The initial idea of a Weinstein Brothers-backed remake of Hellraiser was scary enough, but just wait until you revisit Clive Barker‘s 1987 original. There is no way humanly possible that any director, whether from the states or part of horror’s new dope from France, could get away with making a mainstream cash-cow with even half of the imagery, gruesome S&M, and blood-buckets that Barker tossed on the screen for his directing debut. I’ve just finished rewatching the ’87 flick, so it’s fertile in my mind, seeming more un-remake-able than ever.
For a director, signing on to re-handle Hellraiser would be the most thankless gig imaginable, especially when you consider that remakes are typically cast upon inexperienced filmmakers trying to break into Hollywood. You’d no doubt have to dial down the original’s nearly-X-rated tone, simultaneously angering horror faithful and soiling your rep to a possibly-unrepairable state. It’d be an uphill battle with nowhere to go but down, which is exactly why the recent news that Pascal Laugier (writer-director of last year’s amazingly sick French flick Martyrs) has backed out of the remake project filled me with relief. Martyrs is the type of breakout film that lifts its maker into the pantheon of promise, a plateau that, theoretically, should be elevated by a follow-up movie that’s both original and even riskier. The exact opposite of a horror remake, pretty much.
The first half of Martyrs, whiplashing the eye-sockets with naked and scarred demon-ghosts and brains blown onto wallpaper by the fiercest shotgun blasts ever, shows that Laugier would be an ideal fit to modernize Hellraiser‘s Cenobite sadomasochism and limb-ripping, but that’d only be if Laugier was given 100% creative control. Not to mention, the luxury of an NC-17 rating, if he so chose to go that forbidden route. Turn the Hellraiser remake into either an independent production or something funded overseas and shot in French, subtitles included. The Weinsteins, however, won’t let that happen; it’s jeopardize whatever money-grubbing bastardization of Barker’s film they plan on making, hell or high water. [Extended Monologue continued after the jump]
The fact that Clive Barker himself is directly involved with this ever-in-development remake should soothe the nerves, but it doesn’t, in the least. Just look at what Barker’s good-name and hands-on involvement did for last year’s The Midnight Meat Train—-jackshit. Only a paltry 20-something theaters nationwide and an army of pissed-off horror fans. You think the Weinsteins saw that travesty go down and said to themselves, “Let’s allow Clive-y boy to commandeer this new Hellraiser…..toss him the money and make the film that he truly wants to make.” Riiiiight……similar to that, only the exact opposite.
To be frank, Hellraiser is a film that should never, ever be remade. Leave it alone, let it marinate as a classic example of 1980’s horror that remains a never-again-achieved vision of Hell despite suffering from the pitfalls of aging. It leaks with silly dialogue and frequently stalls with terrible acting from the cheating wife’s nameless victims killed and fed to “Uncle Frank.” And the special effects must’ve looked stunning back in ’87 ; now, though, too much of the goo and sliced skin is as believable as the $5 accessories sold at Ken’s Magic Shop around Halloween. Still, flaws pushed away, Hellraiser embraces its depravity and runs with it, through the endzone and up into stands, stuffing the football down the throats of viewers. Name the last Hollywood R-rated horror flick that you could say that about…..
………Just give up. It’s futile.
Laugier isn’t the only international auteur to have unsuccessfully flirted with Pinhead and the Cenobites. Before Mr. Martyrs, the French duo behind my-favorite-film-of-the-last-three-years Inside, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, joined forces with the Weinsteins to handle a fresh Hellraiser. Anybody who is cool/fortunate enough to have seen Inside knows that Maury and Bustillo have a collectively fucked imagination, powered by dual penchant for taut camerawork and fearless plot movement. It should come as no surprise then that they’re attachment to Hellraiser lasted an anorexic couple of months. Word has it that they were booted off of the project due to a script and vision that was way too insane for the Weinsteins to back. Hence why deja vu set in when the news of Laugier’s exit surfaced—-he too had publicly fessed up to wanting to take Hellraiser into overboard territories.
First Maury and Bustillo, and now Laugier, both handpicked by Clive Barker but eventually leaving the project for the same “Our vision is too extreme” reason. What does that tell you about Hellraiser? I’ll spill the beans: whenever the remake becomes a viewable reality supported by the Weinsteins, it’ll be neutered. Perfunctory at best. A hollowed-out shell of what it should’ve really been.
The solution to all of this is simple: don’t make the damn thing, then.
By the way, I’m completely ignoring the period of Hellraiser‘s development that was overseen by screenwriters Marcus Dunston and Patrick Melton, the fellas behind the fun-yet-forgettable Feast and the just-awful sequels Saw IV and Saw V. All three of those films mean nothing in horror’s big picture, so why should they be responsible for updating a classic like Hellraiser? Write an actually-good film first, and then see if Phantasm is being remade yet (Who are we kidding? Of course it will be, if it hasn’t been already).