder what a Director’s Cut trailer might look like. Mark Allan Miller could produce it and Clive Barker could intro a new trailer as well. The two disc set comes with a DVD (Anamorphic WS 1.78:1/Dolby Digital 5.1) and Blu-ray (1080p HD 1.78:1 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1). This disc features both newly commissioned cover art that truly celebrates the monsters in this movie as well as the traditional box cover art featured on the previous VHS/DVD releases of the movie.

I do own the three disc set with the theatrical cut and the extras (and purchased it at full price from Scream Factory direct). What I will say about that release is that it contains the version you’ve seen before in the theatre. The poster is great and will be highly collectible. The packaging on the release is sturdy and not that flimsy Omen box set cover we’ve seen on other boxed sets (less worthy editions to be sure and certainly not of Scream Factory origin). It contains an astounding amount of extras, but I haven’t had the chance to review it all of the three disc set formally (October is the busy season after all). If you love Nightbreed, you should own the three disc set. If you like monster movies, and think Nightbreed is a damn good one… go for the two disc option. Fans of the movie will like either, but purists will want the three disc set.

What did Scream Factory do when they gave us this release of Nightbreed? They opened up Midian. They let the monsters into our world and created a new age of fantasy in beautiful HD with all the dark fantastical death rattles and guttural growls. You don’t simply watch Scream Factory’s release of Nightbreed. You step into Midian.

You can order both versions of Nightbreed now available October 28th.

Two disc set

Bonus Features

New "Director's Cut" presentation of the film which contains over 40 minutes of new and altered footage
Introduction by writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller
Audio Commentary by writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller
Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed featuring interviews with Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley and more… (72 min.)
Making Monsters - interviews with makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Martin Mercer and Paul Jones (42 min.)
Fire! Fights! Stunts! 2nd Unit Shooting - an interview with Andy Armstrong (20 min.)
Original Theatrical Trailer

Three disc set. (available while supplies last)

Bonus Features


New "Director's Cut" presentation of the film which contains over 40 minutes of new and altered footage
Introduction by writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller
Audio Commentary by writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller
Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed featuring interviews with Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley and more… (72 min.)
Making Monsters - interviews with makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Martin Mercer and Paul Jones (42 min.)
Fire! Fights! Stunts! 2nd Unit Shooting - an interview with Andy Armstrong (20 min.)
Original Theatrical Trailer

--- DISC 2: BONUS DISC ---

Deleted and Alternate Scenes (approx. 20 min.)
Monster Prosthetics Master Class
Cutting Compromise – an interview with editor Mark Goldblatt
The Painted Landscape: The Concept Art of Ralph McQuarrie
Matte Painting Tests
Makeup Tests
Stop Motion Lost Footage
Extended Torture Scene
Rehearsal of Boone's dream
Extensive Still Galleries – Early Sketches, Deleted Scene, Posters and Pre-Production art, On the Set, The Cast and Crew


New transfer from the inter-positive

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Boone (Craig Sheffer) may be a troubled young man, but his troubles are just beginning. Set up as the fall guy in a string of slasher murders, he decides he'll hide by crossing the threshold that separates “us” from “them” and sneak into the forbidden subterranean realm of Midian. Boone will live among the monsters.

Hellraiser creator Clive Barker writes (adapting his novel Cabal) and directs this vivid leap into horror that asks: in the battle of man vs. monster, who's really the monster? The answer supplies flesh-crawling suspense, sudden fear, a colorful Danny Elfman score and a creepy array of shape-shifting beings. They are the Nightbreed: denizens of a world beyond death, beyond the imagination, perhaps beyond anything you've seen.

1 comment:

  1. Man, now I can't wait to get my copy. Your review has me excited, not only for the new cut of the film, but the extras as well.