Nightbreed (1990) (NTSC)

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Released 3-Oct-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 101:29
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Clive Barker

Warner Home Video
Starring Craig Sheffer
Anne Bobby
David Cronenberg
Charles Haid
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Danny Elfman

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Nightbreed  is not in a genre that I normally watch. The closest I would normally come to this is Buffy or Angel, so I do not know if this is a good example from within the genre. All I know is that I had a great time watching this film. It was something more than a B grade horror; the storyline was good, the soundtrack fantastic and the acting was not bad when taken in context. Filmed in 1990, I think it predates Buffy and other similar series. To me, Nightbreed had a similar feel to these later series, although a little darker and bloodier, but not to the extent seen in hack and slash films.

    Written and directed by Clive Barker of Hellraiser fame, the film is based on one of his novels. Apparently there is much more depth in the novel, but this is often the case with screenplays.

    There is a very clear moral to this story concerning exactly who are the true monsters in this world. Take yourself back to the dawn of history. In mythology, man is not alone on the planet - there are other intelligent creatures. Dark creatures that man does not understand and thus fears. Even worse, they have powers that man does not, engendering jealousy. This leads to man's crusade to destroy these creatures, to wipe them from the face of the planet.

    Jump to the present, and we find the last remnants of these 'tribes' hiding in fear underground, the Nightbreed. The story picks up when a human psychopath is looking for new victims and a scapegoat to hang his crimes on. A young man, Boone (Craig Sheffer) becomes the focus of this psychopath and is framed for the murder of sixteen people. He has a mysterious link to the Nightbreed and ends up trying to find sanctuary amongst them. Unfortunately, his love for his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) brings the Nightbreed to the notice of the outside world, with predictable consequences. The story shows that the Nightbreed, while looking like monsters, are not the evil characters but the victims.

    The acting, special effects and makeup are excellent in the context of a mid-budget horror film. There is a film festival, which I admit I had not heard of before today, specifically for this type of film: Fantasporto, in which this film won the Critics award and was nominated for best film.

    All in all, I found Nightbreed to be a very enjoyable film, particularly so the soundtrack which featured some excellent music and provides a real workout for your subwoofer. Now that I have been introduced to this genre, I will be seeking out other Clive Barker films and novels. My only real complaint is that the film does have the feel that there should be a sequel. When a director/writer sets up for a sequel in a film, then there is an implied contract with the viewer that they will actually make the sequel. Unfortunately, that is not the case for Nightbreed..

    This is the first DVD I have received for review that is part of a batch of films that we will receive in Australia that are in NTSC. The case carries a small red triangle on the top right hand corner of the front cover stating "NTSC Region 4". I will not enter into the debate about that here, but merely give you, the reader, a warning: Your equipment must be capable of viewing an NTSC disc to watch this DVD.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    We have a somewhat variable transfer here. We start off with quite a few problems, but they gradually disappear, and at the end of the film, the transfer is quite good.

    We are presented with a transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Information available indicates that the original format was 1.85:1. It is unknown whether they have opened the matte slightly or zoomed the transfer slightly to achieve this ratio change. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is quite good throughout, though there are a couple of softer scenes, such as at 35:56. Shadow detail is also good but could have been better. It is important when you spend a lot of the film underground that shadow detail is excellent. There is quite a bit of grain, particularly in the darker areas of the transfer at the start of the film. Somehow, this disappears almost completely by the end of the film. It is at its worst in the background at 19:35. There is a small problem with the brightness level in several scenes. There appears to be a very slight up and down shift in the brightness on several occasions, in particular in the long shots around the cemetery.

    The colours are good. Skin tones (where human) are accurately reproduced. A lot of this film has a muted colour palette but there are good subtle variations within this palette that add to the atmosphere of the film. Where bright colours do appear, they have good saturation and no chroma noise or bleed.

    At the start of the film, there are quite a few MPEG artefacts. Backgrounds show evidence of macro blocking and scene changes show a loss of resolution such as at 6:21. There is also posterization on some of the actors' faces, an example being at 7:45. Surprisingly, these artefacts slowly disappear until we reach the big climax of the film which shows no artefacts at all. It could be that they have deliberately saved bits from the bit budget to ensure the action at the end of the film is rendered correctly.

    There is some evidence of telecine wobble. This is most clearly seen in the office scene at 7:45: the windows are covered with Venetian blinds giving a very clear horizontal reference. The image moves up and down a small but very discernible amount. At times, this is a little distracting.

    The film source is in surprisingly good condition for its age. There are a number of small spots, both black and white, but they are not distracting. The only major blip I spotted is a big scratch at 15:57.

    There are three sets of subtitles; English, French and Spanish. I viewed the English for a while. They include sound descriptions for the Hearing Impaired and were accurate to the spoken parts.

    No second layer, no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The soundtrack on this disc is great. The music was written by Danny Elfman (BeetleJuice, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Men in Black) and matches the film perfectly.

    There are two audio tracks on this disc. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is also provided. I listened to the 5.1 track throughout, and then went back and sampled the 2.0 surround-encoded track.

    The dialogue quality was pretty good throughout. There were a couple of instances where the dialogue was a little hard to understand, but this was due to the 'monster voice' that the actor was trying to use rather than the soundtrack.

    There were a couple of occasions where the ADR missed the mark, but in general the audio was in sync.

    The music was great. The atmosphere created worked perfectly with the film, arousing and intensifying the emotions felt. It had a similar feel to the other films that Danny Elfman has written the music for and really added to the overall enjoyment of this film.

     The surrounds are in use constantly, with ambience effects, music and even some discrete effects coming from all directions. You are really drawn into the action on-screen. This is an excellent effort, especially considering the film's age. While obviously a remix, they have not fallen into the trap of zooming mono effects around the room.

     The subwoofer is used throughout the film to add atmosphere and effects. My receiver has an LED graph that indicates LFE usage independent of redirected bass from the other speakers. The graph was showing constant LFE activity throughout the film, making this one of the most active LFE tracks I have heard. While there was not the extreme low frequency usage of a film such as The Haunting, the LFE and redirected bass combined to shake the house almost continuously. In the majority of scenes this worked well, although there were a couple of examples where they went a little over-the-top.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The only extras we have are the theatrical trailer and the Cast and Crew Filmographies.


    The animated menus are quite well done and easy to use. They are 16x9 enhanced and are accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 sound clip.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is of the same quality as the main feature and is 16x9 enhanced.

Filmographies: Cast and Crew

    A series of text pages listing the credits of the cast and crew. This helped me identify where I had seen the psycho police officer before - Hill Street Blues, also as a police officer, but not quite as crazy.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is the Region 1 version. They have simply changed the Region Coding.


    It may be that traditional horror fans may rate this film less highly than traditional horror films. This may be part of the reason that I liked it so much as I am not a fan of the traditional hack and slash bloodfests.

    The video quality was somewhat variable.

    The audio was excellent considering the age of the film.

    The extras could have been better. The Internet Movie Database talks about quite a bit of footage that ended up on the cutting room floor. If this footage still exists, they have missed a great opportunity to give us some fantastic extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Friday, October 05, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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