When Clive Barker’s Nightbreed was released in February of 1990, I was but a wee lad of 14 years. To say I was “innocent” would be to spin the truth into an epic sci-fi tale; well, “epic” would also be stretching things a bit. Let’s just say I knew more than your average adolescent – both in film and *ahem* adult entertainment. But we’ll just stick to film for the time being. I was a fan of the Hellraiser series – which had already cemented Mr. Barker’s reputation as a master storyteller in my mind – and was ready and willing to dole out all of my saved lunch money for anything further he was to release. But I dropped the ball. I learned of his film Nightbreed through Marvel’s Epic Comics mini-series, but was too late to experience the film in theaters; in 1990, the immense selection of art-house theaters and chain-theaters weren’t amassed in the numbers they are today (kids don’t know how good they have it). To add insult to injury for my mishap, the issues of the Nightbreed comic weren’t monthly and were delayed several times, including the final issue. Additionally, films on VHS weren’t released as quickly as Blu-rays and DVDs are today; and with no Amazon or VOD access, I was essentially, to put it succinctly, shit out of luck. So I waited; and waited; and waited….until, THE GODS FINALLY ANSWERED MY PRAYERS, and Nightbreed was released on VHS for my little eyeballs to view. It was everything I could have hoped for: creepy, highly creative, perfectly shot, and perfectly told. When it was over, I wanted a 2-hour prologue to continue the story. Hell, I wanted Clive to make it a series like Hellraiser. But all we got was one film; and that one film was glorious to me. Right up there with the best horror films Hollywood had to offer; and certainly on my personal list of Best Films of All Time.
Fast-forward to just a few weeks ago, I was listening to Chris Hardwick’s two-part Nerdist podcast with Clive from last year (the first of which was from the year prior). In it, they discussed Nightbreed’s director’s cut that would be coming out (released last October) on Blu-ray. So, like any self-respecting fan, I took a sick-day and drove on over to my local Fry’s to swoop me up a copy. Actually, this is what I should have done. Instead, however, I stayed the course and clocked in to work like the good little government employee I am. Knowing that, out there, in the vast wilderness of suburbia, was a copy of Clive’s complete vision of Nightbreed awaiting my grubby little fingers to behold, waaaas torture. To say my day was “long” would be a gross understatement; it felt like time slowed to a glacial pace. It would be like describing Fred Krueger’s burns as merely a flesh wound; like glancing upon Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and uttering, “Meh….I can do better.” It would be like……never mind, I’m sure you get the point of my First World struggle that day. But, after many hours of pretending to work (ha ha, only kidding *glances around for prying eyes*), the Earth finally rotated, and night embraced what the day had so greedily taken her sweet time hoarding. Without a second further to waste, I was in my motorized carriage and en route to Fry’s – for really-reals this time. Once I was on location, I crossed my fingers and perused. And there it was, waiting for me, as if it were a gift from the Greek Gods of Mount Olympus. Feeling like Perseus in Clash of the Titans I picked it up and held it within my hobbit hands. A wave of nolstagia transported me back to that day, many moons ago, when I similarly held my rented VHS copy. I couldn’t wait to pop it into my Blu-ray player and experience the film the way Clive had intended. But it was a school night, and the hour was already growing late. If I watched it, the little sleep I usually got would be diminished by that much more. So I made an executive decision…..and said “Screw sleep. Let’s do this, Gina.”
This new version really does feel more complete. The 40-minutes that Clive and company have painstakingly located and edited into the original film gives the story a more robust feel that was oddly missing before. Not that the film wasn’t brilliant before (it was). It just felt a bit lacking in some areas, as if what I was watching was a condensed version of the story; and, after seeing the additional footage, my initial thoughts back in 1990 seem to have been correct. We also get a whole new ending which, compared to the theatrical release’s original, is waaaay better. When I first saw the film 25-yeas ago, I just figured the weird – kind of disconnected – ending was just that: weird. Having watched all of Clive’s other films, it didn’t seem like studio-meddling to me; but I was also an inexperienced adolescent who knew not of the meddling ways of Hollywood. Having learned a thing or two since then, and after watching this newer version with my 39-year old – much wiser – eyes, the ending’s disjointedness is quite apparent. But, with all that being said, the film remains a damn-fine piece of storytelling. Additional footage or not, it’s still one of my favorites. The fact that Clive was able to track down the scenes he needed to complete his vision is a pretty awesome feat, even in today’s 21st century, technologically superior era. It’s not every day that an artist is afforded this opportunity. Conversely, there are also some stories which should never be touched, retouched, reedited, finagled with, or, quite simply, messed with; even if the “finagling” comes from the artists themselves. I’m looking at you, George.