Monday, July 23, 2012

For the Love of Horror: The Case of the Cabal Cut

How many people remember Clive Barker's Nightbreed? I had a very vague recollection of it from an early horror movie binge in my life; it was fun but it never quite stuck in my mind. It was epic but empty. Granted I was young and gravitated more towards the Nancy Thompsons and Laurie Strodes of the cinematic world. Nightbreed was relegated in my mind as a compeletist's film, something that came up more for Clive Barker fans than anyone else.

But lo, then I met Ron Mckenzie. Ron works for Rue Morgue and is the co-author of the very awesome Daddy's Little Monster article series. He extolled the virtues of Nightbreed to me with such passion that he convinced me to give it another shot. While it's not my favourite movie, it is an intriguing one and definitely worth watching if only for David Cronenberg's evil villain performance. The story follows Boon a man plagued by dreams of a mythical place called Midian where the Nightbreed live. Boon (Craig Sheffer) goes off in search of the place followed by his loving girlfriend, Lori (Anne Bobby, whom I loved in Beautiful Girls) and the truly disturbed Decker (Cronenberg, whom I loved from everything). What follows veers away from horror and delves far more into the realm of fantasy. From the creature and set designs it's easy to see how Barker envisioned this as a Star Wars-esque trilogy. Distributors Morgan Creek and Fox wound up taking an axe to the film and slicing out an hour of footage which yielded the Theatrical Cut that Barker was always dissatisfied with. Nightbreed was a marketing mess with the studios presenting it as a straight up slasher which is the opposite of what Nightbreed is. (seriously, I think Pretty Woman has more in common with a slasher than  Nightbreed)

In the past few years there have been rumblings of "lost footage" and "director's cuts" of Nightbreed which has elicited a fair amount of excitement around the project. Lo and behold in 2009 Barker collaborator Mark Miller found several boxes of footage that with Barker's blessings what assembled into what is now known as Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut. The Cabal Cut runs at 155 minutes and is comprised of footage from the film and VHS tapes meaning picture and sound quality can vary even within a scene. The project has garnered enough support from Nightbreed's loyal fan base that Morgan Creek is allowing it to be screened at various festivals around the world to see what kind of interest can be generated.

I was lucky enough to catch the Cabal Cut at the always amazeballs Rue Morgue Cinemacabre Movie Nights this past week. Held at the TIFF Lightbox theatre it was a full room with palpable excitement. What followed was two and a half hours of cinematic passion. While I'm still not sold on Nightbreed as a film the time, love and energy put into this project was honestly inspiring. Like, Patch Adams inspiring. Not everything works, the club scene of Lori singing was awkward as were the scenes of prolonged kisses between Lori and Boone. The inserts in the final battle/confrontation were heavy handed and confusing. BUT majority of the additions fill in subplots and characters making the film much richer.

The Cabal Cut is a truly successful fan effort that is incredibly impressive and well worth your time even if you only have a passing interest in Nightbreed. The Cabal Cut is one of the reasons I love writing, watching and investing my personal time in genre films, because the the fans give a damn and creators listen. I'm very excited to see where the Cabal Cut goes. With any luck Morgan Creek will pony up the dough, restore the footage and we'll all get the film that Nightbreed was meant to be.

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  1. I've never liked "Cabal" either. Now that there's a nearly three hour version of the ass-numbing boringness, I'd probably like it even less. Other than "Hellraiser" and a couple of stories from "The Books of Blood", Clive Barker's stuff is just too damned weird for me.

  2. You're not sold on Candyman? That's pretty freaking great.