Nightbreed (1990)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charles Haid, Doug Bradley
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Filmographies

For some reason horror fans have almost uniformly dismissed Clive Barker’s "Nightbreed" when it was first released in 1990. Based on his own novel "Cabal, " Barker wrote and directed "Nightbreed," bringing to life a whole society of nightmarish creatures. While I am the first to admit that it is not a perfect movie, I disagree with the common notion of it being a bad film. "Nightbreed" is different and warm at times, which gives it a very unique feel, one that Clive Barker’s fans obviously did not expect. Now, the film is coming to DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video as a release many fans are eagerly looking forward to.

A stalker is on the loose killing whole families, slashing and mutilating them in unprecedented acts of violence. At the same time, Boone (Craig Sheffer) has horrifying nightmares about violent crimes and Midian, a place of redemption, and when he talks to his therapist Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg) about them, it turns out that the events Boone witnesses in his nightmares are actually the murders committed by the stalker. Decker turns Boone into the police as a possible suspect but Boone escapes and flees to find Midian.
Once he gets there he is attacked by strange demonic creatures and when he flees from them, a police force is waiting outside Midian already. Before he knows what is happening, Boone is shot dead!
As a result of the wound one of the creatures inflicted upon him, Boone is resurrected however and makes his way back to Midian where he becomes part of an underground culture of nightmare creatures – the Nightbreed. They are the denizens of a world beyond death and Boone uses his sudden undead-status to find out what really happened!

"Nightbreed" does contain some of Clive Barker’s cold and gruesome horror elements, most notably in the masked stalker scenes. However, as you can see from the synopsis of the film, the stalker theme quickly takes the backseat over more important plot elements, the society of nightmare creatures living in Midian. With the introduction of this secret society made up of outcasts, the entire tone of the film changes. The screen is suddenly awash in earth colors and has a much more gothic feel than the stark imagery surrounding the stalker. The film’s theme also changes and "Nightbreed" turns into an advocacy of minorities – something Clive Barker knows a thing or two about as a result of his own homosexuality. The parable is uncanny as the outcast are prone to superstition, prejudice and ultimately pursuit on a large scale as bigot citizens feel they have the right and duty to "clean up" what they don’t understand. Human nature? Maybe, but frankly, I see it more as a sign of intolerance and ignorance in our society, trades that are far too widespread

The film is full of subtext – subtle and not-so-subtle – and the menagerie of creatures is breathtaking, showing how vivid Clive Barker’s imagination can be when let loose on the right material. Many of Barker’s archetypical themes return, such as the Baphomet entity/deity, which in one way or another can also found in countless others of his films and books, including the "Hellraiser" series, giving it a unique Clive Barker touch. Full of dramatic imagery, ranging from cold modern-day shot, to very Hammer-esque atmospheric scenes with the shrouded gothic cemetery, "Nightbreed" is a visual feast that in some aspects eclipses even Barker’s highly acclaimed "Hellraiser." Not so gory, but nonetheless brutally unsettling at times, "Nightbreed" shows off Barker’s talents as a writer, director and foremost as a visionary.

Warner Home Video brings "Nightbreed" to life in a sparkling transfer on this DVD. The print is very clear and clean and does not reveal any notable defects or blemishes. The image is very stable and the transfer offers very good definition. The color reproduction of this transfer is immaculate, which is very important in this film as Barker’s atmospheric imagery requires correct delineation of even the most subtle hues and shades. Shot mostly on sound stages, Barker controlled every little bit of the picture and worked diligently to create an intricate world full of subtle visual highlights and elements that can easily get lost in a shoddy transfer. Fortunately, here we have a splendid rendition of the film with bold colors, very deep blacks and phenomenally printed shadows. There is hardly any grain in the image and the natural look of the film is fully preserved. The compression is also without flaws, leaving the high definition of the transfer fully intact and ensuring a great visual presentation of the film.

The disc contains a remastered 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track as well as a Dolby Surround track, both in English language only. Although subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish, the lack of additional language tracks is surprising. The quality of the 5.1 mix is very good, though, with a wide sound stage that is enveloping and very active. Surround channels are used frequently and aggressively to enhance the frightening moments of the film, as well as to enhance the overall ambiance. The track has a wide dynamic range, nicely capturing the subtle moments of the film while giving to the explosive scenes very strong exposure. With a wide frequency response, the track is never distorted and finely reproduces the high ends, as well as the rumble of the movie’s earthshaking climax. Dialogues are well-integrated and always understandable, never drowned out by Danny Elfman’s haunting score or the aggressive sound effects.

The release is coming as a bare-bones release, containing only the theatrical trailer in an anamorphic widescreen presentation and cast & crew filmographies, without biographies, as supplemental material.
For fans of "Nightbreed," this disc is a no-brainer. Never has the movie looked better and never has the picture been reproduced more powerful and accurately than on this release. With its newly remastered audio track, the disc also sounds much tighter and directional than previous versions, making "Nightbreed" a solid release. The lack of extras is a weak spot especially on this effects-laden release, but since the film is really what’s important, I won’t really quibble about it. Clearly, those who don’t understand the film and diss it, still won’t like it any better on this DVD, but for the rest of us, this DVD is coming very welcome!