I wanted to weigh in on this issue after I read this great What Culture article recently. We are no stranger to the idea of a “Director’s” cut or a “Final” cut of a film. These allow the true vision of the director to be realised e.g. Blade Runner, or Brazil for better or worse. However they are usually backed by the studio and considered mainstream or canonical. What most people may not be a aware of is the other practice of editing films, dubbed “recuts”. These can have the same goal as Director’s cut, although they are not backed by the studios and more often than not present a new film entirely. I was lucky enough the actual view a screening of one of the most infamous new cut films of the past 20 years, Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut.
Clive Barker’s second film Nightbreed has achieved cult status, despite the fact it was a huge flop commercially and critically. This is a grand departure from Hellraiser, and appears to have been Barker’s attempt at a “Horror fan’s Star Wars.” It is a action fantasy tale, with a huge cast of creative and unique monsters that would give Pan’s Labyrinth a run for its money.
The studio Mean Creak, gutted the film. They cut more than an hour from the running time, and then packaged it as just another slasher film, along the lines of Friday the 13th or Halloween. To nobodies’ surprise this cut of the film bombed, however in the dark realms of fandom existed rumours of another cut, made from new material that is hidden away somewhere. Twenty-two years later, we can now see a film that is claimed to repair Barker’s vision. Russell Cherrington the supervising director, at the 2012 Irish Horrorthon held in the Irish Film Institute discussed this process; “the Cabal Cut is a composite of the theatrical cut and a VHS tape that contained the missing footage, and that was found in the office of Clive Barker.”
So did this deliver a better film? Without a doubt, The Cabal Cut is a richer, and full bodied film. It is nearly everything that cult fans could want. However the story of the Cabal Cut is still rather silly. It suffers from the problem of the theatrical cut and still falls apart in the third act with a wacko-like assault on the Midian.
What Culture’s Graham Gallagher correctly indentified, the story in both the book and the film wasn’t resolved in the original release. It seems that Nightbreed was intended to be the first part of a trilogy; a trilogy that due to its poor performance at the box office was abandoned. Sadly, the Cabal Cut still doesn’t achieve the desired result of the perfect Nightbreed cut. The running time is over two and a half hours, and that is simple far too long for any movie. Add to this the terrible quality of the latter scenes, taken from the VHS tape, drastically impacts the enjoyment of the film. Cherrington stated that this was “the sixth attempt at it.” This process has been in the works for a few years now, it seems that it is by no means complete.
The Cabal Cut, as it exists today is not it. It is extremely close to Clive Barker’s original vision. However the length of the cut and the very poor quality footage need to be addressed before the case can be closed on this one. I hope that Morgan Creek will allow the masters to be accessed and then all the pass wrongs done to this film, may finally be amended. With a DVD/Blu-ray of the new “Barker” cut of the movie if demand is high enough. I recommend watching the original, and reading Cabal. This should whet your appetite for what fans have been screaming for since the epic 1990 commercial failure. Sign the petition at www.occupymidian.com.
This article was first posted on January 7, 2013