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Theatrical poster
Directed by Clive Barker
Produced by Gabriella Martinelli
Written by Clive Barker
Starring Craig Sheffer
Anne Bobby
David Cronenberg
Charles Haid
Hugh Ross
Doug Bradley
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Robin Vidgeon
Editing by Mark Goldblatt
Richard Marden
Studio Morgan Creek
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) February 16, 1990
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11,000,000
Gross revenue $8,862,354[1]

Nightbreed is a 1990 horror film written and directed by Clive Barker, based on his novella Cabal. Barker has expressed disappointment with the final cut and longs for the recovery of the reels so it might be re-edited.[2] Behind-the-scenes footage of some of the lost scenes has been uncovered and can be seen at Barker's Revelations website.



The movie concerns Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), a young man plagued by dreams of a city called Midian, populated by bizarre creatures and deviants of all types who refer to themselves as the "Nightbreed". Aaron is framed for several murders by his psychopathic therapist, Decker (David Cronenberg), subsequently killed by police and resurrected by the magic of Midian. Boone joins forces with the other monsters to defend themselves from the true monsters of the story: humankind.


Barker always loved monsters and felt that "there's a corner of all of us that envies their powers and would love to live forever, or to fly, or to change shape at will. So, when I came to make a movie about monsters, I wanted to create a world we'd feel strangely at home in".[3] He was interested in creating a "horror mythology from the ground up" and developing characters that would live on in sequels.[4] As he finished writing the novella Cabal, he realized that it would make a good film that he would direct himself.[5] He originally envisioned a trilogy of films.[6]

Nightbreed was the first of a planned three-picture deal Barker had with Morgan Creek, Chairman of 20th Century Fox Joe Roth's production company, that included an adaptation of Son of Celluloid and a sequel to Nightbreed. The first compromise Barker made was to change the title of the film from Cabal to Nightbreed because Morgan Creek insisted on a more commercial title and thought that the original one did not mean anything.[7] He was given a budget of $11 million which was a considerable increase from the $2 million he had to work with on Hellraiser. His goal was to make the Star Wars of horror films. The monsters in the book are represented impressionistically over two or three paragraphs and the challenge Barker faced was to visualize them in much greater detail for the film.[8]

For the film, Barker used three soundstages at Pinewood Studios and shot on location in Calgary, Canada.[4] Bob Keen and his crew had two months to play around with ideas before doing any modeling work. They used computer-controlled animatronics but only where necessary.[9] Towards the end of principal photography, Barker brought Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie in to paint mattes for the Necropolis sequences and design the history of the Breed in a symbolic way on an enormous mural across a 60-foot space on the set at Pinewood to be used in the opening credits.[10]

Barker was contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film and could not make it as gory as his previous picture Hellraiser.[4] Barker previewed the first cut of Nightbreed with a temporary soundtrack that did not go well as people were confused by the characters' motives. He made some changes and the second test screening was much more successful. However, the ending with Decker's death was not well-received and Barker changed it.[11] In late July 1989, the studio announced that the release date for Nightbreed was being pushed back from its original autumn 1989 date to early February 1990 instead. The press release cited "the complex demands of the film's ground-breaking post-production optical effects", but this also included McQuarrie's mural and matte paintings, and a week of additional shooting in late August that would see key parts of the narrative re-shot.[10] Barker shot extra scenes over three days in Los Angeles in late 1989 which included additional scenes with David Cronenberg which expanded and clarified his character. Barker's original version ran two-and-a-half hours and Fox asked for almost an hour to be cut prompting editor Richard Marden to leave the project in protest. Nightbreed was cut to two hours and then again to 102 minutes.[11]

According to Barker, the studio did not promote it well with posters that misinterpreted the content. When he saw the way they were selling Nightbreed, he "freaked out and said, 'What you doing? This isn't the movie, and was given all kinds of excuses ... 'Well, there isn't time to change it, we have to release it now'".[12] The head of marketing at Morgan Creek never watched all the way through because it "disgusted and distressed" him, according to Barker.[12] The studio did not understand it, it had no movie stars, it was violent,[12] and it had elements of fantasy and horror which they saw as a weakness while Barker saw it as a strength. They ended up marketing Nightbreed as a slasher film with television teasers that were confusing and did not represent it.[13] The trailer was sent to the MPAA and it was rejected 12 times. They forbid any monster footage and it was cut down to someone being terrorized with a razor which constituted only five minutes of Barker's film.[11] Looking back, Barker realized that Fox was better at promoting films like White Men Can't Jump but "not so good at selling the quirky stuff".[14]

The studio argued that there was no point showing Nightbreed to critics because the people who see horror films do not read reviews. Therefore, the film had to be sold to the lowest common denominator.[15] They refused to preview the film for critics which angered them.[13]


Nightbreed was released on February 16, 1990 in 1,488 theaters, grossing $3.7 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $8.8 million in North America, below its $11 million budget.[16]

Nightbreed was not well-received by critics. In her review for The New York Times, Caryn James wrote, “But surrounded by Mr. Barker's visual clutter and lack of narrative energy, Mr. Cronenberg's presence only highlights the difference between a gruesome but first-rate psychological horror story like Dead Ringers and a mediocrity like Nightbreed”.[17] Henry Mietkiewicz wrote in his review for the Toronto Star, “Nightbreed might have been a monster movie milestone, if Clive Barker's directorial abilities had kept pace with his skill as a master of British horror fiction. Unfortunately, Nightbreed probably will be remembered as much for its haphazard plotting and underdeveloped characters as its delightfully daring concept”.[18] In his review for the Globe and Mail, Jay Scott wrote, “Sad to say, poor old Nightbreed fails even as failure - it's bad, but it's not memorably bad”.[19] Derek Malcolm wrote in his review for The Guardian that “it is neither direct nor subtle enough as a piece of film-making. It is difficult to suggest that evil is human and monsters have souls within the context of a mountain of special effects. The result is patchy in the extreme and not always capable of transcending a genre that has become less and less intriguing as less and less is left to the imagination”.[20] Entertainment Weekly magazine’s Owen Gleiberman gave the film a “C+” rating and wrote, “Barker spins grisly fantasy out of sexual obsession, yet his style here couldn't be less obsessive. It's cluttered and rather incoherent, as though the trailers to four different horror movies had been spliced together”.[21] In his review for the Washington Post, Richard Harrington wrote, "Sure, the visual effects (by Image Animation) are quite wonderful, but in the end, Barker seems to have expended all his energies on masks that cannot hide the terminal deficiencies of his script".[22]

Comic book series

In 1990, to tie in with the film's box office release, Epic Comics produced a four-issue adaptation of the film, which included significant differences from the finished movie, more closely related to Clive Barker's original script. The comic book continued to run past the end of the movie, ultimately stretching to twenty five issues before it was cancelled. A two part Hellraiser vs Nightbreed: Jihad graphic novel was also produced, featuring the Cenobites as agents of order against their chaotic nemeses, the Nightbreed. Nightbreed returned, in 1992, as a short story in the second issue of the four issue Epic anthology series.


Two videogames based on the film were released on the Commodore Amiga shortly after the movie's release. Loosely following the same plot, it intersperses various action sequences. A traditional action game was also released for the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and DOS.[23]

The games were intended to be released as a trilogy. The first game released was called "Nightbreed, The Action Game". This was literally an action type game based on the film. The second was called "Nightbreed, The Interactive Movie". This was based on the film as well, however there was less gameplay involved and it was more of an interactive movie type game. Due to the poor success ratings of both games, the third game was never made.

Extended cut

Mark Miller, a friend of Barker, asked if he could track down the missing 25 minutes of footage that was cut out of the director's cut of Nightbreed. Miller discovered, after talking to a production executive at the studio, that the footage was never actually lost but readily accessible. When asked, a studio executive said that there was not a big enough audience to warrant the studio spending money on a new, extended cut of the film.[24] A VHS copy of Barker's 145 minute version of the film's mid-1989 workprint was recently discovered. It does not feature any of the re-shoots of Decker's murders.[25] The extended cut version will be premiered on March 27th 2010 as part of the Horrorhound Weekend.[26]


  1. ^ This Month in Horror: February 1990
  2. ^ The Official Clive Barker Resource: Revelations - Uncompleted Film Projects D
  3. ^ Barker, Clive (December 1988). "Chains of Love". Fear. 
  4. ^ a b c Nutman, Philip (1991). "Introduction to Nightbreed". Nightbreed U.S. Video. 
  5. ^ "Nightbreed Presskit". Morgan Creek. 1990. 
  6. ^ Salisbury, Mark (December 1988). "Chains of Love". Fear. 
  7. ^ Jones, Alan (November 1989). "Clive Barker's Nightbreed". Cinefantastique. 
  8. ^ Nutman, Philip (October 1989). "Bring on the Monsters!". Fangoria. 
  9. ^ Robb, Brian J (May/June 1989). "Games without Frontiers". Fear. 
  10. ^ a b Gilbert, John (October 1989). "The Breed: The Source of the Soul". Fear. 
  11. ^ a b c Jones, Alan (September 1990). "Nightbreed: The Trials and Tribulations of Clive Barker". Starburst. 
  12. ^ a b c Salisbury, Mark (October 1990). "Flesh and Fury". Fear. 
  13. ^ a b Timpone, Anthony (1990). "Barker Bites Back". Fangoria Horror Spectacular. 
  14. ^ Ferrante, Anthony C (September 1993). "Barker Looks Back". Bloody Best of Fangoria. 
  15. ^ Jones, Alan (July 1990). "How Fox Bungled Nightbreed". Cinefantastique. 
  16. ^ "Nightbreed". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  17. ^ James, Caryn (February 17, 1990). "Taking Refuge in a Little Town of Horrors". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  18. ^ Mietkiewicz, Henry (February 20, 1990). "Nightbreeds storytelling sacrificed". The Toronto Star. 
  19. ^ Scott, Jay (February 20, 1990). "Beasties that stink up the night Nightbreed". Globe and Mail. 
  20. ^ Malcolm, Derek (September 27, 1990). "The angel who fell to earth". The Guardian. 
  21. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (March 2, 1990). "Nightbreed". Entertainment Weekly.,,316846,00.html. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  22. ^ Harrington, Richard (February 21, 1990). "Nightbreed". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  23. ^ Your Sinclair: Nightbreed
  24. ^ Zahn, James (June 01, 2009). "Nightbreed: The Director's Cut?". Fangoria. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  25. ^ Zahn, James (June 10, 2009). "Update on the Director's Cut of Nightbreed". Fangoria. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  26. ^ See Nightbreed Uncut for the First Time EVER


  • Clive Barker's The Nightbreed Chronicles; Clive Barker, Murray Close, Stephen Jones; ISBN 1-85286-260-2
  • Clive Barker's Nightbreed: The Making of the Film; Clive Barker, Mark Salisbury, John Gilbert; ISBN 0-00-638136-7

External links

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