I am pressed to think of a horror franchise that's been as divisive amongst fans as HELLRAISER. If you have ever cared enough about the series to visit or contribute to a HELLRAISER message board or forum then you have probably faced a fandom unlike any other. The passion flows ferociously and opinions are received with aggression, dismissal and arrogance. The HELLRAISER fanbase is divided into two camps - those who worship Clive Barker and those who worship the mythology.
In 1987 British horror novelist Clive Barker made his directorial debut by adapting his novella THE HELLBOUND HEART into a feature film. In doing so he created a seminal movie and introduced one of horror's most enduring and beloved monsters, PINHEAD. It was a simple film, built upon a simple book. In it PINHEAD remains nameless and makes up less than 10 minutes of screen time. He is not established as a lead villain and, in fact, Clive Barker's intention was for the character of Julia to be the film's monster. As it was, audiences love iconic figures and PINHEAD's appearance was so commanding that he became the crux of the legacy - rightfully so.
With the surprise success of Barker's original independent film came a natural demand for more, which lead to HELLBOUND - a direct sequel continuing Julia's story in Hell. Of course PINHEAD and his servants returned much more predominantly and the original modesty of Barker's story was turned into something grand and formulaic. Don't get me wrong because it is still a very powerful and aesthetically amazing film but there's no denying it's target audience were the same teenagers who flocked to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
Many of those fans from the "Clive Barker camp" resist the rest of the franchise. The first two films work together fluently and from part 3 onwards, it's a steady downward decline into mediocracy and insult. Barker was still on board for HELL ON EARTH and BLOODLINE (3 and 4), however his creative input was all but gone. Those two films had some great themes and concepts and number 3 in particular (director's cut is best) gave us PINHEAD's back-story. That said, they weren't of the standard Barker has established years ago with the first film.
And then came a string of sequels (5 more) which took the mythology into all sorts of new places. Some good, some bad. I'm one of those people from the "mythology camp" and always welcomed new ideas and concepts to the series. Unfortunately all but one of these sequels were adapted from unrelated scripts and re-worked to fit the franchise. To say that I am a fan of these sequels is an overstatement, but I have taken to the Hellraiser communities and defended them. When it comes to people's resistance and rejection to my own theories, the most common argument and misconception is "No Clive, No Doug, No Hellraiser". People with this point of view clearly don't understand HELLRAISER at all. I can appreciate people being loyal to both Barker and Doug Bradley (PINHEAD) but their assertion that there is no Hellraiser without them is misguided.
It's important to note that Clive's original novella was only 164 pages long and it told a very basic story. Hell was only suggested and PINHEAD was little more than a figure lurking in the shadows. Barker's story was a human one and he didn't consider PINHEAD significant enough to name. His purpose was to usher people to hell - nothing more. The '87 film was as equally simplistic and neither mediums explored any great mythology. All of the mythos, constructs and conventions have been built upon in later sequels and subsequent fictions. Much of this legacy has been created by other people, not Barker. He actually signed away the property and left it in the hands of others. His involvement in the series was no longer required, although it was appreciated.
To be so precious over Clive's ownership of HELLRAISER is naive. Fans ought to accept that. To declare that it is not HELLRAISER without PINHEAD is even more absurd. I've come to the opinion that PINHEAD is the one common factor holding the series back. He's become such a focal point that the important themes have become lost and are being ignored. His character only came to be when his human-self opened the Lament Configuration in the 1950s. Hell is certainly a lot older than that. PINHEAD is just one of the thousands of Hell's servants and to constantly focus on him is to ignore a rich and delicious tapestry of ideas. I want to explore more than what's been on offer. I want to go beyond PINHEAD, into the depths of Hell.
And so comes HELLRAISER: ORIGINS. A new vision. A new exploration.
Conceptual artist, Paul Gerrard and director Mike Le Han have proposed a whole new take on the HELLRAISER mythos and their vision is exciting and bold. Their concept and artwork have been floating around the internet for a few years and they recently focused their energies into producing a high-concept teaser to pitch to the studio. They propose a visually arresting and detailed exploration into HELLRAISER, some eons before Clive's novella was set. Of course those two HELLRAISER camps have locked-heads and ORIGINS has become viciously divisive.
The new teaser trailer implies a deity. A figure who resembles PINHEAD but is not. This idea gives the story a religious parallel with the possibility of others being created in his image. The trailer seduces us with ultimate pleasures and suggests a connection with Barker's original themes. And most importantly the teaser reassures us that were ORIGINS to be made, it would be in capable hands. This is not a cheap knock-out flick looking for a quick buck. This is a labor of love. A courageous proposal of which no such respect has been granted to HELLRAISER in over 25 years.
Its time for the "Clive camp" to let go. It's time for HELLRAISER to rise up. No sequel is going to breath new life into the series and no remake is going to resurrect it. Lets bid PINHEAD a fond farewell and open our minds to the next incarnation. It's long over due.
Visit the website and take the time to explore and engage with the content. There's so much to sink your teeth into.
In the coming weeks I will be interviewing the guys behind HELLRAISER ORIGINS and can hopefully shed more light onto their creation. Stay tuned...