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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Nightbreed
Nightbreed
Warner Bros. // R // August 21, 2001
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 19, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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Clive Barker fanatics have been waiting breathlessly since Nightbreed's theatrical debut stateside eleven years ago to get a glimpse of the nearly half-hour of excised footage gutted from the famed writer/director's original cut. Though more than a decade has passed, Clive Barker's legion of fans can finally look forward to...well, waiting some more. Those hoping for a restored director's cut will be disappointed with Warner Bros.' DVD release of Nightbreed, not to be confused with Christy Canyon's hardcore porn flick of the same name. Barker completists may be irritated with Warner's decision to rehash the theatrical version once again, but it's unlikely they'll find fault with the impressive video and audio presented on this disc.

Craig Sheffer, who looks like a cross between Angel's David Boreanaz and someone who should be playing bass for Night Ranger, stars as Boone, a man (yes, a real man) tormented by vivid dreams of the grisly murders of a number of families. He seeks absolution in Midian, a remote cemetery from his dark imaginings that a group of misshapen creatures that have dubbed themselves the Nightbreed call home. Boone's psychiatrist Decker (the legendary David Cronenberg, whose talents are better suited behind the camera) has his own predictable agenda, and his machinations lead Boone to abandon his lover Lori (Anne Bobby, perhaps best remembered as Officer Vicki Quinn from the short-lived Cop Rock) in search of Midian. Boone soon learns the terrible truth of Midian, and when Lori comes a-huntin' in search of her lost loved one, she too discovers the terrible truth. Oh yeah, and Decker follows a bit later, and he learns the terrible truth as well. The cops of a nearby town? You guessed it -- terrible truth.

A pretty hefty chunk of Nightbreed is predictable and dull. The film telegraphs Decker's true nature from the get-go, and we know that Boone's ramblings of the mythical Midian will turn out to be true. So, I slumped down in my couch and waited for the inevitable to occur. Sure, cinema isn't about the destination, it's about the journey -- but if a movie like this isn't going to be engaging, the least it could do is offer a surprise or two. Once the bare-bones of the plot are made clear, it's pretty tough to not predict what course the remainder of the film will take, straight through the cliched aftermath, which sneaks in an homage to Cronenberg's Videodrome. The "mankind is the real monster" message is delivered in a far too heavyhanded fashion, and the plotting seems to be fairly scattershot, as if the script were written in one fell swoop without any outlining beforehand or tweaking afterwards. Is Nightbreed supposed to be an allegory or an excuse to get a bunch of actors in fright masks in the hope of spawning a new horror franchise? It seems like a halfhearted attempt at the latter. Nightbreed isn't awful, but it's hard to believe a writer as talented as Barker would churn out something as generic and undistinguished as this.

Video: Nightbreed, soon to celebrate its eleventh birthday, certainly doesn't show its age in this rather impressive budget release from Warner. The image is exceptionally crisp, smooth, and detailed. Print flaws are nearly non-existent, though a couple of minor flecks and one large amorphous white blob briefly creep onto the screen early on. Colors are bold and rich, with rather deep blacks and excellent shadow delineation. A handful of scenes exhibit light grain, and a couple of shots seemed unusually soft, but by and large, Nightbreed looks phenomenal. This would be impressive by any standard, but for a budget release -- wow. Nice job by Warner, and hopefully an indication of the bar they're setting for similar titles in the future.

Audio: This DVD release of Nightbreed sports a considerably-spiffed-up Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. The entire soundstage is active throughout, with surrounds used frequently but rarely with that nasty gimmicky approach. The six-channel presentation feels natural and more effectively drew me into the film than the movie itself. There's a considerable amount of range in the audio, as well as a pretty hefty bass punch. There's one moment right around the 00:15:20 mark when a fairly loud pop erupts from one of the rear speakers, but that's the only flaw I could discern throughout the entire length of Nightbreed. If only all remixes could sound this good... For those who fear downmixing or want a presentation that more closely duplicates the theatrical experience, a stereo surround track is also available.

Supplements: Just a 16x9-enhanced trailer and the usual cast/crew bios.

Conclusion: I personally wouldn't recommend Nightbreed on the merits of the film alone. Barker fans, even those incensed at the lack of a director's cut, ought to be pleased with the audio/video presentation on this disc, and the sub-$20 list price is easy to swallow until the inevitable two-hour-plus version arrives. Considering that this disc will go for around $15 in most stores, anyone with the faintest interest might want to go ahead and add this to their collection instead of bothering with a rental. For those of you demanding me to sum up my words in a soundbite, I suppose I'd say that this DVD release of Nightbreed is meagerly recommended, due primarily to the impressive presentation and a very affordable MSRP. I hope all of Warner's budget titles in the future look and sound this good.
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