Missed Opportunities: Hellraiser Revelations
The Hellraiser franchise is a complicated matter to discuss. Essentially, it's a series of stories about a box that brings forth horrific beings called Cenobites to take people away to an unearthly realm and bring their victims unspeakable pain with their experiments. Of course the first thing that instinctively comes to mind to anyone that hears the word Hellraiser, is the face of Pinhead as portrayed by Doug Bradley. Not the intricacies of a twisted world designed for torture, not the imaginative abominations people would turn into when becoming Cenobites, but Pinhead – with his stoic, haunting demeanour, when he informs his victims of the inevitability of their impeding doom.
Pinhead is indeed an unforgettable antagonist, but with this also comes a huge problem. Pinhead is also ridiculously marketable. A gold mine. But a gold mine that technically isn't the whole focus of the franchise, rather the most prominent of a number of executors for a power seen but once in the movies. Compared to most other slashers and horror antagonists like Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, his methods and motives are more complicated. The imagination necessary to keep a franchise with so many vague attributes going is hard to say the least.
So... you have a franchise that has an instantly recognisable universe, but little idea what to do with it. You conclude your story in a very definite manner, with the last encounter culminating in space (which is horror slang for “help, I'm completely out of ideas”). But that only lasted you 4 movies. Now what? If the franchise sits too long, the copyright falls through and Hellraiser would be free game for everybody. The cheapest option? Buy an unrelated script and do a few rewrites. Then create Hellraiser: Inferno. Then repeat the process three more times with Hellseeker, Deader and Hellworld.
The difference shows. Pinhead and the puzzle box play a secondary role at best after the fourth movie. The tone shifts away from cheesy oldschool horror and adapts more elements of mystery or occult or in the case of Hellworld becomes a straight up slasher flick. But the icon of Pinhead remains the same. Doug Bradley's portrayal of the legendary icon is a steadfast rock that keeps the films unquestionably connected to the franchise.
But then, for several years, not even the second-hand Hellraiser movies would be produced. A remake is kind of-sort of announced, but difficulties keep appearing and the the start of production for the film itself is nowhere in sight. Time keeps ticking. Trademarks push closer and closer to their expiring dates. The only solution: a new movie. And fast. Like, super fast. Like, produce this whole damn thing in three weeks fast. This could only go well, right?
The effort was so bad, Clive Barker disowned it and Doug Bradley, for the first time, refused to reprise his role as the icon synonymous with his name. When I saw the movie, I had no idea how to feel. At some points, the movie was so horrible, it sometimes entered a laughably entertaining state, but in no way had that so “bad it's good” kind of vibe. I've always maintained that to produce a “so bad it's good” movie, you have to love what you do. There's a certain love that gets poured into a work that people want to share with others, but one can't always do so with the resources, time or talent necessary to bring said vision fully to life. It's an intrinsic value that is hard to pinpoint, but shows in the dedication with which a work is made, but it pours through the work to the watcher himself.
Hellraiser:Revelations doesn't really have that quality. No one really has any time to care, even if they wanted to. The only fun the movie can provide is in awkward laughs, where you don't know if you should feel entertained or if you should just simply feel bad about what you see. This isn't a so bad it's good movie. It's more akin to a loud drunk at a party that tries to re-enact some scenes from a movie he once saw, but barely remembers – hilarious for all the wrong reasons, with a heavy dose of awkward added to the mix. But then again, it was never the point of this movie to actually be good.
So, if this film was never meant to please anyone, why are we talking about it? Well, perhaps this handling of the franchise would indicate it is time to let go. The release of Revelations, even if it exists just to exist, means that Dimensions is still in control of the trademark. But with Revelations being the first in-house produced script since the fourth Hellraiser movie, their understanding of the universe and what to do with it could be seen as questionable at best. There's still the comics, but movie-wise, we're stuck waiting for a remake that is thus far stuck in development hell. And let's face it, horror movies and remakes have not made the best of combinations as of late.
The downside of the trademark being open is of course that the franchise would truly be open to anyone unless someone picks it up again. We would indeed get some terrible products, but hey, good alternatives aren't a complete impossibility. There are people out there, who, if nothing else, seem to better understand the universe the Hellraiser franchise has created. I'd make the argument that at least one such project already exists in the form of a movie called Necromentia, which was meant as an homage to Clive Barker's work.
Necromentia is like a Hellraiser flick in maybe all aspects but the name dropping. It has an after-place where people finding a twisted pleasure in acts like harming themselves and others are whisked away and tortured forever by obscure, disfigured monstrosities. The cube has been replaced by a pattern that is handed down to those chosen by the residents of these strange torturers. The film is brutal in its torture and execution scenes, very close to what a modern Hellraiser might feel like.
Sadly, the way the movie is told, it might put off people. The story jumps around timelines to bring together two different stories, with the relation between the characters only revealed at the end, making the movie harder to follow. The middle part of the movie might drag on for some. But it sports some really interesting ideas and some tense scenes. Personally, I enjoyed it more than most of what came after Hellraiser: Inferno.
And of course if nothing else, it has Mr. Skinny. Who doesn't love Mr. Skinny.
End result: Troll x 4 years of further rights holding (and counting)
Lessons learned: The Lament Configuration makes people horny now. Go figure.