Even horror fans with a passing interest in the genre are familiar with writer/director/innovator Clive Barker. The man responsible for iconic legends like Hellraiser and Candyman, he's given viewers fantastical images they're sure to never forget.
Unfortunately, even the most vivid of visionaries sometimes get their visions vivisected, which is what happened with the theatrical release of Barker's 1990 film Nightbreed. Originally envisioned as something of a "horror Star Wars" studio Morgan Creek had the film dramatically recut as less a fantastical epic and more of a thrill-a-minute slasher.
Barker's original vision had been lost for decades until this week when pop-culture preservationists Shout Factory's Scream Factory imprint released an against-all-odds definitive director's cut of Nightbreed.
…and did we mention there's a musical number?
Yes, Nightbreed hits store shelves this week in a limited edition that includes an absurd amount of extras, a profound explanation of the film's journey to re-completion post-release and commentary from Barker himself. The film follows Boone, a twenty-something Canadian framed for a series of grizzly family murders and fueled by dreams that lead him to the subterranean monster haven Midian.
While there's much to be said about Barker's expanded world and the creatures that inhabit it, there's also the story of the film's dedicated cult following who've been hearing echoes of these missing scenes, entire characters and alternative ending for years. While a cut made from barely-watchable VHS recordings of missing scenes re-edited into the existing version surfaced in 2009 (known amongst fans as The Cabal Cut), word spreading of the original elements of these scenes being rediscovered lead to the mobilized fanbase's "Occupy Midian" movement and subsequently found its way to Shout Factory.
One such long thought lost scene is the film's musical number where Boone goes to see his girlfriend Lori perform a midst an unsettling hallucination early on in the film. While the idea of a full-length song being in the movie may strike some as perhaps as strange as the film itself, Barker's explanation for it on the audio commentary is one of those moments that make you empathize with his pain of its removal.
"I was in San Francisco on tour and I was driving around with [the person] who drives you around on a book tour. She put in a disc and said it was a k.d. lang bootleg. I wasn't that familiar with k.d. lang at the time, but since I heard it, 'Johnny Get Angry,' oh my Lord! The hairs on the back of my balls stood on end. The sense of 'Please, Johnny get angry! I need a brave man, not a cave man!' The words seem to fit perfectly. I'd hired Anne [Bobby, who plays 'Lori'] and she just let's go. It's primal."
When the scene was cut, the explanation from the studio was that "nobody cares," which made Barker respond "I care." It seems the fanbase feels the same way.
Also great is the fully restored score from composer Danny Elfman. Perhaps overlooked by being sandwiched between two of his trademark scores, Batman and Dick Tracy respectively, Elfman's music for Nightbreed nails the line between horror thrills and spellbinding mythology perfectly. Also notable is the film's brief inclusion of a retooling of one of the songs from Elfman's former band Oingo Boingo.
With debate of the legitimacy of Nightbreed's musical number finally being put to rest, there's finally a full soundtrack that can be played alongside that cassette of Spooky Sounds you've been holding on to since the 1980s.