Horror fans definitely know how to party.

Normally you’ll find me in the kitchen at parties. Preferably in my own kitchen, far away from where the party’s at. But after enjoying another great movie, and the fabulous Total Icon Film Q&A (more about those in a moment) I thought I’d check out The Phoenix Artist Club, which is apparently the place to be if you feel like some refreshment and a friendly chat about the FrightFest experience.

I’m not going to say anymore except that’s why I’m filing my second day report a little bit late. And my head hurts.

Let’s change the subject.

Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut

I’ve always enjoyed Clive Barker’s films, particularly the original ‘Hellraiser’ and the vastly underrated ‘Lord of Illusions’. But my favourite Clive Barker film wasn’t directed or written by him at all, even though it’s based on his short story ‘The Forbidden’. I’m talking about Bernard Rose’s excellent ‘Candyman’.

The only film Clive Barker’s made that I really didn’t care about, and was a critical and commercial bomb when it was originally released in 1990, is ‘Nightbreed’. I saw it once at the theatre and never wanted to see it again. It’s a mess, even though it has since achieved cult status.

Even Clive Barker was disappointed with his final cut and when rumours began circulating that some legendary lost footage had been rediscovered, albeit on low quality VHS cassette, there was hope and speculation that one day audiences might see a re-edited and more pleasing version of Barker’s ‘Nightbreed’ vision.

So there was huge expectation among the crowd waiting outside the Empire Leicester Square at 9.00am on the second day of ‘FrightFest’, eagerly awaiting the European premiere of ‘Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut’.

In the brief Q&A after the film, one of the ‘Nightbreed’ restoration team referred to the movie as “‘Gone With The Wind’ with monsters” and I think I agree. Although it’s still a work in progress, ‘The Cabal Cut’ is currently 153 minutes long, but (unlike my experience of ‘Gone With The Wind’) it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome and is a massive improvement over the chaotic 1990 version.

‘Nightbreed’ is the story of Aaron Boone (Craig Scheffer), a young man who is tormented by nightmares about a mysterious underground city called Midian. Midian is the place where shapeshifting monsters go to hide from the barbaric human world, seeking acceptance among their own kind.

Aaron’s girlfriend (Anne Bobby) has urged Aaron to seek help to cure his nightmares, but Aaron’s psychiatrist Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg) has convinced Aaron that he is responsible for a series of gruesome murders. In actual fact, it’s Decker who is the serial killer trying to pin the blame for his crimes on his unsuspecting patient.

In a drug induced haze, Aaron goes in search of Midian and, after a terrifying near-death encounter with one of its grotesque meat hungry residents, finds himself in bigger danger when he escapes the hidden city and is suddenly confronted by Decker and an entire squad of armed police.

But when the police gun Aaron down, and his lifeless body is taken to the morgue, Aaron’s adventure among the Nightbreed really begins…

‘Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut’ is a very good film. I was engrossed all the way through and not even the dismal quality of the restored footage, which is very dark and hazy and occasionally has a conspicuous ‘Copyright’ legend on the top corner of the screen, distracted me from Barker’s excellent story. And, for the first time, that story makes sense. The relationship between Aaron and his girlfriend is more complete and Midian’s marvellously conceived creatures get a lot more screen time. Considering Barker made the film more than twenty years ago, most of the ‘Nightbreed’ make-ups are still very impressive. I also enjoyed a couple of cool-but-hokey stopmotion effects that the restorers assured us, even though there’s a lot more work still to do and apparently more ‘lost’ film to find, won’t be taken out in subsequent revisions.

Another nice touch – Doug Bradley’s character Lylesburg, who inducts Aaron into Midian society, now has Bradley’s voice all the way through. In the original version, parts of Bradley’s performance were redubbed by an actor who quite clearly didn’t even attempt to approximate Bradley’s distinctive tones, but the audience were told that when Bradley heard about the restoration effort he donated his time for free and spent a day in studio replacing dialogue.

The love and commitment of everyone involved in ‘The Cabal Cut’ is undeniable and the film received a huge and very well deserved round of applause from the 1,300 strong FrightFest audience. When members of the restoration team came on stage after the showing, they urged fans to lobby Morgan Creek and Twentieth Century Fox – the studios who own ‘Nightbreed’ – and let them know how much we want the work to continue so we can see the restored footage improved and the movie finally returned to its proper glory. There’s also a Facebook page – ‘Occupy Midian’ – where you can add your support to their petition.

I’d urge everyone to do that. Whatever your thoughts about horror, or Clive Barker, or ‘Nightbreed’, the creators true voice always deserves to be heard and their vision shouldn’t be compromised by studio executives who, for whatever reason, blindly hack away at their work with rusty scissors.

In 1990, ‘Nightbreed’ was hacked to death. In 2012, ‘FrightFest’ was privileged to witness the beginnings of it being brought back to life. It was a sensational experience.

Total Film Icon Q&A: Dario Argento

When Total Film’s Jamie Graham introduced horror legend Dario Argento to the stage, the response from the FrightFest crowd was overwhelming. Whatever most fans might think of Argento’s output over the last fifteen or twenty years – it’s been that long since he showed us the genius he’s capable of – the Italian maestro is, and indisputably remains, a genre icon.


Having said that, I couldn’t help thinking that the tremendous sizzle reel which played before the Q&A began – a slick compilation of Argento trailers and a couple of funny and self-deprecating Italian TV ads featuring Argento as the star – only served to underline the elephant in the room. We saw trailers for ‘Deep Red’, ‘Phenomena’, ‘Tenebrae’, ‘Suspiria’, ‘Opera’, ‘Inferno’ and an ad for the soundtrack of ‘Demons’ – but all the movies Argento has directed since 1987 were conspicuously absent.

Jamie Graham opened up the conversation by asking his guest about the upcoming ‘Dracula 3D’. Argento hopes that the film will receive a theatrical release in the early part of next year, and talked about how the transformational aspects of the Dracula character have always fascinated him. He told us an amusing anecdote involving a bush, a Russian woman and Rutger Hauer (who plays Van Helsing in the film), and also admitted it was fun to finally kill off his daughter Asia, who plays Lucy.

When the chat turned towards the recently announced US ‘remake’ of ‘Suspiria’, Argento admitted that he hasn’t been consulted about the project and he’s obviously not enthusiastic about seeing his films remade. When Jamie Graham told him that ‘Suspiria’ director David Gordon Green has said his new version will be more psychedelic than the original (inspiring some gently mocking laughter from many of us in the audience) Argento simply shrugged his shoulders and, with a charming smile, replied “They can try”.

All in all, it was a delightful but far too brief interview followed up by some interesting, but occasionally sycophantic, questions from the audience. Argento seemed particularly bemused when someone asked “What were you thinking?!” about the fish in ‘The Stendahl Syndrome’, but gave an impassioned answer when another audience member asked if classical art influences his work. He said he’s very sad about the current situation in Greece because Greece is where all great art originated. He also admitted that many of his stories come to him from nightmares.

For me, the one question I wasn’t too sure about was when Jamie Graham asked if the Oscar success of ‘Black Swan’ – which borrows so many of its motifs from Argento’s ‘Suspiria’ – had pleased him. Dario gave a polite but somehow noncommittal answer, saying that it’s always good when your work influences others, but I couldn’t help thinking there was a certain sadness there too. If there was any justice, it’s Dario’s original ‘Suspiria’ that should have got an Academy award and not Darren Aronofsky’s flashy and over-hyped Argento rip-off.

But maybe that’s just me.

The fact is, even if Dario Argento never recovers the genius of the seventies and eighties, he created a body of work within those years that was truly exceptional. He was an innovator who, for that period of time, proved that horror cinema can be an incredibly beautiful art form. That’s the reason his legion of fans continue to love him, and hold out faith that one day he might rediscover his genius again.

It was a fantastic way to finish my second day at FrightFest and I can’t wait to be back onboard tomorrow (Sunday).

But right now excuse me while I draw the blinds and recover from this hangover…

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white