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FrightFest 2012: Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut first reaction

 

One of the holy grails of modern horror, the extended version of Clive Barker's Nightbreed has had its European premiere at FrightFest. The Cabal Cut sticks more closely to both the book and Barker's cinematic vision.

Even die-hard fans have to admit that the original version of Nightbreed is, in every sense, an unholy mess.

Adapted by Barker from his own 1988 novel Cabal, the roughly chopped-up, severely shortened and downright incoherent epic that was released in 1990 is one of horror’s great curios.

The stuff of fanboy legend, the missing work prints were finally discovered a few years ago by filmmaker and aficionado Russell Cherrington (on a bookshelf in Barker’s office, of all places), who painstakingly spliced together the theatrical release and newfound VHS prints.

Even if you’re not a purist, it’s not difficult to spot the new scenes. Looking much like it did the first time you saw it - taped off late-night TV on a worn out cassette – the only thing covering up the scratches and tracking lines is an ironic sense of nostalgia.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the film follows the oddly characterless ‘Boone’ (Craig Sheffer) as a creepy psychiatrist (David Cronenberg!) stalks him into a nightmarish world of underground mutants.

Adding backstories and plugging plot holes, the new footage does a good job of shoring up some of the structural weaknesses – mostly benefiting Boone and his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) – but the best scenes are still the monster menagerie moments we’ve already seen before.

Clocking in at an eye-watering 153 minutes, the new cut could do with losing half of what it put back in (as well as spending a bit more time on the terrible dubbing).

Barker fans will lap up the deleted scenes, and the new film undoubtedly makes a bit more sense, but Nightbreed remains a muddled, confusing and occasionally brilliant glimpse into what Cabal might have been.

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