What did I think after seeing the CABAL CUT of Clive Barker’s NIGHTBREED?
Around two nights before, I had watched almost all of the previous cinema version release, which I have seen many times over the years. Even than previously botched and distorted version inspired me and my own film/writing/ art work, as though it was imperfect, not completed in the manner Barker intended, it still contained many very iconic scenes, sequences, characters, dialogue from the mind of Barker and also the amazing musical score of Danny Elfman.
I had many years ago read the comic book adaptation, and the original novella CABAL which Barker based NIGHTBREED upon, written only a short time before. It is certainly a huge cult movie now, today and should get the treatment and respect that it rightly deserves. I honestly also believe that, even though imperfect, the previous cinema version has definitely had a very strong influence upon many genre television shows and movies, and fiction and films since then, especially things like BUFFY, ANGEL, LOST GIRL, NEIL GAIMAN.
So then, THE CABAL CUT. WARNING: I may possible add spoilers here, if you have not yet seen it or the original, so you may wish to look away now.
It does start fairly close to the first version, but soon enough new footage is added. As some have stated, yes the quality is markedly poor, dark and very grainy at times but I personally could largely look through it to see newly revealed scenes which expanded on the characters and narrative. We see more of Boone and Lori, see their relationship, we see more of the character of Boone. Some of it maybe is too much, not totally necessary but interesting to see.
A number of people over the years have spoken about the quite distinct plot holes and jump cut confusion of the original cinema version, which is agreeably there and today very understandable. The new footage does fill in a few of these areas, and offers more besides, with a good few surprises. It really is amazing to know that so long after it was made and released at the cinema the first time around, we can now see a very different, expanded version. Today we expect this kind of thing, with multiple disc box-sets and deleted and additional scenes and extended director’s cuts, but this was barely even dreamed of ever being seen and it really, honestly is such a fascinating joy to sit through.
I have to just explain that I do come from a film production/art/writing background, and so I can very easily sit through varied degree quality of film and digital footage and have edited films myself and so can possibly tolerate THE CABAL CUT more easily than an average film fan. Saying that, I do not want to sound like some film snob at all, because I do hope that many will watch the entire new CABAL CUT, with patience and understand the process and long hours put into the making of it, where it is at right now.
Many of the main characters are extended, developed out much more, including some great new scenes with Narcisse, Rachel, Babette, and possibly most controversially David Cronenberg’s Decker. Now, before my screening of THE CABAL CUT, the editor who has made it all possible and taken it around the US and UK, Russell Cherrington; had explained the processes involved, the problems with cutting in the new footage, re-ordering with the NIGHTBREED previous cinema cut. Even now, this may not be the final version, though Clive Barker has very much approved it personally.
One point stressed was that he has been intending to create, with all of this new footage found in recent times, and more still surfacing, a version which is a much more faithful adaptation of the book, which is what Clive himself had been trying to film and deliver until the film studio panicked. So the new footage included in this cut, does very much try to create a version of the book, and has a number of scenes from the pages, and does of course seem much more like a book translated to screen, even in this rough, at times grainy and difficult version. It does cut between grainy old VHS footage, and digital previous clean NIGHTBREED footage, though not as much as it could have done.
At around two and a half hours long, it possibly does feel just slightly overly long, and perhaps it has been hard to cut it down too much, due to the genuine excitement in seeing the new footage. The hillbillies and macho cops do march around on screen for maybe too long, but then there are now some really great new scenes with Lori, Boone, Ashberry for certain, which really open out the narrative greatly.
I guarantee that there are some surprising moments, some new funny scenes, it is arguably now much more emotionally engaging, but still possibly meanders along, losing some of the dramatic pacing. That is where I and maybe surprised with my thoughts that in some ways, the original cinema version, though nowhere near the version Clive could be happy with really, did in some ways have a kind of strong paced dynamic within in. While we now see so much new exciting footage, it is in places slower, and maybe even just slightly repetitive, though some of that is due to editing decisions.
It was good to hear Russell saying that he himself want to get a true, faithful version together, he has personally invested many months of his own spare time in editing various tapes and footage, then added audio over dubs and extras on top of it too. He himself admits it is still moving along, taking shape, and very much can still be done until it reaches a final stage. So much now depends on how the film studios see the reaction, and interest from fans and film audiences globally, before they spend and offer help in polishing it up, and creating a final most truly crafted version. So go see it, spread the word.
Midian must be built again, Cabal will rise and NIGHTBREED will be what it was intended to be.