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NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT (1990)
“Nightbreed”, directed by cult author Clive Barker and adapted from his own novel “Cabal”, has been a subject of great interest for horror fans ever since 1990, when it was released in cinemas having been dramatically reworked by the studio. With this version apparently being considerably different to Barker’s original vision, there have over the years been a variety of rumours of director’s cuts and missing footage, with whispers of some kind of definitive edition of the monstrous tale refusing to die. Finally, these hopes were realised with the announcement of the discovery of two European work prints of the film and of scenes previously thought lost. Working on the restoration has been director Russell Cherrington, who has taken on the painstaking task of trying to match Barker’s original script with the footage from the studio approved and other cuts, hoping to patch them together in a manner which does justice to the source material.
Even in its truncated 1990 state, “Nightbreed” is still a very solid creature feature, following Craig Sheffer as Boone, a man tormented by visions of murder and monsters and convinced by his sinister psychiatrist (David Cronenberg) that he is in fact a serial killer. When his dreams lead him to the graveyard underworld of Midian, he fulfils his destiny by becoming the leader of the tribe of demons that dwell there.
While of course, for viewers unaware of the 1990 film this restoration and the fevered expectation it has been met with may mean little, for fans or Clive Barker devotees it’s been well worth waiting for, now clocking in at 153 minutes instead of a paltry 102. Although it does inevitably feel like a work in progress, with much of the new footage being of near VHS picture and sound quality, Cherrington has undeniably done a pretty amazing job of managing to weave it all together. Thanks to the power of the story itself and Barker’s imaginative direction, after a while the sudden jumps between clean and grainy footage cease to matter, and it’s hard not to be drawn in by such an immersive and creatively morbid story. The creature effects have aged surprisingly well, and there’s a fair amount of gore along the way, and as a result the film stands up very well against most modern genre efforts, its long running time giving it the feel of a dark fantasy epic, much more so in this new version.
While how (or if) it finally turns out on DVD remains to be seen, “NightBreed: The Cabal Cut” has clearly been a labour of love for Cherrington, and judging by the results so far, time very well spent indeed.
HIDDEN IN THE WOODS (2012)
South American horror has been hitting the headlines with increasing frequency of late, with the likes of the Uruguayan “Silent House” having received international releases, not to mention Hollywood remakes. The Chilean “Hidden in the Woods”, directed by Patricio Valladares, is a very different proposition indeed, being a full-blown, utterly amoral exploitation gore thriller that is likely to offend and dismay viewers of all tastes.
Apparently based on a true story, the film charts the fortunes of Ana and Anny (Siboney Lo and Carolina Escobar), two young sisters raised in the forest by their abusive drug dealer father (Daniel Antivilo), who regularly beats and sexually assaults them. When he is arrested after killing a couple of investigating police, the sisters are forced to fend for themselves, taking care of Anny’s handicapped, animalistic son, who has spent most of his life locked in the shed. When drug lord Costello sends some men looking for missing drugs, the girls quickly turn to murder and cannibalism, leading to an exceptionally gruesome bloodbath.
“Hidden in the Woods” is a film which completely divided the FrightFest audience, with a great many angrily labelling it misogynistic trash. To be fair, it’s quite easy to see why, as it’s hard to remember a film which puts its female characters through so much abuse, with the sisters being beaten and raped at every opportunity, and with almost the entire male cast screaming ‘whore’, ‘slut’ and other niceties at them throughout. The film is certainly difficult to watch, and many will struggle to sit through it or justify it as entertainment, as it really is unpleasant, with a grimy, filthy look and no moral compass to speak of. With even the sisters being psychotic monsters, the viewer has no sympathetic figures to root for or hide behind, and the film really does feel like a gonzo assault on the senses.
Still, for all its distasteful brutality, the film does work, at least for strong-stomached viewers looking for wild, unashamedly spiteful nastiness. Valladares himself has described the film as a comedy of sorts, and though this may be going a bit far, the film does deliver as an all-out grindhouse experience. Whilst it does pack in a lot of rape, sexual abuse and violence, the film never glorifies anything, and the camera certainly seems to treat the mistreatment of its male and female characters with equally gleeful abandon. Indeed, the film is so over the top that it does become hard to accept at face value, Valladares having produced a nightmarish picture of an ultra-violent world where everyone is a murderer, rapist or deviant of some description, and it does at times feel like a devilish cartoon.
This shouldn’t be taken as much of a recommendation for the average viewer, however, and “Hidden in the Woods” is definitely one to approach with caution. Bizarrely, the film is apparently set for a US remake, though how a more mainstream production will handle this kind of extreme material is frankly anyone’s guess.