It's a few years since the surprise announcement that an original workprint of Clive Barker's much abused Nightbreed had surfaced. Since then various new edits have been uncovered, assembled and screened to an enthusiastic and vocal fanbase. But from Comic-Con over the weekend came the long-awaited news that the extended version is finally making its way to an official, restored release.
For those new to the story, Nightbreed was taken away from writer/director Clive Barker and re-cut by its studio for release, to the extent that Barker more-or-less disowned it. The cut footage was thought lost, but various work-prints have been uncovered on VHS tapes over the last couple of years. This footage was then assembled into what was essentially a bootleg cut utilising the poor-quality "new" VHS and the existing theatrical-cut DVD.
Dubbed The Cabal Cut after Barker's original novel, the new version was the work of Derby-based filmmaker/academic Russell Cherrington, Mark Miller of Barker’s Seraphim Films company, and editor Jimmi Johnson, and received enthusiastic support from the online fan community Occupy Midian. With Morgan Creek’s support, Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut has been regularly playing on the festival circuit and at one-off screenings ever since, and now, at long last, a fully-restored DVD release has been announced as on the way from US label Scream Factory. It'll be out sometime next year.
The official statements have left a few questions unanswered however, so Cherrington was happy to fill in the blanks for Empire.
Firstly, the ideal scenario was always that the actual original film elements would be found for the purposes of the restoration. Sadly, this hasn't happened, so the DVD will be produced using the second-best option of restoring the VHS for the extra scenes.
"There's still no sign of the negatives," opines Cherrington. "We've had a few leads that have all been dead ends, although I really hope we can find more film elements. They found most of the original Wicker Man on film just today, so it could happen!"
Secondly, a Blu-ray to go along with the DVD doesn't seem to be guaranteed at this point. But, says Cherrington, "I've spent the last year researching what can be done with the VHS materials, and I know that with money and time this can look at least as good as the Alien3 workprint. I have every hope for 1080p!"
Finally, with Scream Factory a US company, this seems, so far, to be a US only release, with questions of region locking unclear. So for the UK and Europe? "We have a distributor of fine genre cinema who wants to put The Cabal Cut out in the UK," Cherrington promises. "Morgan Creek wants it out there, and so does Seraphim, so it's only a matter of time. Once we've worked out the rights it will be out in Clive Barker's and my own home country."
"Nobody is willingly witholding a [European] release," adds Miller. "These are complicated legal matters but everyone is working their way through them!"
"We've worked hard for this," Cherrington says in conclusion. "It has been a big team effort, and it proves that film fans can have a voice too. When I hold my finished disc it'll be like I've won the World Cup!"
The Scream Factory edition of Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut should emerge through the gates of Midian next year. Morgan Creek's Michael Plumides also promises reprints of the 25 original Nightbreed comics, and continued development on the mooted TV series. For more on the differences between the theatrical Nightbreed and the Cabal Cut, there's this, plus Empire's giant feature in issue #279.