In one of the skewed ironies of corporate consolidation, we just got a new trailer for Spyglass’s upcoming Hellraiser reboot courtesy of… Walt Disney
Anyway, he’s not the first guy to go from an acclaimed small-scale genre gem to an IP-centric horror flick (see also: Ni DaCosta going from Little Woods to Candyman). Fede Álvarez did it backward, going from a well-liked Evil Dead remake in early 2013 to the original Don’t Breathe in 2016. I’m curious to see what horror IP gets dangled in front of Zach Cregger after the breakout theatrical success of Barbarian, but I digress. This Hellraiser looks like a mix of the small-scale original (basically about an adulterous woman who lures men back home to kill them and thus slowly bring her dead lover back to life) and the visually astonishing Hellbound.
I always appreciated the original Hellraiser more than I enjoyed it. Hellraiser II felt like a full-on, all-in delivery of what most folks think a Hellraiser movie is supposed to be. The first film is mostly a small-scale family melodrama with supernatural horrors existing as the motivation and/or on the fringes. However, as I noted last October when discussing great horror sequels, the $6 million follow-up gives us a front-row seat into the (initially X-rated) world of Pinhead and the Cenobites. It is a macabre fever dream horror variation on Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I was astonished by the technical magic/wizardry offered up by a $6 million movie from 30 years ago.
This is not where I argue that Hellraiser, starring Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison and Goran Visnjic, should have gone to theaters before arriving on Hulu this October. While I’ll always support such a roll of the dice, the Hellraiser series has always been a cult property. The first four films went to theaters, while the next six were straight-to-DVD (or VOD). Hellraiser: Inferno, the first non-theatrical chapter (and a film not initially intended to be a Hellraiser sequel), was directed by Scott Derrickson, who went on to direct Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Doctor Strange and The Black Phone. Everybody has to start somewhere. The first four films earned $48 million worldwide on a combined $14 million budget.
We’ll know soon enough if this reboot/remake/re-adaptation of “The Hellbound Heart” reignites the Hellraiser fanbase and works as a singular, stand-alone horror fantasy. I will be amused to watch the perpetually online trolls argue that going with a transgender actress for Pinhead now qualifies the movie as ‘woke’ or pandering. This franchise hasn’t precisely been aimed at stereotypically conservative audiences. Pardon the broken record; you don’t have to respond to these folks or give them a ‘both sides’ seat at the debate table. You can, however, tip the hat to the various transgender kids watching next month who get to see someone like themselves torturing sinners and tearing souls apart… courtesy of Walt Disney.