Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut is currently available on instant Netflix
Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut (1990) – Unrated
“Believing that he’s a serial killer, a troubled young man is drawn to an old cemetery where a variety of monsters are hiding from humanity.”
I loved Clive Barker’s short story anthologies, The Books of Blood. They were a breath of fresh, if nasty, air when they came out. Many authors, including Stephen King, had done horror short stories but Barker’s were quite different. They had an edge to them. He also had an idea that the humans were monsters and the monsters, human. This idea is pretty commonplace today but was not back in the 80s.
In 1987, Barker was able to parlay his success as an author into directing an adaptation of his work, The Hellbound Heart, into the movie Hellraiser. This was a wonderful work of sexual horror and appetite. Unfortunately it succeeded too well and people don’t remember the creepy sexual horror so much as the wonderful cenobite supporting characters. This led to a decent but inferior sequel and a vast number of really bad sequels.
In 1990, Barker gave us Nightbreed from his story Cabal. Unfortunately the studio severely compromised his vision, trying to make Nightbreed fit into a standard horror mold, stripping away the complex mythology Barker had built. Barker had filmed his vision but the parts had been lost for decades.
Finally, some incredible fans of Barker’s work were able to recover the missing elements and restore them so that now Barker’s original vision can be seen. Unfortunately for Barker, the times have moved on and what was once novel about Nightbreed is now fairly commonplace. His idea of a community of monsters has been filmed ad nauseum in the intervening decades, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to the Twilight series to Interview with a Vampire to the Underworld series and on and on.
All of this makes the director’s cut of Nightbreed more of a historical oddity than the classic it deserved to be. Still the director’s cut is significantly different from the studio version and is well worth watching. Some of the elements are a bit rough due to budgetary constraints and the condition of the missing footage. Today, Nightbreed would have been adapted as a series and it does beg for more.
This was such a specialty item that I didn’t think that Netflix would get it so I had it on pre-order from Amazon and received it only a week or two before it showed up on Netflix. Barker was so disgusted with the Hollywood system that he only attempted one more movie, Lord of Illusions (1995) before giving up entirely. His story, The Forbidden, was adapted by Bernard Rose into the move, Candyman (1992) and, of course, both Candyman and Hellraiser became cash cows, churning out sequels.
Candyman and Hellraiser are Barker’s two best films (skip the sequels) but the director’s cut of Nightbreed is a close third and well worth a watch on several levels. Yes, that is horror director David Cronenberg as Dr. Decker.