The Hellraiser (2022) episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? was Written by Emilie Black, Narrated by Adam Walton, Edited by Juan Jimenez, Produced by Lance Vlcek and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
Seemingly all the major slashers have had their remakes from Freddy Krueger to Leatherface to Jason Voorhees to Harry Warden, even Black Christmas and Prom Night have had remakes. For years, the world of horror had been working on bringing a remake of Hellraiser to the screen, one that fans would love, one that would be more extreme than the original, something even Clive Barker had a go at. Somehow, all the remakes seemed to have false starts by getting announced and then disappearing. Then, the Hulu reboot happened, completely different from the original, yet in the same spirit as the novella.
As people were quick to point out, the story of the new Hellraiser is nothing like the original or that of the novella as written by Clive Barker. The Cotton family is not involved here, no Kirsty, no Julia, no Frank. The story here follows a drug addict named Riley who, with her more-than-friend not-quite-boyfriend, comes into possession of the Lament Configuration box, quickly figuring out there is something more. She begins to research and soon finds Roland Voigt, a man who has played with box, met his match, and may have come to regret it as he feeds new people to the box to save his own soul. The story has elements of the first and second Hellraiser films, some of the novella in terms of mood, the Cenobites, and a few things that feel truly Barker-esque, but overall, this isn’t a remake as promised, but a reboot to the franchise, bringing the Cenobites and the Hell Priest to current times with new and shocking effects.
As they appear in the film, the Cenobites take a departure from the first cinematic adaptation by Clive Barker himself, going less with a BDSM aesthetic and more with a gory look, using their own flesh as clothing, revealing their muscles and insides in more and more complex designs as they show up one by one. Barker and director Bruckner thought that the BDSM look would be less shocking nowadays as it is one that has become more mainstream, in other words something the general public has become accustomed to and which doesn’t shock much anymore. For the shocking look, a mix of previous Cenobites designs mixed with new elements came together to create what is in the film now. The lead Cenobite in the original is not fully seen until the 67-minute mark. In this new iteration, Pinhead has a new look and does show up earlier in the film at the 26-minute mark, but only in shadow form. The design for Pinhead works with the pins-in-head design everyone expected, polishing it and adding a shine to the pins’ heads. The rest of the look is mostly new, using a design that plays with the idea of being genderless, more or less androgenous, but as the voice is clearly female at times in the novella, this new cinematic version uses that to make Pinhead into a more female character, something actress Jamie Clayton took and played with perfectly. As Clayton is an openly trans artist, the idea of an androgenous, yet a bit more female when expected to be male works perfect with not only her performance, but also her personality and with Barker’s work. Of course, not all are happy with this, but as many have mentioned since the release, this works with the description of the Hell Priest by Barker in The Hellbound Heart as well as the presence of a female Hell Priest in the comic books Barker later wrote. Basically, this design is something that fits Barker’s vision and is much more in line with what may still shock some in today’s world. Also, director Bruckner had auditioned RuPaul Drag Race’s Gottmik who appeared in the season 13 finale as Pinhead. Ultimately, Clayton’s performance and experience as an actress won the part and the public got to see her version of the character.
Another featured Cenobite is one that will look familiar to fans, the Gasp Cenobite is new to this version with a look that is mix of the female Cenobite from the first and second film, with the throat opening meant to look like female genitalia, and the open and pulled down scalp like the 4th film’s Angelique Cenobite. This brings two of the female characters into one truly creepy being. The other Cenobites seen in this 2022 film take some inspiration from other versions seen before in book form, film, or comics. Their looks are made to disturb and make the viewers uncomfortable, something that had to be turned to 11 compared with the first film as things have changed since 1987 and horror fans need a lot more to be disturbed.
Now, for the owner of the box, the one who is bringing the Cenobites forth to our world and who is bringing people to the Cenobites, the character of Roland Voigt. He is not a character from the film series so far or from the original novella. As a new creation here, he has aspects of Frank Cotton from the first film and of Doctor Channard from the second film. His motivations for opening the box were very similar to those of Frank, wanting to explore new pleasures, new boundaries, new worlds and his modus operandi is closer to Channard in that he has researched the occult, collected it for years, and found that the Lament Configuration could be the ultimate in mixing both his passion for the occult and his interest in new forms of pleasure. Of course, this does not go well for him.
With the movies antagonists lined up, the film needed kill-fodder characters and a survivor, so enter Riley, her love interest, her brother, and their friends. Most of these characters are seemingly designed to appeal to younger viewers, giving them personalities and reasons for doing this that would bring them in and keep them involved. Of course, they are modern versions of typical horror film characters, making some of the same mistakes, making odd decisions, and becoming victims in and around a massive mansion owned by Voigt. Ultimately, the film does decently with these characters.
The script here was written by Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, and David S. Goyer. Goyer is a familiar name to most horror fans having written the first Blade adaptation, having worked on The Dark Knight trilogy, a few more small DC films, a lot of other adaptations, and a few original pieces. The man adapts work well, so his name here is not shocking. Director David Bruckner has one short film, three feature films, a couple of feature segments, and two tv series episodes behind him, some of which were fantastic such as The Night House and The Signal. He had a resume pre-Hellraiser but was not as established as Goyer or some of the others involved. However, he seemed to have the approval of Clive Barker and that counts for a whole lot more here than with any other movies. As the Hellraiser world is one that Barker created both in book and in film, that then was sort of taken away from him with all the sequels that came after the second film. The last few entries in the series were more or less slush pile scripts that had a hell connection and were given new scenes and characters to add the Cenobites and make them part of the Hellraiser universe. This reboot is one that is much closer in tone, mood, and content to what would be done by Clive Barker himself.
Which leads to the previous attempts at adapting the film into a remake. Of this there were many. For years, rumors of a Hellraiser remake were swirling, growing in details, always talking about how it was going to be more gruesome, more hard core, more this, more that. The rumors in most cases were just rumors, but through the years, different teams were attached to the remake in ways that led to it almost happening, but not quite until this one was made for Hulu.
So, who else was attached to this remake in the past? Well, a bunch of people in rumors of course, but officially, there were a few different versions that had a sort of Clive Barker or studio approval. Of course, there was the period, or periods, where the remake was going to be written and possibly directed by Barker himself, allowing him to have an R rating as well as a higher budget than on the original, giving him room to go bloodier, expend on the adult content, go closer to the novella if he wanted, or deviate from the source material at will as who would dare question his vision. This was the dream for many Hellraiser fans. Random people were of course attached to participate, and fans speculated endlessly about the potential return of Doug Bradley as Pinhead or in another part. There were a lot of hopes and dreams here which were finally dashed for good when the 2022 Hulu version was ready to be seen. As you see that version was kept under wraps for quite a while, not really letting the public in on much about it until it had its first screening at a film festival. To some, it seemed to come out of left field. To others who had been paying attention, it was cautiously received until they could actually see it.
Before these, two other teams had been announced. First in 2010, the team behind the My Bloody Valentine remake which was more or less a reboot and sequel all rolled into one, a film that fans seem to love, and was a good way to bring back Harry Warden. This meant that the two names could be trusted with a beloved horror IP, but their style felt more in line with films like their previous work including Drive Angry and Trick, and much less like something from the Hellraiser universe, so having them be involved was a curious choice for most. These two were officially announced by Dimension in October of 2010, with a shoot schedule aimed at 2011 and a release date in 2012. This was officially announcement via Variety, something that meant it was definitely happening. Then it didn’t. Instead, fans were served yet another sequel, Hellraiser: Revelations which served viewers 2 Pinheads in one mess of a film, something better ignored by most fans of the series. Lussier and Farmer worked on more than one treatment for this and some of them seem to have found their way online. One of their takes saw hundreds of boxes floating around in the world, something that could have opened doors to a bunch of sequels with different settings, universes, and characters. This world also had people able to end these boxes and their powers, something that could have added a bit of a “hunters” angle to things. This has a few new Cenobites, and they had the intention of bringing back Doug Bradley as Pinhead of course, playing right along with fans’ dreams and within a similar style of story from their My Bloody Valentine remake. Give fans something they want, whike expanding the universe. Of course, the studio seemed to have meddled with some of this in a future treatment which became more teen-friendly, something that would have likely needed to be rated PG-13. The Lussier-Farmer team had potential, but the changes requested by the studio could have killed the spirit in place in their version.
Before them, in 2007, the team behind A L’Interieur (Inside) announced their involvement with the Hellraiser remake. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury were fresh off a successful festival run and their film was hailed as the next big thing in horror. The film had some serious strength, but to give two guys from France with only one feature film under their belts the reigns of one of the biggest franchises in horror history seemed a bit premature. The two of them were nonetheless seemingly working on this. In an interview on Twitch, they discussed how they were going “to make something very different and something new with it.” Horror fans had heard that many times before, but regardless, they continued that they had Barker’s blessing, so there had to be something there. They wanted to do something different and cool, but very little details were discussed. That being said, that is where their version of the film stayed, in their plans, never to be filmed. Instead, the two of them ended up eventually joining the slasher filmmaker ranks with their version of Leatherface that was released 10 years later, in 2017.
Of course, not having seen these different visions, no real opinion of them can be made. However, as Clive Barker himself had worked on a script for a remake, that version will most likely end up being the one that most fans of the mythos and universe will forever wonder what could have been.
As it is, the current version of Hellraiser was released on Hulu to fans who loved it, hated it, or just didn’t care. The fan rating on Rotten Tomatoes sits at a 58% with fans not exactly in love with the new version. Critics were a bit more positive with a collective, and appropriate in a way, 66%. The film is easily accessible on the streaming service, but a physical media release doesn’t seem to be coming at all, something old school Hellraiser fans who have collected everything they could about the Lament Configuration universe are annoyed about. Overall, while most people who have seen the film with an open mind seem to like it better than the multitude of sequels after the 4th film, most seem to think the first few sequels are still favorites and of course the original cannot be dethroned.
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