Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scary Movie Month 2014, Day 19

Nightbreed (director's cut)

I like to think that there's a parallel universe somewhere where David Cronenberg has a career like Sydney Pollack where he's not only an in-demand and commercially successful director, but also a beloved and dependable character actor. He's so much fun to watch on screen that I really wish he'd act more, and I believe that Nightbreed is the movie in which he has the most screen time. He doesn't have a whole lot more to do in this cut than he does in the theatrical, but his Decker is still my favorite thing about either version.

In truth, despite the claim of 40 minutes of all-new footage, the two versions of the movie don't play out terribly differently. Having watched the two cuts of Halloween 6 earlier this month, those played like almost completely different movies from each other. Here the movies are pretty much the same, only with a few more monsters running around in the longer cut.

The most major changes happen in the final act, though I won't go into detail so as not to spoil it. I will say that I'm a bit bummed to lose the final shot of the theatrical cut, as it's one of my favorite closing shots from any movie. The new ending is still good, just very different. There are other changes scattered about here and there, notably a sinister phone call from Decker and a terrible musical number (no, really) with a badly dubbed Anne Bobby (it's actually her own voice, but her lip movements are distractingly separate from her words) early on.

Both cuts are a mess, but they're equally fun to watch. I may actually prefer the theatrical, but that's probably only because I've lived with it for almost 25 years now. Also, they removed the country-fried cover of Oingo Boingo's "Skin" from the movie and from the end credits. What the hell, movie?

I've always enjoyed the theatrical cut despite it not actually being very good. It's a movie that loves monsters, and I love the way it revels in monsters just as much as the golden age of Universal Pictures. The monsters are the heroes, and that goes a long way with lifelong horror fans. That love is still front and center in the director's cut, and the wildly imaginative practical effects are (even when bad, which some are) so full of creativity and spirit that you want the cut to be even longer because you want to spend more time wandering around Midian, the city of monsters at the heart of the movie. I've been a monster kid my whole life, and Nightbreed is one of those movies that showed me I wasn't alone.

Technically speaking, the disc is absolutely phenomenal. Editor Andrew Furtado deserves every award they can throw at him for editing the new footage in seamlessly, if you didn't know in advance that you were watching an alternate cut you'd never know it. It looks beautiful, and is packed with informative and interesting special features, including an enthusiastic commentary track with Clive Barker himself. One thing I learned that I still can't quite wrap my head around: raving monster Peloquin is played by Oliver Parker, who went on a mere 5 years later to direct my favorite version of Othello, the one with Laurence Fishburne, Irene Jacob and Kenneth Branagh. Crazy talk.

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