Hellraiser – A Nightmare of a Franchise

As we near this year’s Dead And Breakfast all night horror marathon event, we’re going to take a look at the films that make up the line up. Starting with the opening film of the night HELLRAISER.

Hellraiser – UK QUAD Cinema Poster

This is no argument that Clive Barker’s original film is one of the key horror films of the 1980s, in influence if not box office. Made in the face of the increasingly comedic Nightmare On Elm Street films and the hack and slash fun of the Friday The 13th sequels, Hellraiser brought a more serious and scary vision of horror. Made for $1 million dollars the movie was success grossing $14 million at the US box office but compared to the bigger franchise players, Hellraiser was small fry. What helped distinguish Hellraiser from the likes of other 1987 horrors like Creepshow 2, House 2 and The Hidden was Pinhead himself. In the character of Pinhead they had an iconic design to hook sequels around. A rival to the knife gloved Freddy or the hockey masked Jason.

Maybe, like the Lament Configuration Chinese Puzzle box of the film, they should have left well alone. It’s a franchise that starts with such sights to show you but by the end the sights are like having pins stabbed into your skull.

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Hellbound: Hellraiser II was quickly made and released in December 1988 to mixed reviews. Some reviewers embraced its ambition to expand the mythos, while others derided the failure to quick match the ambition with the goods. It grossed $11 million and it was this failure to improve on the original’s gross that consigned the franchise to a home video player. While both Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992) and Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996) would both receive theatrical releases, their box office grosses show that the franchise had a ceiling on how much money it could make on the big screen with $12 million (III) and $9.3 million (IV). Bloodline failed to make the Top 100 box office chart in 1996 and signaled the end of Hellraiser on the silver screen.

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Craig Sheffer in Hellraiser: Inferno

Direct-To-Video embraced the franchise and kings of the low budget sequels Dimension started to churn out Hellraiser films. Hellraiser V : Inferno (2000) had potential but ultimately didn’t deliver. Directed by Scott Derrickson it starred Craig Sheffer (Nightbreed) as a corrupt cop who solves the puzzle box.

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Ashley Laurence in Hellraiser : Hellseeker

Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2002) saw Ashley Lawrence return to the franchise as Kirsty Cotton but the film didn’t have much beyond that. Grown up and scarred by the events of the first two films, the film explores Kirsty and her new husband Trevor on a trail that ultimately leads back to Pinhead. Interesting fact (and quite possibly the only interesting fact) Trevor is played by Dean Winters, Tina Fey’s Beeper King boyfriend in 30 Rock.

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Now we get into the realm of “retaining the copyright” with Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005). Deader! Seriously it’s like they weren’t even trying. Late franchise player Kari Wuhrer (Hitcher II, The Prophecy 5 & 6, Sharknado 2) dropped by to reinforce that this was Direct-To-Video! Hellraiser VIII: Hellworld (2005) one ups Hellraiser IV: Bloodline’s Hellraiser In Space premise with Hellraiser in CYBERspace.

After that reports of a reboot/remake started to do the rounds with Martyrs director Pascal Laugier directing, then Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer (My Bloody Valentine 3D, Drive Angry) took it on. It was announced in 2013 that Clive Barker himself was taking over and remaking it himself, complete with Doug Bradley returning as Pinhead. It has all gone quiet now.

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Stephen Smith Collins as Pinhead in Hellraiser Revelations

Whilst all this remake business was trundling along, Dimension Films needed to retain the rights to the franchise by making another film. Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) arrived with a new actor playing Pinhead and was like a Christmas present for online reviewers to have fun tearing this film apart and explore their “this movie is so bad…” metaphors.

So finally we are left with a fairly shaky franchise that has never really proven itself to be a solid box office player. However…you can’t quite shake the feeling that in the right hands, the iconic Pinhead and the Cenobites could tear your soul apart on the big screen once again.

In the meantime check out Dead And Breakfast on Halloween to see the original vision as we kick off the movie marathon with Clive Barker’s masterpiece.

 

 

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