Nightbreed: Clive Barker’s Cult Monster Mash

Clive Barker – horror novelist, screenwriter, director and producer. Though horror fans haven’t afforded him Stephen King’s level of fame, Barker is no less a prominent figure in horror. Arguably, most horror fans know Barker best for his classic horror movie, Hellraiser. A classic of 1980’s horror, Hellraiser has continued to churn out straight-to-video sequels far removed from Barker’s original vision. However, die-hard horror fans would also likely cite Barker’s 1990 Nightbreed among their favourites. Based on his 1988 novel, Cabal, Nightbreed was a wildly imaginative monster movie. Sadly, audiences and critics alike dismissed Nightbreed.

Nightbreed A Visual Spectacle With Mythology To Spare

In spite of its R-rating, Nightbreed feels like what a Universal Monsters universe could be with the right direction. Anyone who’s read his work knows that Clive Barker writes mythologically rich narratives. For monster fans, Nightbreed is a similarly vivid tapestry of ghoulish characters. Midian is the a complex, living world. Barker’s mythology – the characters, rules, and symbolism – are mesmerizing. Even if the movie’s narrative is somewhat flawed, you can’t help but be invested in Midian. Outsides of television series, you rarely see this kind of world-building in standalone movies. It’s the kind of world that horror fans would want to spend more time. If there’s a horror movie that could sustain its own television series, it’s Nightbreed.

‘The Director’s Cut’ Offers a Distinct Viewing Experience

Contrary to fanboys’ belief, director’s or producer’s cuts don’t often make much of a difference. Look no further than The Producer’s Cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers for proof. In most cases, additional footage amounts to little more than an increased runtime. Sometimes 15 more minutes add to a bad movie just means a longer bad movie. But Nightbreed’s history is quite unique. Morgan Creek Productions infamously chopped and poorly marketed Barker’s movie. In 2014, Scream Factory released a Director’s Cut assembled from cut footage previously believed to be lost. Barker’s Nightbreed ‘Cut’ adds approximately 20 minutes of footage. And unlike other ‘Director’s Cuts’, Scream Factory’s release not only fleshes out much of Barker’s world, but also makes some significant alterations.

It’s a truly different viewing experience.

Overall, Barker’s ‘Director’s Cut’ doesn’t significantly change Nightbreed’s story. In fact, much of the early additional footage introduced doesn’t feel all together different from most alternate cuts. What you largely get are previously unseen moments that ‘flesh out’ some characters. However, the restored footage does give audiences more of Midian’s monsters. If anything, the ‘Director’s Cut’ re-affirms that Nightbreed is indeed a monster movie. Where The Director’s Cut really diverges from the theatrical version is the movie’s final act. Nightbreed’s ‘restored’ ending makes significant changes. It’s a truly different viewing experience. Not all the changes are an improvement. For example, Decker’s new character arc is disappointing. Nonetheless, ‘The Director’s Cut’ ultimately feels like a more complete movie experience.

Nightbreed Flawed By Storytelling Problems Regardless of Version

Regardless of which version you watch, Nightbreed is still a flawed movie. Barker is a great writer but, as a director, he’s limited. First, Nightbreed has pacing problems, even in its theatrical version. The movie is always more interesting when it’s in Midian, as compared to … David Cronenberg’s ‘Decker’ is a visually arresting villain, but his motivations rarely make sense. And Cronenberg is a legendary director, but acting isn’t really his thing. Even The Directors’ Cut fails to clearly establish what feel like important story points. The ‘drunk priest’s’ role, or instance, is disjointed in both versions.

Nightbreed a Cult Classic Deserving of More Story

Some movies become cult classics for a reason. In Nightbreed, Clive Barker crafted a fully realized world of sympathetic monsters that you’ll rarely find today on the big screen. Warts and all, Nightbreed stood as one of the 1990’s better horror movies. Barker’s ‘Director’s Cut’ just confirmed the rich story potential of Midian and its monsters. A television series, with an opportunity for an ongoing narrative, may be the best thing for Barker’s fantasy world.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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