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Script to Pieces: Pascal Laugier’s Hellraiser Reboot

Hellraiser: Judgment - Michael Myers vs Pinhead - Hellraiser - Clive Barker Adaptations

Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

The road to the Hellraiser remake has been a rocky one—so much so that it first announced a directorial team in 2007 and still hasn’t seen the light of day ten years later. It’s changed hands many times. So many different writers, directors, even actors have been rumored or attached at various points. As of this writing, it has appropriately wound up where it began: in the hands of franchise creator Clive Barker. His was the first pitch that the Weinsteins rejected, only to circle back around to it when all their other options seemed to fizzle out.

But that doesn’t mean it’s come any closer to happening. Just this March, Barker told fans not to get their hopes up about seeing this reboot any time soon, let alone ever seeing it at all. Still, this is a reboot that’s spent at least ten years in various stages of development hell. There are dozens of ideas that have come and gone in that time. Directors like Alexandre Bustillo and Julian Maury were attached to this and Halloween almost back-to-back and have now finally put their spin on Leatherface, due out this Fall.

Hellraiser. Pinhead is the master of torture and pain in Clive Barker's Hellraiser.

The director who spent the longest amount of time attached to the Hellraiser reboot, though, was Pascal Laugier, the filmmaker behind 2008’s brutal favorite Martyrs. From the get-go, this seemed like a match made in Heaven. Martyrs was alluring, often dreamlike, incredibly violent—everything that made Hellraiser such a stunning favorite when first released.

Even Clive Barker spoke out about what a great choice it was at the time. “Pascal is a very talented filmmaker, obviously a lot more talented than I was when I stepped onto the sound stage on [the first] Hellraiser and I hadn’t really directed anything before… I am completely open and ready to be blown away. I don’t have any possessiveness about it. I just want people to have fun,” he said in an interview with Bloody Disgusting.

Laugier himself noted, “I know Clive Barker’s work very well, and I would never betray what he has done. Fans are expecting a definitive ‘Hellraiser,’ and I don’t want to take that away from them.”

This would be a recurring theme throughout Laugier’s brief time developing the reboot. He would always note how protective the fans were of the property and how protective he felt about that mythology himself. He would say that if there was ever a point that he felt what he was being asked to do would betray Clive Barker’s original vision, he would simply walk away.

In some ways, the cause of this reboot’s failure to launch seems pretty cut-and-dry. While there are always things that go on behind the scenes that even the most die-hard fans will never really know, this seems to simply be a case of Laugier being true to his word. He was attached for around a year, then left the project in 2009.

Cenobites in Clive Barker's HellraiserWhile there’s not a ton out there about exactly what Laugier’s movie would have looked like, both he and Barker seemed to suggest that he would be returning to the source material—both the original film and the novella, The Hellbound Heart. In an interview with Ain’t It Cool, Laugier dropped a couple of interesting tidbits, the first of them reaffirming “Right now I have no reasons to refuse the opportunity because IF I disagree with the producer I would leave the project. You know, I’m not forced to do ANYTHING I don’t want. So, let me write the first draft, let me tell you what all the American producers have reacted to the reading of the first draft and I will tell you if I’m in good hands or if I’m gonna leave a hellish experience but in ANY CASE, I won’t betray Clive Barker’s work.”

He also says in the same interview, “Yeah I’m talking about the novella and the first film that are very close to each other. We’ll get the chance to have much more money than even Clive had in the first film, so it will be of course more epic, it will be bigger, and I hope that it won’t be softer.”

From that, it sounds like Laugier’s version would return to the original story and put a different spin on it—whatever that would be, we’ll probably never know. Laugier talks a lot about remakes in that interview and about Rob Zombie’s relationship with the Weinsteins making Halloween, so it makes sense to assume his vision returned to the original story, at least in some way.

Honestly, though, with so many projects that fall through or become so different from what the creators originally envisioned, Laugier’s decision to leave the reboot is kind of admirable. He said right out of the gate that he would not make a movie that he didn’t want to make or that disrespected the fans, he would not do something that did not honor the original and if he and the producers stopped seeing eye-to-eye, he would leave. And that’s exactly what he did.

After Laugier removed himself from the project, Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier came aboard with what seemed to be a radically different take, but although that one led to some interesting production design, it ultimately never saw the light of day either. The reboot has continued changing hands ever since, although it now sits dormant. Dimension must still be interested in getting it off the ground, though, as they have produced both Hellraiser: Revelations and Hellraiser: Judgment just to hold onto the rights to the franchise.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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