Clive Barker’s world is a dark, sick, wet, sexually disturbed world, and that’s exactly as it should be.
When he began releasing the “Books Of Blood,” it was a sensation because there seemed to be no line that he was afraid to cross, no taboo he was afraid to confront. His stories were dangerous. They felt personal. They felt invasive. Even now if you read them, they remain transgressive, almost too dark to take.
When he directed his first feature film “Hellraiser,” the film seemed to ably reflect that sensibility on film. It’s not a perfect movie, but there’s a sweaty, overheated quality to it that works, and that makes it feel like something you shouldn’t be watching, Since that first film, which never really felt like a franchise movie, the series has been subject to the law of diminishing returns, quickly becoming so coarse and stupid that it’s hard to believe there was ever any merit to the original. That’s the real danger with doing one terrible sequel after another. You can eventually turn something that started well into something that any right-thinking person would actively avoid.
Dimension Films has never been accused of under-exploiting the film properties they own. They are a sequel factory, and they seem perfectly happy to pump out straight-to-video fare if that’s the way it works out, with an eye on theatrical release if the stars align. Little wonder they’ve been trying to get a new “Hellraiser” off the ground for a while, and there have been a few moments in the last couple of years where there were some interesting names attached.
Pascal Laugier, whose French film “Martyrs” is precisely the sort of tough, uncompromised horror that Clive Barker built his reputation on, wrote a treatment for the film and was set to direct for a while, and the directors of “Inside,” Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, were also alleged to be circling the film for a while. Either of those scenarios would have resulted in something that would most likely honor the “Hellraiser” name and add something new or provocative to the mythology of the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration.
I even went in with my writing partner Scott Swan and we ran our take up the chain of command. We proposed something sort of radical, and as a result, half of the people in charge of the property seemed really excited by our idea, while Bob Weinstein decided eventually that it was too far outside the box. I agree that we weren’t just proposing more of the same, and that might have been scary when sequels are typically just more of the same, repackaged with a new cast. But when you’ve already made six or seven movies in a series, you can afford to take chances. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I’m pretty sure whatever the worst possible “Hellraiser” movie is, Dimension’s already released it. Maybe even more than once.
Now word is they’ve settled on Christian E. Christiansen, director of “The Roommate,” and that he’s going to be making a teen-friendly version of “Hellraiser,” possibly with Amber Heard starring in the film. “Teen-friendly” is code for “PG-13,” which is of course what every studio wants from horror films these days.
It is also a complete affront in this case.
I am not the sort of person who believes that every horror film has to adhere to an explicit rating to work, but this is “Hellraiser.” The whole point is about the co-mingling of pain and pleasure, of death and sex, of love and hate, of tenderness and violence. It is about people in search of the extreme, willing to push themselves past the boundaries of what is strictly considered human.
That’s a PG-13? Really?
I wish I could work up a greater indignation, but in the end, I guess I just expect this sort of garbage at this point. Everything is about the lowest common denominator. Everything is about selling tickets, no matter if it works for the story being told or the film being made. Dimension Films has never been a great champion of artistic vision, but if they ever wanted to send the message loud and clear that they just plain have contempt for their own properties, this is it.
Message received, gentlemen. Loud and clear.
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