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Clive Barker
Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charles Haid, Hugh Ross, Doug Bradley
Writing Credits:
Clive Barker

Come Meet the Dead of Night

Boone (Craig Sheffer) may be a troubled young man, but his troubles are just beginning. Set up as the fall guy in a string of slasher murders, he decides he’ll hide by crossing the threshold that separates ’us’from ’them’and sneak into the forbidden subterranean realm of Midian. Boone will live among the monsters.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $29.93
Release Date: 10/28/2014

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Clive Barker and Restoration Producer Mark Alan Miller
• Introduction from Writer/Director Clive Barker
• “Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed” Documentary
• “Making Monsters” Documentary
• “Fires! Fights! Stunts!” Featurette
• Trailer
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Nightbreed [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 13, 2014)

Today’s surprising realization: horror “auteur” Clive Barker didn’t make a whole lot of movies. In my mind, I thought he’d directed a slew of flicks, but as it happens, he led only three feature films.

1990’s Nightbreed stands as the second of those three. A troubled young man named Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) has dreams about a location called Midian in which monsters find themselves “accepted”. It turns out that Midian really exists, and Boone soon decides that he wants to go there.

Why? Because Boone finds himself set up as the fall guy in a series of murders. After his therapist Philip Decker (David Cronenberg) frames him, the police shoot Boone and leave him dead – or so it seems. Boone actually moves to Midian for a sort of afterlife, and he blends with the monsters there. We follow his existence there as well as complications related to Decker and Boone’s girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby).

Though viewed as a horror film, Nightbreed feels more like a fantasy flick with some horror elements. Truthfully, it seems more connected to the Narnia world than to traditional horror; sure, it’s gory and violent, but the look at a broad fantasy situation comes across as most dominant.

I like that twist though I don’t think Nightbreed pulls off its intentions especially well. Perhaps given the limits of budget and technology, Barker simply bites off more than he can chew. Nightbreed boasts a lot of ambition and strives to be a fantasy epic, but the final result doesn’t quite match up with its aspirations.

Part of the problem comes from the movie’s tone, as it tends to seem silly much of the time. It can’t seem to decide how seriously it wants to take its characters and subject matter, so it teeters on the edge of drama and comedy – and not in a positive manner.

Some of this comes from the less than spectacular creature makeup/designs, but a lot stems from the lackluster acting. Sheffer provides a flat, uninspiring “hero”, and Bobby doesn’t do much to entice us in terms of his leading lady. The various creature performers seem to either underplay or overplay their roles, so the already tenuous sense of tone becomes even more erratic.

Surprisingly, the best performance comes from a non-actor. Cronenberg’s turn as the sinister doctor works well, as the filmmaker makes his role satisfyingly sleazy and slimy. He fits the movie better than anyone else and adds its most enjoyable elements.

On the other hand, I don’t care for Danny Elfman’s score. Though Elfman composed his first movie in 1982, he didn’t really take off in this role until 1989’s Batman became a smash. Elfman wrote the music for four films that year, and the scores mostly sound a lot alike, especially the three action-related flicks involved. This leaves Nightbreed with an overwrought “one size fits all” Elfman score that often sounds like outtakes from the Batman sessions.

I suspect the primary problem with Nightbreed relates to its story and characters, though. As I noted, I like the ambition of the piece, but Barker seems so wrapped up in the general universe that he doesn’t have time to create an especially interesting tale to be told. Parts of the movie drag, and others suffer from the vagueness of the plot.

Eventually the whole thing feels like a set-up for a big “man vs. monster” action finale, and even that doesn’t work particularly well. This sequence seems tacked-on and somewhat illogical, as I get the feeling it exists just to throw some fighting our way, narrative be damned. Given our lack of investment in the situations or characters, it doesn’t go much of anywhere.

Maybe with a bigger budget and a freer hand with the material, Clive Barker could’ve done something special with Nightbreed. The end product seems too erratic and compromised to succeed, though. Despite the nuggets of promise on display, the film never becomes more than mildly intresting.

Note that the Blu-ray presents a new “Director’s Cut” of Nightbreed. According to Barker, it only runs about 18 minutes longer than the 1990 version, but due to various changes, it incorporates more than 40 minutes of new footage.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Nightbreed appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an inconsistent but acceptable presentation.

Sharpness was usually fine, but exceptions occurred. Wide shots occasionally became tentative, so some of those could be a bit on the fuzzy side. Still, overall clarity was positive; I couldn’t call this a razor-sharp image, but it looked reasonably precise. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects appeared, but some mild edge haloes occurred. Print flaws were also modest; occasional small specks popped up, but those were infrequent.

Colors looked decent to good. 1990 film stocks didn’t tend to be the most dynamic, and Nightbreed could reflect those trends, but the hues usually looked reasonably peppy and full, with only a little muddiness at times. Blacks were fairly deep, and shadows showed acceptable clarity; some low-light shots lacked great definition, but they were mostly fine. I thought this was a “B-“ presentation.

Similar thoughts greeted the dated but decent DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Nightbreed. Actually, the movie exhibited pretty positive spread across the front. Various elements like vehicles moved smoothly across the front, and the track managed to provide a fair sense of place. Music also demonstrated appropriate stereo spread.

In terms of surround usage, the back speakers didn’t have a lot to do throughout the film. Nonetheless, they added general dimensionality and contributed pizzazz during the movie’s louder sequences.

Audio quality was fine for a 24-year-old soundtrack. Speech remained natural and concise, with only a smidgen of roughness along the way. Music showed nice fidelity and range, and effects appeared fairly accurate and robust. The track didn’t boast a ton of oomph, but it showed decent low-end. Nothing here impressed, but the result was good enough for an age-based “B”.

As we move to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters and changes made for the Director’s Cut, cast and performances, music, sets and locations, creature design and various effects, cinematography, and other topics.

Expect an erratic commentary. On the positive side, we learn a fair amount about the movie and its history, especially in regard to its restoration. On the negative tilt, the track tends to focus too much on semi-self-congratulation about the efforts and not enough on the nuts and bolts of the film’s creation. The piece comes with enough useful material to sustain it, but I can’t call it a truly engaging chat,

When you start the film, you’ll find an introduction from writer/director Clive Barker and restoration producer Mark Alan Miller. It goes for five minutes, 30 seconds and tells us about the problems with the theatrical cut and the reproduction of the version on this disc. Barker and Miller deliver a good overview of how they brought about the Director’s Cut.

Tribes of the Moon: The Making of Nightbreed, we find a one-hour, 12-minute, 17-second documentary. In this, we hear from actors Anne Bobby, Craig Sheffer, Doug Bradley, Hugh Ross, Simon Bamford and Christine McCorkindale. “Moon” examines Barker and his work, the film’s development and casting, characters and performances, dealing with creature makeup, different versions of the movie and its release/legacy.

Calling this a “making of” program seems wrong, as it only includes the actors’ perspectives; a true “making of” piece should touch on a broader variety of subjects. As it stands, though, “Moon” seems like a pretty good effort. I can’t call it the most fascinating show I’ve seen, but it delivers a fair number of informative tidbits.

Another documentary ensues with the 42-minute, 11-second Making Monsters. The piece offers notes from special makeup designer Bob Keen, creative technician Martin Mercer and creature artist Paul Jones. As implied by the title, this one looks at characters and creature/makeup/effects design and execution, and reactions to different versions of the film. “Monsters” offers a terrific look at its subject matter. With good observations and plenty of solid archival footage, this becomes a strong show.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with a featurette called Fires! Fights! Stunts! It fills 20 minutes, 20 seconds with info from action unit director Andy Armstrong., as he discusses his work on the movie as well as his thoughts about the restored Director’s Cut. Armstrong offers a nice array of comments here.

A second disc brings us a DVD copy of Nightbreed. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

A commercial flop in 1990, Nightbreed gets new life via this Director’s Cut. I’d like to say that it delivers an excellent fantasy/horror experience, but I think the movie comes with too many problems to ever be more than moderately compelling. The Blu-ray brings us generally good picture, audio and bonus materials. I’m glad fans can finally see a version of Nightbreed closer to Clive Barker’s original intentions, but the movie doesn’t do much for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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