2010 (Still Evolving) / Director. Clive Barker. Russell Cherrington.
Clive Barker has made no secret that the theatrical release of his film Night Breed was not what he had envisioned. The studio cut the film against his wishes and according to him they delivered a standard slasher film and couldn't comprehend the story's complexities. The remaining footage that he had filmed was lost and to this day the original reels are missing. Suddenly in 2009 a box full of VHS tapes with work-prints of the lost footage was found by Mark Miller and Clive's close friend, Russell Cherrington, took it upon himself to put together an extended version of the film to better represent Barker's vision. This new Night Breed is called The Cabal Cut and has been travelling around the world. The most recent screenings have been in Melbourne this weekend and I was fortunate enough to attend the first.
Clive Barker fans are a passionate lot. I've had my run-ins with them in the past and should anything negative be said about the great man, they spring into a lynch mob mentality. It is with this knowledge that I will reiterate the fact that my opinion is one of thousands. The Cabal Cut is not good. It is not the grand masterpiece we have been hoping for and I personally think that it does Night Breed a massive disservice. We got the opportunity to hear Russell Cherrington speak about the film and the one thing that he insisted upon was that his cut of the film is all about “story”. He hammered this fact in and explained how he put the film together following the novel closely, page by page where necessary. This is where he has let the film down the most. He has been so precious about the “story” that he has not approached the film with any objectivity. Any good filmmaker and/or historian will tell you that the key to a successful adaptation is knowing when to take liberties. Often what is great on paper isn't great on screen. By constructing a 155 minute film he has overshot the conventional time restraints for a genre film and he has completely muddied the story. I admit that I was excited about seeing so much new footage but there is a reason why it was cut out. The acting in these scenes is generally wooden and labored, most likely outtakes, and putting them back in makes the story patchy and uneven. Sure, the film has some restored subplots, which are true to Barker's novel, but they're not arranged well and seem to be wedged in for the sake of it. The film chops and changes between grainy (VERY grainy) VHS quality scenes to pristinely crisp footage lifted from the remastered DVD and I can't for the life of me figure out why he has replaced existing scenes with the SAME footage, but from VHS... I understand that the Cabal Cut is still a work in progress and it will be cleaned up before its official release, but I felt let down by it. It's a shonky-looking patch work of a film that drags on and on. At the point where the theatrical cut climaxed, so does this version... only it keeps going... and going... for another hour. The new reconstruction almost turns it into a comedy with all kinds of stupid situations. For example the gun-toting lynch-mob storm into Midian just before the place erupts into a giant fireball and they come out from it still toting and carrying on 20 minutes later like nothing happened (ya think the first sign of an explosion and they'd be outta'there). And then theres a stupid (STUPID) moment when Decker starts talking to his mask. An audience member asked Cherrington why he left an insignificant scene in the film, which doesn't serve the new cut well... Cherrington's response was the he just loves that scene and so he left it in... talk about a contradiction to his declaration of being driven by "story". I've since returned to the original theatrical cut that Clive Barker hates so much and at risk of copping a flogging from people, I am convinced that it's a superior film in every way. All of the flaws I thought it had, I am now grateful for. Russell Cherrington invited people to respond to his Cabal Cut. He asked us to blog about it... be it positive or negative. I can only hope that he takes all criticisms on board. All he would need to do is recut it to a more modest running time, remove the nonsense, and understand that it isn't his responsibility to recreate the book on film but rather construct the best possible representation of it. THEN it could be the masterpiece we all want so badly.
A HUGE amount of praise and respect must be given to Steve Dillon. Steve runs Oz Horror Con and is the man responsible for bringing The Cabal Cut to Australia. Love or hate the film, we needed to see it and he delivered. Make sure you support his work and attend his events. It's a non-profit devotion.