“In 1989 Clive Barker created his second feature film Nightbreed from his novel ”Cabal”. During post production the studio ordered reshoots to change the emphasis of the film from Clive Barker's Nightbreed to a film they thought would play better to the masses”. - Sand Production Films
Clive Barker has spoken about the film and the original cut for years. I found myself very fond of the original cut of Nightbreed when I discovered it on video. I was enthralled with Barker’s world where the creatures of the night were beautiful and man truly was monstrous. I watched the film, bought the soundtrack, and even scribbled sketches of of Decker and Peloquin in my high school notebook. When it came out on DVD I hesitated buying it. I had heard of scenes missing and the aforementioned ordeal that Barker had with the studio, Morgan Creek. In my support of Barker and the film, I decided to hold off until a proper cut was released.
In the years that passed I checked in with the Breed from time to time. Still an incredible movie and David Cronenberg is as creepy as ever. With the more recent news of a Director’s Cut making the convention circuit, my interest in the Nightbreed returned. Director’s Cuts are always appealing to me. More often than not they are a way to sell people the same old movie again but with a new scene or a character reinserted. With a little research, I learned that Barker was spearheading this effort and the studio and no interest in it. Thankfully, Cinemas like The New Beverly in Hollywood screen films like NightbreedThe Cabal Cut.
There was some stipulation laid about before the film ran. The footage was complied from dailies and VHS copies. They were run through Final Cut, but their quality would be that of an “adult film” copied five times over. A consideration would have to be made. The story would be all that mattered and, with Barker’s original script to go from, his vision was about to be played before us all.
The Cabal Cut opens exactly the same way as the original. The residents of Median run through the field to their salvation and home. In the original film this moment cuts to Boone (Craig Sheffer) awakening as if from dream. The faces we witnessed come into play later as does Boone’s dream. Here in The Cabal Cut we aren’t in bed with Boone. No, we see Boone at work as a welder as he meets up with his lovely girlfriend, Lori (Anne Bobby). Their relationship is flushed out very quickly and as she’ll later tell Decker (Cronenberg), that she and Boone were lovers. Without Boone’s initial dream of Median and its inhabitants his connection to them (story wise) is lost.
The overall structure of the film remains the same. However, Boone is now searching for a refuge and he believes Median is it. Boone meets up with Narcisse (Hugh Ross) and before we know it we’re back on track to Median. Without having Boone be a part of the Breed, at least in his mind, Peloquin’s (Oliver Parker) bite takes on a new meaning. He makes Boone a part of the “family” whereas before he was only a “natural”. Again that thread of the messiah returns but in this version it feels forced as if the residents of Median are grasping at straws. Previously, it felt like the natural order.
Without a doubt the most iconic character to emerge from Nightbreed is Cronenberg’s Decker. His origin is never fully established nor does it have to be. His mission is simple, to exterminate the Breed. He is “death, plain and simple” to over-complicate that ruins the character. That is exactly what The Cabal Cut does, over-complicates the character. Now, we see that Decker talks to his mask and it talks aback to him with Decker’s own voice; a Jekyll and Hyde situation complete with Decker even blaming the mask at one point. This deflates the character completely as well as his sadistic manipulative plan.
The ending of The Cabal Cut supplies us with several significant changes to the original film. Characters that survived the 1990 cut are now dead. Others find different endings and the establishment of “the bite” continues. In one respect, the film ends like a dark fairy tale for adults. Resolution and hope are coming. We (the characters) just have to hold on a little bit longer. It isn’t the death or life of characters that ruin the film’s ending. It is the horror/ romance novel resolution between Boone and Lori. It plays more like a Twilight novel/ movie than the brilliant horror film we came to love and admire.
The Cabal Cut is Barker’s original intention for the story he set out to tell. Hence the term “Director’s Cut”. Personally, I’ll take the original film unaltered where dead men can be heroes and monsters, beautiful... where the only place of refuge is the most forbidden place on Earth, Median, home of the Nightbreed.
*Critics note to all the fans of Nightbreed: I do recommend seeing The Cabal Cut if it is playing anywhere near you. If anything, it highlights the brilliant editing skills of Mark Goldblatt and Richard Marden. It states that more of something is not essentially a good thing. Now, it’s time for this fan to pick up the original film on DVD.
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