Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - NIGHTBREED -The Director's Cut on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scream Factory - NIGHTBREED -The Director's Cut on Blu-ray

NIGHTBREED (1990; Clive Barker)
My relationship with NIGHTBREED goes back to early high school. My best friend at the time and I had started getting into horror pretty heavily if I recall and we'd begun with his brother's copy of EVIL DEAD II followed by my copy of Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD. Somehow or other, I feel like Clive Barker got on my friend's radar. Maybe it was via the HELLRAISER movies or maybe some comic book stuff that Barker did (my friend was a natural artist and we both had an interest in comics at the time). Regardless, it was he who brought NIGHTBREED to my attention. Because I am old and have a faulty memory, I cannot recall if we snuck in to see it when it was in theaters (though I feel like that is a good possibility) or if we rented it on VHS. Thinking back on it now, I may have been kind of overwhelmed by the movie at the time. I'm sure I was floored by the creature design/FX and the mythology Barker was going for, but I feel like maybe it there was too much going on for me to keep track of it all. I remember coming away with a feeling of , "geez that was neat, not sure I'd watch it again", but not in a bad way. If memory serves, I also had had high expectations for it. Obviously this is all pre-internet so anticipation consisted of seeing a trailer some months before and maybe a tv spot or two the week it came out. I feel like it was one of a few movies that I had heard about in advance of it coming out and starting to imagine in my head what in the world it was going to be like. I can't rmember if people actually made comparisons or said it was going to be like "The STAR WARS of horror films", or if I'm just imagining they did. Maybe through Fangoria or some other such magazines, I think I started to get a sense of other horror fans and the horror community in general getting excited about it. That may have been one of the earliest times I became aware of a great horror community at large. Being from a small town in Wisconsin, it was hard for me to get a sense of this sort of thing, especially in the late 80s and early 90s. We mostly saw movies at our local multiplex or occasionally the drive-in, and it was difficult in those situations to size up other horror fans. As far as we could tell they were just other high school kids. I never was very aware of horror or comic book conventions so I never went to them and missed out on connecting with other fans like myself. So anyway, NIGHTBREED was a thing that took some processing for me. It certainly was not what I expected, I can say that much. I think the fact that I had been watching relatively unsophisticated horror films (a lot of gore and slasher films), was part of the reason I was unprepared for the density and mythology of NIGHTBREED. It was just way outside the paradigm of horror I had become accustomed to. I was just in over my head, or so it felt. In my limited horror history, I never realized that most of the stuff I had been watching was pretty juvenile. I was pretty juvenile myself so I guess it made sense at the time. Point is is that I had not gone too far in the direction of trying to seek out challenging movies for myself. NIGHTBREED had a complexity that made me feel like a dumb kid (which may have been a little alienating, I must admit). There were multiple components of evil to it that I had trouble wrapping my head around. There was the more traditional psychopathic killer aspect to the movie and then there were the monsters and Midian (where they lived). At the time I really grappled with my expectations of monsters being evil creatures and these monsters, though they seemed evil at first were really just trying to live their lives undisturbed in what was ostensibly kind of a hippy-commune kind of environment. I think that 16 year old me didn't know what to make of the movie, other than it seemed cool in parts, but genuinely disturbing in others. I had never fully connected with the HELLRAISER films so my sense of Clive Barker was extremely limited to that point. Via this film, he came across to me as a pretty dark dude. I know I wondered how he had come up with this universe in his head. NIGHTBREED was pretty original in a lot of ways at the time and I think that uniqueness helped it stick with me. Another thing that stuck with me was Danny Elfman's score. At that time, I was not really conscious of Elfman, outside of having seen BATMAN in the summer of 1989 and having enjoyed the music quite a bit. I never realized that NIGHTBREED was one of the first features he scored after BATMAN (along with DICK TRACY). It's hard not to watch a film with Danny Elfman music now and not think of him and how much he brings to the table. He's a neat fit for this material certainly. So all in all, NIGHTBREED had many things about it that kinda blew my mind. Somehow though, I didn't watch it again except for the one or two times I saw it back when it came out so I was quite curious to revisit the movie on Blu-ray. Scream Factory advertised that this new cut "contains over 40 minutes of new and altered footage", which I knew could certainly shift my view of a movie that I could barely remember the specifics of anymore anyway. When I go over it in my head, I realize that maybe part of my slight disconnect with the movie had to do with the fact that it was cut up upon its initial release. Maybe I hadn't been ably to make complete sense of it the first time. Watching it again, there were still some structural and motivational things that ended up confusing me slightly, but overall the movie films more "complete" in this new cut.

Special Features:
Scream Factory has given this title a lot of love. The transfer looks quite good and all the features together form a Criterion-level release and one of the better complete packages that Scream has put out. It's a pretty ambitious achievement I must say. The supplements include:
-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
(72 min.) featuring interviews with Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley and more.
-"Making Monsters
(42 min.) - interviews with makeup effects artists Bob Keen, Martin Mercer and Paul Jones.
-"Fire! Fights! Stunts! 2nd Unit Shooting
(20 min.) - an interview with Andy Armstrong .

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