What’s your pleasure, sir? That’s only one of the many questions fans of the long running HELLRAISER series are asking the filmmakers of the latest entry in the franchise (other questions may or may not include “Why God, why?” and “How could you do this to us?”, but I’ll touch on that in a moment). Director Gary Tunnicliffe is currently knee-deep into production on this latest passion project, and he’s looking to bring in some new faces to the franchise. Heather Langenkamp from the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series will be featured in the film (as you may recall, your resident Horror Chickk named Langenkamp as one of her picks for a particular horror crossover, but having her become a part of the HELLRAISER franchise is indeed a treat!). The film also stars Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, and Alexandra Harris portraying a trio of detectives on the hunt from a mysterious serial killer. The new cast of Cenobites includes John Gulagher as a new character called “The Assessor”, Diane Goldner as “The Cleaner”, and Andi Powers as one of three members of “The Jury”. Returning to the cast is Mike Jay Regan who will once again be playing “The Chatter”, a longtime favorite to fans of the series.
For fans of this particular franchise, all of this no doubt sounds promising. Tunnicliffe has managed to assemble a number of horror veterans for a project he deems to be a labor of love. Tunnicliffe is a longtime fan of the franchise and has also worked on several of its films in the past, so everything should be on the right track for the 10th film in the franchise, right? It even sounds like the plot may be pulling inspiration from Clive Barker’s recent novel, The Scarlet Gospels, which chronicles the story of a detective trying to unravel the mystery behind Pinhead (although this is purely speculation on my part, as nothing of the sort has been officially confirmed), so surely this must mean things are moving in the right direction. Sadly, as much as it pains me to say this, no, things are not promising. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for this film, and given the state of the last four movies in the series (seven if you’re a purist), nothing would make me happier than to see this franchise turn itself around and get back on track. But there is one major problem, and that is that Tunnicliffe has been unable to get Doug Bradley, the actor known for playing the iconic role of Pinhead, to reprise his role in the 10th installment. Instead, it’s been reported in an exclusive for Bloody Disgusting that the part will be played by an actor named Paul T. Taylor, who is primarily known for his roles in SIN CITY and SUPER. This isn’t that surprising, given that Bradley did not reprise his role in the ninth installment of the franchise, HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (which, despite its name, really didn’t reveal anything about anyone…weird). However, there is more to the story than that, and this is where a short history lesson is required for those unfamiliar with the franchise.
The first HELLRAISER was released in 1987 as a dark fantasy from the writer and director Clive Barker based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart. The story revolved around strange creatures known as Cenobites that would emerge from another realm when an unwitting person solved a puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration. From there, the film spawned many sequels of varying degrees of quality (out of the sequels, two, three, and five are the best, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!). However, in 2010 The Weinstein Company’s rights to the film were about to expire. The production company had allegedly been working on remaking the original film for quite a while, but faced with this time crunch decided to rush a the ninth film in the series into production to create a cinematic ashcan copy, or a film that only exists for the legal purpose of holding on to the rights of a particular piece of intellectual property. As neither Doug Bradley nor Clive Barker were involved in any capacity in the production of this last film, it is no surprise that the film received a great deal of criticism for long time fans of the franchise. And this is where we get to the crux of the potential problem with this upcoming film: Tunnicliffe was the writer of HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS and is the current driving force behind HELLRAISER: JUDGEMENT. Bradley had this to say about the way he was approached about the project, as he released a Facebook post with the following:
“Ladies, Gentlemen and Others,
I gather word is beginning to spread about the new HELLRAISER movie which is, apparently, already shooting.
First, a point of clarification. This is the first time I have said anything about this. Anything else you have heard me say about any proposed HELLRAISER film refers to the constantly rumored remake. And, for the record, I still know nothing about that.
First I heard about this new film was around Christmas in a phone call from Gary Tunnicliffe, who was my make-up artist on BLOODLINE through HELLWORLD. Gary, you may recall, also wrote the screenplay for REVELATIONS. He has written and is directing this new effort. I can also assert, contrary to some rumours I’ve already seen, that Clive Barker is not involved with this in any way, shape or form.
Gary said he would send me a copy of the script when he had completed a second draft, but before I could be allowed to set eyes on the precious document, I was required to sign a gagging order. This was a three page document preventing me from talking about the script ‘in restrooms’, ‘on elevators’, ‘in restaurants’ or ‘in cellular telephone conversations which may be overheard’. There was also dark reference to ‘people talking out of turn at conventions’. I read this thing in disbelief, and informed Gary I would not be signing it.
And that’s that. Clearly, I am deemed too much of a security risk to be allowed to read a HELLRAISER script. People are starving to death in Syria and they’re worried about me talking about a HELLRAISER movie? Get a fucking grip. Can you say ‘sense of proportion’?
Anyway, story short: a new movie is happening and I have nothing do with it. I was unable to make a decision about it because I was not allowed to read the script, unlike REVELATIONS where I made a conscious decision not to do the movie based on the motives for making it and the poor quality of the script.
And that’s everything.”
Peace and Pain
Tunnicliffe recently responded by releasing a statement about reaching out to Bradley to reprise the role of Pinhead:
I was thrilled and excited to call Doug and let him know I was writing and directing HELLRAISER: JUDGEMENT, I considered Pinhead HIS role and I was looking forward to working with him and bringing him back to the fans. Legally, we needed a simple non-disclosure agreement signed (very much common place now with production companies) but he immediately balked. I have no idea why, I’ve signed way more binding NDA’s than that myself, most actors and crew on productions of any size usually have to now.
Doug wrote back to me…
‘I’m going to make myself liable for a million bucks I don’t have just to read a damn script?… I don’t think so’
I was stunned, after all it was my ‘damn’ script and it let me know how he felt straight away. I wrote to him saying I was sorry he felt that way and the next day the search for a new Pinhead began.
A few weeks later, we found him: a classically trained stage and film actor who brings a great physical presence and more than a hint of Peter Cushing and Ralph Fiennes. I can’t wait to get him bound in leather, gridded up and in front of the camera and on screens!
So who is in the right here? Is Bradley being unreasonable about refusing to sign a few legal documents before being allowed to read the script, or is Tunnicliffe being overly sensitive about his writing, as he was the one who wrote what is indisputably the worst film in the series to date? By all accounts, after the disgrace to the franchise that was REVELATIONS, isn’t it understandable that Bradley would want to see a script before attaching his name a project from the same writer?
This might not mean anything to you, dear reader, but I have watched all nine of the current HELLRAISER films, and in an overall sense, I love the series. I even have my own replica of the Lament Configuration (in fact, I’m so deep in the lore I even know that the proper name for the box is actually the Lemarchand Configuration after the French toy maker that created it because I’ve read The Hellbound Heart and can’t wait to get my hands on The Scarlet Gospels now that it’s been released, in case anyone was wondering what to get me for my birthday, *hint hint, nudge nudge*). I have a fondness for Pinhead in a way that I don’t for other horror icons like Freddy, Jason, or even my favorite Ghostface because of one small thing: I actually feel sorry for Pinhead. I know that’s an odd thing to wrap your head around, especially since it’s not even the same reason why other people like him. Other people seem to appreciate him for the character design and his commanding presence. Clearly I’m in the minority on this one, because only two of the nine films touch on why I actually like him as a horror villain: his lost humanity. Pinhead is a truly tragic character, as he was once a soldier who lost sight of himself in the wake of the Great War, and it’s only in the second and third films that we get to see a glimmer of the person he used to be, and the real tragedy of his current fate. Doug Bradley played that side of the character perfectly, and that charm carried through even when the character was a sadistic monster, or when the films themselves were becoming more and more convoluted as time went on. As the series continued, entries like five, six, and seven were originally scripts for original psychological horror films that were retrofitted to fit the HELLRAISER franchise, making the canon of the series a little difficult to follow to say the least. That being said, even the worst films in the series should be given credit for having some merit, as even the confusing mess that was the eighth film had Lance Henriksen to provide a glimmer of entertainment…with the glaring except of HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS. I have nothing against Taylor as an actor, but the last time the role of Pinhead was recast, it was an extremely unpleasant experience. I don’t think it’s entirely Tunnicliffe’s fault, as he was given virtually no time to create a worthwhile script in that particular case. But given the fact that the current promotional photos for JUDGEMENT are oddly reminiscent of what we saw in REVELATIONS, coupled with both Bradley and Barker being distanced from the project, I personally am dreading the idea of seeing this next entry in the franchise.
I don’t want it to be this way, I want to see the series return to its dark Gothic roots that made it disturbing, frightening, and yet somehow oddly beautiful to behold. But somewhere along the way the people behind this franchise seem to have forgotten why it is that people loved the first one to begin with, and instead got wrapped up in trying to cash in on what was popular at the time. At first, the shift was reflective of the campiness of the horror franchises from the 80s, then the series went to space for some reason, then it became a series of gritty psychological horror films, then it became an attempt at horror meta-commentary in the vein of the SCREAM films, and then finally descending into shaky cam found footage and grimy torture porn. In a weird way, this series seems to be a bizarre chronicle of mainstream horror trends from 1987 to the present day. But that’s not why people like these films or the character that has remained constant throughout the series. People didn’t fall in love with the original because it was chasing what was popular at the time, they liked it because it was different from anything they had seen before; it was the unique makeup in the character designs, the creative special effects on a low budget, the otherworldliness of the Cenobites, the bittersweet and ominous score, and the tragic story of being so unfortunate to get what you wished for when you opened the Lament Configuration. The original film isn’t just a horror movie, it’s a somber tale about the dark nature of desire, and the dangers of being lost to it. Though certainly not devoid of gore, sex, and violence, it’s themes evoke a greater sense of depth than most run of the mill horror films. So I implore you, Gary Tunnicliffe, as someone who has been tied to this series for two decades, you currently have it in your power to make things right. Don’t focus on trying to make this film a gritty gorefest, or another delve into psychological horror. Don’t seek out what’s popular and trendy in the world of horror now. Instead, I would like you to consider why characters are drawn to the puzzle box in the first place, and why that allure in and of itself is both fascinating and altogether tragic to watch. If your script can do that, the same script that you refused to show Doug Bradley before seeking out a new Pinhead, then you might just be on to something. If not, then please consider the nature of the story you’re looking to tell, and decide for yourself if it’s fitting the name HELLRAISER.
What do you think of the casting news? Do you think Tunnicliffe has the chops to get the series back on track, or are you waiting to reserve judgement until the film’s release? Be sure to let us know @TheMovieChickk!
Want to see how it all began? Check out the first two HELLRAISER films on Amazon.com!