Why a ‘Hellraiser’ Reboot Is Long Overdue

David Bruckner will open the puzzle box and introduce the Cenobites to a new generation of horror fans. And it’s about damn time.
By  · Published on April 14th, 2020

There are such sights to show you. According to The Hollywood Reporter, David Bruckner, Ben Collins, and Luke Piotrowski — the director and writing team behind The Night House — have been tapped to reopen the Lament Configuration and bring the long-gestating Hellraiser reboot to the screen. They will be working from a story by David Goyer, who is very good when he wants to be.

If you’re unfamiliar with the original Hellraiser, let me sum it up quickly. Based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, the story follows an unhappy housewife who finds the living corpse of her dead lover in the basement of the new family home. He’s just escaped from Hell, and Pinhead and the Cenobites — kinky sadomasochistic demons who can be summoned via a mystical puzzle box — are after him. Bad things happen.

Understandably, some people are already upset because another redo of a horror classic is in the works. Why not create original movies instead? Does Hellraiser even need a reboot? Barker’s 1987 film is still heralded as a landmark of the genre, after all, and it spawned a franchise that’s still producing movies. However, Hellraiser is one horror franchise that could actually benefit from a new beginning.

The reboot has been described as “loyal, yet evolved.” While that could mean anything, it sounds like the filmmakers will return to the franchise’s roots. This means that they’ll likely set out to make a Hellraiser movie that’s supposed to be, well, a Hellraiser movie. Such a thing has become a rarity when it comes to this franchise.

Over the years, Miramax has butchered a series that used to be brilliant. The first four films are ambitious works that explore a rich mythology featuring imaginative demons, Hell dimensions, and other nightmarish and perverse wonders. Each movie brings something new to the table, but they still feel rooted in the Hellraiser universe.

The first sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, explores the demonic labyrinth where the Cenobites reside, revealing a demented world of ghoulish imagination and endless possibilities. Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, meanwhile, sees the Cenobites hit up some nightclubs and go on a rampage. The fourth installment, Hellraiser: Bloodline is a journey through the ages, which begins in 18th century France and culminates in outer space.

If those sequels prove anything overall, it’s that a Hellraiser movie can take place in any dimension, region, or time period. All you need is some poor character to open the box. The films have also experimented with a range of complementary genres — from body horror to action to sci-fi — and showed that variation has worked for this franchise, while still being able to keep its hellbound heart intact.

However, after Hellraiser: Bloodline underperformed at the box office, the series became a direct-to-video afterthought for Miramax. The majority of the films released next were conceived as non-Hellraiser movies. The Lament Configuration and Cenobites were essentially shoehorned into unrelated scripts whenever the studio had to contractually release a cheap sequel in order to retain the rights to the franchise.

For a saga that once promised to show “such sights,” the DTV sequels gave viewers forgettable sights at affordable prices. To paraphrase Pinhead, the suffering was legendary, as most of the later installments are unwatchable. I quite like Hellraiser: Inferno, Hellraiser: Deader, and Hellraiser: Hellworld because they’re oddly entertaining, but most people don’t.

Granted, a bunch of bad sequels doesn’t dilute the power of the good movies that came before it. But for a franchise that’s existed for over 30 years, it’s sad to know that the majority of the films use the Hellraiser mythos as basic window dressing. All in all, it’s a case of unfulfilled potential.

The last two Hellraiser sequels look like homemade movies. The most recent, 2018’s Hellraiser: Judgment, deserves some credit for actually trying to be a sincere Hellraiser film, but it’s still a far cry from the quality of those early movies. At this point, a reboot is a much better idea than a terrible sequel that reminds fans of how far this franchise has fallen.

However, a reboot from a group of acclaimed genre filmmakers that aims to breathe new life into Hellraiser’s legacy is an enticing notion. It’s an opportunity to get this franchise going again and capitalize on that unfulfilled potential. Pinhead got it right when he said tears are “a waste of good suffering.” It’s time to stop wasting those tears on bad movies.

Furthermore, if the filmmakers need inspiration, there’s a library of Hellraiser-themed media out there to mine for inspiration. The comics and short stories — which include contributions from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Barbie Wilde, and Mike Mignola — are full of demented tales that boast a variety of interesting characters and nightmarish scenarios. I highly recommend Paul Kane’s work, especially his crossover novel Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell.

Not every Hellraiser story features Pinhead either (including the original novella), meaning that this is one reboot that could benefit from changing the antagonists and giving movie fans something different that actually works. But the reboot has to succeed before those dreams can become a reality, and I really hope that it does.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.