NIGHTBREED (1990) Reviews and overview

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In the UK, Arrow Video recently released two versions of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed: the studio-approved theatrical cut and the reconstructed, reinvigorated director’s cut, for the ultimate nightmarish viewing experience.

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of the 120-minute director’s cut, transferred from the original camera negative, and the 102-minute theatrical cut, transferred from the original interpositive
  • Lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and uncompressed 2.0 PCM audio on the director’s cut
  • Uncompressed 2.0 PCM audio on the theatrical cut
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary on the theatrical cut by critics Adrian J Smith (owner and editor of MOVIES and MANIA) and David Flint (The Reprobate)
  • Audio commentary on the director’s cut by writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller
  • Introduction to the director’s cut by Clive Barker and Mark Alan Miller
  • Walking the Line Between Heaven and Hell, a new video interview with critic Kat Ellinger
  • Speaking up for the Monsters, a new video interview with critic Kim Newman
  • Tribes of the Moon: Making Nightbreed, an extensive documentary on the making of the film, featuring actors Craig Sheffer, Doug Bradley, Anne Bobby and many more
  • Making Monsters, a documentary on the film s creature designs, featuring special makeup designer Bob Keen
  • Fire! Fights! Stunts!, a video interview with second unit director Andy Armstrong
  • Deleted and alternate scenes
  • Monster Prosthetics Masterclass
  • Cutting Compromise, a video interview with editor Mark Goldblatt
  • The Painted Landscape, an exploration of the work of concept artist Ralph McQuarrie
  • Matte painting tests
  • Makeup tests
  • Lost stop motion footage
  • Extended torture scene
  • Rehearsal test
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Rare TV spots
  • Multiple image galleries, including early sketches, set photos, poster and pre-production art, stills from the UK launch party at Tower Records, and more
  • Original screenplay (BD-ROM content)
  • Reversible sleeve feature original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Limited edition 40-page booklet, featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Amy Simmons and an in-depth history of the film s development, release and rehabilitation by Mark Salisbury, co-author of Clive Barker s Nightbreed: The Making of the Film

Here’s our previous overview of the movie itself:

‘A new reason to fear the night’

Nightbreed is a 1990 American fantasy horror feature film written and directed by Clive Barker (Hellraiser), based on his 1988 novel Cabal. The movie stars Craig Sheffer (Widow’s Point; Tales from the Crypt Presents: Ritual; Hellraiser: Inferno), Anne Bobby and director David Cronenberg (The Fly; Scanners; Rabid; Shivers).

On its release, Nightbreed was a commercial and mostly critical failure. In several interviews, Barker protested that 20th Century Fox tried to sell it as a standard slasher film and that the powers-that-be had no real working knowledge of Nightbreed’s story. However, since its initial release, Nightbreed has developed a cult following.


A young man named Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is plagued by dreams of a city called Midian, a place where monsters can go to be forgiven and accepted. As a means of coping with these recurring nightmares, and at the request of his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby), Boone is seeing psychotherapist Doctor Phillip K. Decker (David Cronenberg), who convinces Boone that he has committed a series of gruesome murders.

In reality, Decker is a serial killer who dons a grotesque mask and has been murdering several families, all whom he sees as disgusting “breeders”. Decker attempts to pin the blame for his killing spree on Boone. He gives Boone a bottle of lithium (actually LSD) and twenty-four hours to turn himself in. Boone wanders the streets in a hallucinogenic haze. He is hit by a truck and taken to a hospital.

In the hospital, Boone overhears the drug addled cries of Narcisse (Hugh Ross), who is waiting for the monsters to take him to Midian. Narcisse, led to believe Boone is a messenger from Midian sent to test him, tells Boone the way, before tearing the skin from his face with a pair of razors, in order to show his “true face”. Boone escapes the hospital and makes his way to Midian, an entire city standing under a massive graveyard.

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Technically; Barker gunned out an atmospheric film, with often kinetic camera moves (props to DP Robin Vidgeon for his fine work). The score by Danny Elfman was ideal and captured the wonder, horror and sadness found in this tale. The practical FX were on the money as well even by today’s standards (for the most part that is, some haven’t aged well, like that dude in a blubber suit)…” Arrow in the Head

“While the film features a startling array of briefly seen monsters, it doesn’t find much for them to do except be unhelpful bystanders in the battle between the blandly unmonstrous hero and the mad doctor.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

” …even in its butchered form, was probably better than it was credited as being at the time, and there’s no denying that the Director’s Cut absolutely smooths out some of the rough edges and provides better context for both Boone and Lori as well as the monsters in Midian. But performances are all over the place here (Mr Cronenberg, don’t quit your day job), and Barker doesn’t quite have the directorial control that the subject requires.”

“As a feast of sights and sounds, Nightbreed is a sumptuous triumph.  Unfortunately, the Frankensteined edit truncates the story at its knees and nearly everything else about the project causes it to fall face first in the dirt.  Not without redeemable charms, Nightbreed is far too bloated by its own ambition to have ever had a chance of succeeding with compromised creativity or with an abbreviated runtime.” Culture Crypt

“Barker piles on more subversive subtext than his story can bear — it’s a monster movie, after all — but his daft, Grand Guignol vision has real power. The quality that freaked out the studio, Barker’s ambition, is precisely what makes Nightbreed so impressive.” Entertainment Weekly

“The makeup is beautiful, and I was just as transfixed trying to take note of every detail now as I was the first time. And that opening sequence? Hot damn, it’s still perfectly gorgeous and unsettling no matter how many times you watch it.” Horror Honeys

“With two-dimensional characters (whiny heroes, growling Nightbreed, bullish cops, redneck good-ol-boys), viewers might struggle for anyone to identify with, forced to content themselves with the noisy, cartoonish mayhem, extraordinary art direction, and latex creations by a venerable team of makeup technicians, including Bob Keen, Geoffrey Portass, and Kate Murray.” Horror 101 with Doctor AC

“In its attempt to make monsters more human and humanity more monstrous, the depth and feeling of the film suffers and nobody comes off as anything so much as props, exercises in effects and cliche. Old monster movies are objects of derision for the shoddiness of their work, visible zippers on costumes giving the game away. Here, you can see the zippers on the monsters and the people alike.” A Lifetime in Dark Rooms

“Already an evocative and effecting horror film with this directors cut Nightbreed, like its main character, has finally transformed into its true form as a fantastic nightmarish motion picture as emotionally moving as it is visually spectacular.” Love Horror

” …it’s not enough for Nightbreed to focus on a secret society of monsters and its prophecies, so it follows that there would also be a bloodthirsty butcher from a slasher flick hunting them down. That the two modes sometimes find difficulty jelling seems beside the point—the film might be exhausting, but it’s equally as breathtaking whenever Barker really lets loose and indulges the most unhinged parts of his macabre id…” Oh, the Horror!

“Barker clearly had a decent budget to work with, but it hasn’t particularly been put to good use. The make-ups on a variety of grotesque characters are rather good and the special effects are passable, but a little more could perhaps have been spent on hiring somebody with more charisma than Craig Sheffer.” On magazine

Nightbreed might have been a monster movie milestone, if Clive Barker’s directorial abilities had kept pace with his skill as a master of British horror fiction. Unfortunately, Nightbreed probably will be remembered as much for its haphazard plotting and underdeveloped characters as its delightfully daring concept” Toronto Star

Choice dialogue:

Philip K. Decker (David Cronenberg): “Families like cesspools, filth making filth making filth.”

nightbreed blu-ray

Nightbreed Director's Cut Blu-ray

Cast and characters:

  • Craig Sheffer … Aaron Boone / Cabal
  • Anne Bobby … Lori Winston
  • David Cronenberg … Doctor Philip K. Decker
  • Charles Haid … Captain Eigerman
  • Hugh Quarshie … Detective Joyce
  • Hugh Ross … Narcisse
  • Doug Bradley … Dirk Lylesberg
  • Catherine Chevalier … Rachel
  • Malcolm Smith … Ashberry
  • Bob Sessions … Pettine
  • Oliver Parker … Peloquin
  • Debora Weston … Sheryl Ann
  • Nicholas Vince … Kinski
  • Simon Bamford … Ohnaka
  • Kim Robertson … Babette
  • Nina Robertson … Babette
  • Christine McCorkindale … Shuna Sassi
  • Tony Bluto … Leroy Gomm
  • Vincent Keene … Devil Lude
  • Bernard Henry … Baphomet
  • Richard Van Spall … Drummer
  • David Young … Otis and Clay
  • Valda Aviks … Mellissa Rickman
  • Mac McDonald … Lou Rickman
  • Richard Bowman … Rickman Boy
  • McNally Sagal … Motel Receptionist
  • Daniel Kash … Labowitz
  • Bradley Lavelle … Cormack
  • Stephen Hoye … Gibbs
  • Tom Hunsinger … Tommy
  • George Roth … Kane
  • Peter Marinker … Pathologist
  • Lindsay Holiday … Morgue Assistant
  • Kenneth Nelson … Emergency Doctor
  • Carolyn Jones … Emergency Nurse
  • Ted Maynard … Bartender
  • Mitch Webb … Jail Cell Doctor
  • Scott Gilmore … Ambush Cop
  • Eric Loren … Ambush Cop
  • John Agar … Decker’s Victim

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