Epic Exclusive Interview! Swedish Film Fan Creates Definitive NIGHTBREED Cut!

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Swedish blogger, film archivist and fan goes back to the vaults and sculpts a massive new “definitive” version of Clive Barker’s NIGHTBREED.

At some point in time all film enthusiasts come to that thrilling moment when the hunt for a distorted, low quality work-print of a film considered lost forever pays off. It may even be a passionately assembled fan edit crafted from various sources to create the ultimate version of films they are obsessed with, but never before seen in its entirety. They are rarely anywhere near the quality of film that we are accustomed to these days, but the satisfaction of finally seeing it in it’s intended shape is rewarding, filling that hole of curiosity that only a film-completist can recognize. It’s like finding the holy grail of genre cinema.

One man, Fillip Önell of Uppsala, Sweden, has taken his obsession with Clive Barker’s NIGHTBREED to an all-time high as he’s made it his mission to craft the definitive version of NIGHTBREED, complete with it’s intended complex characters, the sanctuary of Midian midst assault, and all it’s lurking inhabitants, even the deleted ones.

SHOCK: So how did your obsession with NIGHTBREED start?

Filip Önell: It started about five years ago when I first saw the film. I already knew that this was a film that had suffered from studio interference and that it had a long history of some mystic underground fan affection. Which is what drew me to it to start with, as I’m generally fascinated by films that where messed up by the studio, like Exorcist 3 or Michael Mann’s The Keep,. The kind of film where you notice that something is not quite right, but at the same time see that there’s a really cool film in there somewhere. My initial reaction was kind of mixed. I saw this rich and imaginative film, but I could also see the studio meddling. The story barely made sense and was edited in a kind of like Michael Bay fashion. It was so quick and the pacing was all off. Also, NIGHTBREED was unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s not quite a horror film, it’s something of a fantasy film, but its also something else, it’s just a unique film, and the fact that Clive Barker got millions of dollars to make what basically is a monster film where the monsters are the good guys, porcupine women are sexy and David Cronenberg runs around in a gimp mask, it is just astonishing!

Around the same time, they also found the two NIGHTBREED work prints that they edited together and began screening under the “The Cabal Cut” name at conventions. I heard that it was going to be screened in Germany at a convention there, so I took the opportunity to go see it.

SHOCK: And what where your reactions to the Cabal Cut.

Filip: At that point I’d already read the book and the screenplay, so I had some kind of idea what it would be like, or should be like. After actually seeing it, I remember my initial reaction being “God I wish I could edit this myself.” Because I was like, if I put that shot over here, and this one over there it would make more sense. I had very high expectations for this expanded vision of NIGHTBREED, which where met, but at the same time not.

SHOCK: So made you decide to make it your mission to craft the definitive version of NIGHTBREED?

Filip: When it was announced that they where going to release the Directors Cut after they had found the original 35mm film elements, I thought great, now we are going to see something that might be even better than the Cabal Cut. But then, in all honestly, I was quite disappointed with the Directors Cut because it still felt like a compromised version of NIGHTBREED. It felt like I was watching an eight, or ninth Directors Cut that Clive would have turned in back in the nineties for the studio to watch. Things where missing, certain aspects to the story where still unclear, certain characters didn’t quite blossom within the story, and some of the editing I felt was just flat out poor. I’d already made a few fan edits previously, or at least attempted too. I’d done some re-editing on Exorcist 3 to make it more like the film that William Peter Blatty wanted it to be, I worked on a version of HELLRAISER 2, and then I started this crazy project of trying to take Stephen Kings THE STAND and turn it into a three hour long movie using the screenplay that George A. Romero was going to make into a film back in the eighties, but I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t save that ending when the Hand of God comes down and saves everybody. That ending just doesn’t work.

So with NIGHTBREED I was just going to do this re-edit of the climax, the battle at the ending, because on the Blu-ray that Scream Factory had released, there where tons of outtakes and deleted scenes, so I was like wow this is cool! If I could just add this to the battle at the end and re-edit it, it would be something awesome and different, because the battle at the end is just a mess, especially in the Theatrical Version. Then somebody told me that the Cabal Cut had been put online, which initially kind of surprised me, as I was expecting the Cabal Cut to be kept under lock and key in storage. But no, there it was, and I was toying with the idea of what I could do with that footage and the new footage from the Blu-Ray. So I decided to contact the actual editor of the Cabal Cut and told him what I was doing and he was very impressed with the fact that I was reconstructing Clive Barkers original cut. Because that’s what I wanted to see with the Directors Cut, I that original cut that Clive had put together before the studio hats came in and started messing around with the film. Anyway, my conversation with the Cabal Cut editor ended with him saying that if I needed any help just ask him and he’d see what he could do. So jokingly, I kind of asked him if he could send me the work print footage, and he was like, why not! That led to me having two, over two hour-long work prints of NIGHTBREED. With all this footage, I decided that I had to get deeper into this than just fixing the ending. Both of these versions contained alternative footage with quite significant quality variations between the two prints. Occasionally certain scenes or special effects are missing so there’s like “scene missing”, or “FX here” slates in there. The work prints are in no way finished, there’s sound missing; they have dialogue, but no sound effects, music or anything like that. So now I had the movie with just the dialogue to work from, so I could be much more creative work on the sound design, add new sound effects and really work with the music and re-edit the movie in the way that I wanted. So that’s really what I’ve been working on for a while now, going through these work prints and putting it all together, taking the BluRay version and inserting the high definition quality scenes.

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SHOCK: Have any of the people involved with the film heard of what you are doing?

Filip I’ve tried to get in touch with Barker and his right-hand man Mark Miller, because it would be interesting to get some kind of comment from them. After all, this is Clive Barkers movie, and he made an awesome film, so it would be cool if he saw it and felt that it was an even better movie now. I honestly don’t feel that the Directors Cut does Barker fully justice as a director. There are edits in there that I feel give it a rushed and kind of uncompleted feeling.

But during the process of re-assembling this cut, something amazing did happened. I got in touch with Christine McCorkindale who plays Shuna Sassi, the porcupine woman, because there’s this famous scene, a kind of monster love scene between her and Peloquin, and I was baffled that it wasn’t in the Directors Cut. For me that scene should have been in the film, because it’s like the most Clive Barker thing ever, two monsters making out on screen! The footage in in the extras on the Blu-ray but there is no audio or anything. So I thought, well Christine is still around, she is here, so on a crazy chance shot I sent her a message and asked if she might be interested in recording some dialogue for me. She responded by asking if I was going to make any money off this, which I have no intention of at all, this is all just for my own personal satisfaction, and her response was yeah, sure I’ll do it. I also got in touch with Nicholas Vince who plays Kinski. There’s a scene between him and Peloquin which I’ve asked him to help restore too.

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SHOCK: What sort of sources are you using as a road map through your edit?

Filip: One of the most important sources for my cut is the original Barker novella, because I’m trying to create a faithful adaptation of the Cabal novella with this version. Between that and the films, I don’t actually have a shooting draft, but I have two drafts of the script. One, which is dated, February 1989, both of them are quite similar to the final product, but there are things that are different. The dialogue is different and some of the structure in those scripts. An odd thing in the scripts is that when they are invading Midian, and setting off all the bombs to destroy the cemetery, Boone arrives before all that and tells them to prepare for what is about to happen. Where in the movie, both Theatrical and the Directors Cut, he arrives after they have blown up Midian. As said, I had some issues with that battle in the end, and it’s been a nightmare to edit that whole sequence, because there’s so much happening at once and I’m trying to tell a story in the midst of all the action. But it’s there now. Also the script doesn’t really explain that much or describe the battle, it’s basically humans are fighting monsters written in the paper. So I had to be creative and improvise with some of this material. It’s actually crazy how different this version is, and how much alternative footage there is. The Theatrical Version was almost like this dark strange superhero movie in some ways, this is, as I write on my blog, more like Schindler’s List with monsters. At the end you see all these humans coming in shooting all these monsters, and it’s just horrible.

SHOCK: In which way will your way differ and why have you chosen that route?

Filip. Well it will be different in the sense that characters will make more sense, relationships will be a lot stronger, there are certain aspects to the story that will be much clearer and some of the relationships within characters will be clearer and some of the mythology has been fleshed out. The biggest change is the character of Dr. Decker, who in the Theatrical and Directors Cut is simply a psychiatrist who is killing breeders and now he wants kill the NIGHTBREED because they are like the breeders he’s been killing… see, it’s kind of confusing already there. But in the novella, Decker is a completely different character. He is a psychiatrist who is trying to cover up his own ass, which is why he’s trying to frame Boone. And if you think about it, this is never really explained in the Theatrical or Directors Cut, it’s kind of just glossed over and then it’s like what’s the point of that? What was that all about? In the Cabal Cut and in my version, you find out that Decker is a schizophrenic who has this internal conflict with this mask he’s wearing. He’s like Willem Dafoe in Spiderman, he’s talking to the mask and the mask is telling him to kill people. He’s afraid that the police are going to get him and that’s why he had to frame Boone. One of the things that I’ve done in my cut is that I’ve added a new dubbing for the mask, which allowed me to be more creative with the voice elements. So there’s more of the mask talking to Decker and you realize how he’s going insane through out the film and you understand that he can’t control himself, and that’s who he is. They made Decker a bigger character in the Theatrical version because the idea was that he’d be the next big thing, he was to be resurrected beyond that film. So they kept that stuff for the Directors Cut except the scenes where he’s resurrected at the end and I don’t really think that it works in the Directors Cut, because I feel that the scenes with Decker towards the ending are unnecessary, because he doesn’t really matter at the end of the film. At that point it’s really only about Boone, Lori, the Priest and the Police Captain. The Police are the real bad guys at the end, and Decker was really only supposed to be this antagonist at the beginning of the film, for the first act of the story. Apparently the audience at the test screenings back in 89 where confused by the character of Decker and why he wanted to kill the Breed, but really, he only wants to destroy Boone because he knows who Decker really is.

I guess you know that NIGHTBREED suffered from reshoots right, and most people really only know that the scenes with Cronenberg, like where he kills the woman at the hotel and when he interrogates the old man, where added later. But actually characters like Shuna Sassi where part of those reshoots. They where not in the original film at all. According to Doug Bradley, they where added because the studio said that they wanted the monsters more nastier, more horrifying so Clive added those scenes. If you look at those scenes these monsters are cackling and hissing and enjoying killing humans, which is very different when you look at the work print footage where the monsters are hurt and afraid and really don’t want to fight and it’s Boone who has to get them to fight back. It’s a very different. I have been having some tonal issues with my cut where I’m going, “hmm”, because the original footage doesn’t match some of the reshoots. But my version is a lot more dramatic.

So that’s what I’m trying to do here, to put the narrative back the way it was supposed to be, and focus on Boone and Lori, which I felt that the Directors Cut was close too, but didn’t really fix the narrative issues that I had with the film.

It was interesting, because I had read about this extended scene between Boone and Decker in Decker’s office where he’s telling Boone that he might be a serial killer. In the Theatrical Version and the Director’s Cut you don’t really understand why Boone would so easily believe himself to be a serial killer. But in the work print, after Decker calls Boone, there’s a scene where Boone visits Lori and is concerned why Decker wants to meet him again, fearing that he might be going crazy again and Lori is trying to reassure Boone that he is all right.

That’s a very important scene because it tells you that Boone has had mental issues in the past. Things like that that just makes the story clearer. There’s also a lot more scenes between the Lori and Boone in the work prints and their love story blossoms much more there. That whole scene with the two of them in the jail it works so much better in the work prints. In the directors cut and especially the theatrical version it’s so brief when she comes in and tells him that he has to fight back. In the theatrical version she just goes in to the jail, and goes “I’m not afraid of you” and then they are kissing, there’s a little bit more in the Directors Cut, but not everything, and the work print is so much more of her talking to him and he’s suicidal at that point he doesn’t want to live anymore, he thinks that he’s a cannibal freak and he doesn’t care about Midian, and she has to convince him to fight back. So I’m using that footage, fleshing it out, making it more comprehensible. It’ s just a lot stronger story wise now.

So that’s some of the differences that I’m making to it. But I have to say that in many ways Clive improved on the book with the film, giving more texture and flesh to the creatures, and the world of Midian. The book doesn’t really go much into detail of Midian and is really more of a love story, which you see partially in the movie where the love story is kind of bubbling under the fantasy horror movie story. The version I’ve made is more… and this is going to sound terrible… more like Twilight, but a good Twilight, because it’s basically about a girl who’s in love with a guy who’s dead, but of course in that perverse Clive Barker way, she loves him more when he’s dead.

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SHOCK: So you are basically putting back more character development?

Filip: Yeah, character development, more monster action and I also think this makes my version much more coherent, because I’ve reconstructed the film and put it back in order. You’d be surprised if you knew how many scenes actually are out of order, even in the directors cut. There’s also a character who dies in the Theatrical and Directors Cut, but who actually lives on in my cut. That’s the character of inspector Joyce, who has a much bigger role in my cut and he becomes the voice of reason at the end of the film, the one character that understands. There’s actually a scene between him and the other police officers when they are waiting for the cavalry to arrive where Joyce questions the others if they have though about what they are doing and questions if they are about to wipe out an entire new unknown species. And of course the fact that he’s colored and I’m sure that Clive was trying to say something there as the only character that realizes that what they are doing is wrong is colored. He’s kind of like Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night, the one intelligent person who’s stuck with all these dumb racist redneck cops. But I think that’s what Clive Barker is trying to say here, NIGHTBREED is about intolerance, and with Clive being a gay man, the NIGHTBREED are an obvious metaphor for the gay community, hiding in the day and only coming out at night. That was almost the status in eighty-eight. Of course you don’t have to be gay to get the film. There are modern movies films that are similar to NIGHTBREED like X-Men and Avatar. But those movies blew it for me because they glamourize their mutants and aliens. The most beautiful teenagers on the planet play all the mutants in X-Men, and the aliens in Avatar are seven-foot tall cat people; they look like they were designed by some 13 year old on deviantart. They are made to be as easily appealing as possible to mainstream audiences. But Clive makes the NIGHTBREED kind of challenging to like. Yeah, they are deformed and demonic, but you have like them anyway! Its message is universal. NIGHTBREED speaks to me being an outsider who has always been considered weird and different; when I was younger someone would tell me, “That’s not normal” or “Why can’t you be like everyone else?” I love the fact that NIGHTBREED says “Fuck normality! Be whatever you want to be!”

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SHOCK: So you have footage without audio that you can match with scenes with audio to create extended and alternate versions, but what about music?

Filip: I’m surprised how the Danny Elfman score doesn’t really work for NIGHTBREED, so I’ve had to take some of that out. You know, there’s this weird joyous feeling to the Theatrical Version, especially with the Danny Elfman score going duh, duhp, duh, duhp, duh, duhp, in the quirky way that Elfman scores often go. You never really get the sense of how horrifying the ending actually is, and I think that that might have been a studio thing along the way to make it more light-hearted or something. I know they didn’t want the audience to have empathy for the monsters of course. So, I’ve actually added new music to the film that’s not Elfman. I’ve searched online for music that sounds like Elfman, because some of his music doesn’t really fit the edit I’m making. His music was composed for the theatrical version, so it’s shorter, has a different pace to it so I had to rearrange parts of the score. And I think it’s music that you’ll hear and go yeah, that sounds like NIGHTBREED, so it works perfectly.

SHOCK: You also mention on your webpage that you’re not just putting together an alternative cut, you are also getting in there and fixing FX that never was completed on work prints and dailies right?

Fillip: I have new footage of the God Baphomet and he’s supposed to have these glowing eyes, which they didn’t fix in the directors cut. There was new footage, but no FX, so you just see the actors’ eyes. So I’m fixing that with rotoscoping, a painstaking procedure where you go through frame by frame and add these elements. But it’s going to be so worth it when I’m done. There is also this one special effect scene I had to get into, and it’s when the priest is trying to take this bowl of Baphomets blood and the liquid just sort of flies up into his face. I think I had a shot of Baphomet angry looking at him, and in one of my scripts there’s a line of Baphoment shooting this laser beams, so that is something I want to try and create. In fact that happens in the comic book adaptation of NIGHTBREED, which also has been something of a guide for my version. I’m looking at that and going, cool, I can edit this version like that, I can make that happen. There’s one scene where the character Rachel transforms into smoke, and I’ve added a new shot of her transformation where you actually see her becoming the smoke. So the cops reaction is not shooting into smoke, but shooting at this figure in the smoke. So things like that, that’s what I’ve been adding to the film. It’s very interesting how much actually was cut from this film.

SHOCK: So what are your ambitions with this project?

FIlip: Well my ego is quite big, so I have some thoughts that this is going to be my big break. Maybe open something up for me, because I think that it will make something of a splash on the fan-edit circuit. I’m hoping to upload my cut onto Vimeo so that people can watch it, this isn’t something that will be up for sale because that’s just insane, and bad. I don’t think I’m going to run into any problems with copyright infringements. This isn’t the Theatrical, Cabal Cut or the Directors Cut anymore; this is a definitive fan edit.

There is a whole fan edit community out there and I’m curious what their response to this will be because this is so ambitious and I think it will make people go “Oh, some guy in Sweden just made a whole new version of the film as it’s never been seen before.” So I’m hoping that the fans will look at this and go, Oh cool, this is what the film should have been back in 1989. In some ways I made this just so that my friends can watch it with me, because I’ve been telling them for so long that “There is this other version out there which is so much better” and then the Cabal Cut wasn’t that version I thought it would be. As I mentioned initially, the Director’s Cut has some flaws I can’t really get along with. One of them being that it has some kind of lack of coverage to it. Which is why I get the feeling that it was rushed in some way. An example is this one scene where Decker shows up with Narcisse head and I’m thinking any minute now they are going to cut to this medium shot of Decker… and it never happens! He shows up with the head and he throws the head to Boone and it’s all in a close up, and I was sure that this can’t have been the way Clive Barker shot this scene. So I’m looking at the extras and what do you know, there’s this perfect medium shot of Decker throwing the head and I’m going, This should be in the movie! So I’ve edited it now so that it goes, Boone turns around, you see Decker with Narcisse head in a close up, you cut back to Boone going what the hell am I looking at, and then you cut to the medium shot to reveal what your looking at. That’s how you edit a scene. I feel that I can say that as I’m someone who loves film, I’ve watched documentaries on how to make film, I’m very interested in how you make films and so my approach to this wasn’t as someone who doesn’t know anything about film editing, because I do know. I know how to edit scenes, and that’s why I approached it from a professional perspective, not just as a fan boy bitching about wanting to see more monsters. I think you are going to look at it and go, this is very well edited!

With all the rearrangement, new scenes, work print footage and changes I think that I will be satisfied with this cut. You know, at the end of the day, it’s a child of labor, because I want to see and share with likeminded fans, a definitive version as I imagine Clive Barker would have completed it without any studio interference.

You can read more about his project and keep tabs on Filip’s work and progress on his definitive cut of NIGHTBREED on his official blogspot.

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