With films like IT, Candyman and Halloween bringing new life to classic horror franchises, it’s only a matter of time before someone brings Hellraiser back. Such a remake could easily be a step up from most of the franchise’s sequels, and potentially return to the quality of the first two movies.
However, while many filmmakers have tried, no one has actually succeeded in getting a Hellraiser remake produced, neither during the mid-2000s horror remake craze nor today. Plans have existed since 2006, but none have materialized. What is keeping this remake stuck in Development Hell?
Back in 2006, Clive Barker, who both wrote the series’ source novella, The Hellbound Heart, and directed the first film, announced plans to reboot Hellraiser after the less-than-stellar response to Hellraiser: Hellworld, the eighth film in the series. Barker declared that he would write the film, which would be produced and distributed by Dimension Films, run by the Weinsteins.
In 2007, Dimension Films brought on French directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo to replace Barker. The two were major movers in the New French Extremity movement, recieving international acclaim for Inside. By 2008, however, the two left the project and were replaced by Pascal Laugier, another French director famous for his film, Martyrs. Within the year, Laugier also left. In 2009, Dimension hired director Patrick Lussier and writer Todd Farmer to make the film. Come 2011, they both left and Clive Barker returned to the project.
Every single director had their own unique vision, creative flare and brilliance. But there was one problem: Harvey Weinstein. Weintstein insisted that the project be a mainstream, preferably PG-13 film. Every director seemed tailor suited to make a Hellraiser film, judging by their history with grizzly horror. Yet Weinstein undercut their creative decisions at every turn.
In 2019 following the public fall of Weinstein, David S. Goyer took the stage, announcing that he would be writing and producing a reboot of Hellraiser under Phantom Four, a production company also rebooting Scream, another Weinstein-owned horror property. Now, joining Goyer is David Bruckner, director of The Ritual. Bruckner will direct while Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski pen the screenplay. At long last, without Weinstein in the way, the franchise can advance.
The moment Dimension Films owned the rights to Hellraiser, the entire franchise was doomed. Dimension Films started producing Hellraiser films starting with the third film, which was written as a more mainstream horror film meant to appeal to general audiences. Every film since then has been plagued by Harvey Weinstein’s insistence that the franchise aim more mainstream. Hellraiser: Bloodline, the last theatrical film to be released in 1996, faced so much studio interference, with multiple scenes and entire subplots omitted at the last minute, that the director had his name removed from the finished project.
Under Weinstein, Hellraiser sequels were given no money, time or creative freedom. Scott Derrickson, who would go on to direct Doctor Strange and Sinister, directed the fifth Hellraiser film — the first to be direct to video. He was given a minuscule budget of $2 million. And that budget was still huge compared to the last film, Hellraiser: Judgement, which cost only $350,000!
Weinstein hired incredible directors with unique visions of horror — the directors of such extreme films as Inside and Martyrs — and did not understand why they were successful. You don’t hire directors who made films about kidnapping unborn children out of pregnant women’s uteruses or fanatical cults that skin people alive while starving them, then tell these horror auteurs to make a PG-13 mainstream film.
The Weinsteins were downright disrespectful to Barker’s vision even as they tried to cash in on it. They advertised Hellraiser: Revelations, the ninth film in the franchise, as something coming “from the mind of Clive Barker.” Barker infamously responded “If they claim it’s from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.”
Now Weinstein is finally out of the picture. The franchise’s decline in quality can be blamed on his weaknesses as a producer, so if the new producers don’t micromanage the directors’ visions in the same way, this movie could be a return to form. It could be the first great return to the world of the Cenobites since the second film. Hellraiser fans, after suffering for 30 years, might finally know pleasure.
The Hellraiser remake could be an amazing movie that lives up to the original… if it ever actually gets made.