There are ample TV series on the air now that are based on or influenced by horror movies. At the same time, in theaters, we have everyone racing to turn whatever franchise they can get their hands on into a “shared universe.” That’s what it looks like people want to see. It had great success for Marvel and now it looks like DC could benefit as well. Every franchise is trying to do it, comic book or not, even horror. When Ash vs. Evil Dead premiered, Sam Raimi talked about a hopeful plan to bring the casts of the TV show and the remake together. Universal is trying to recapture their earliest success by establishing a Universal Monsters cinematic universe, connecting new versions of Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein and more.
Most horror franchises would fail at something like this. I could not imagine a Child’s Play cinematic universe. But if any horror series is perfectly fit for this model, it’s Hellraiser. More than Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser could potentially lead to endless spinoffs and tie-ins because it truly is its own universe. We already know that it’s expansive, but we’ve never really had the chance to explore it on the screen.
I don’t scoff at the idea of a Hellraiser cinematic universe, if anything I’m mad it doesn’t exist already. So much groundwork has been laid on the page, through comics and of course The Scarlet Gospels. But if there was spinoff potential, what would that look like? Well, here are a couple of perfectly reasonable ways to get the ball rolling.
A Prequel About Frank
When you think about it, we’re meeting up with Frank right at the end of his journey in the first Hellraiser. We see the aftermath, we see him purchase the box and we see what happens to him just after he gets his hands on it. But how did Frank even come to learn about the box in the first place? The book talks about this a little bit more, enough to at least provide room for a film to be steered in the right direction. From the movie, we know that Frank’s depravity and emptiness led him to want what the box promised. But the actual acquisition of it could be something really interesting, like an uncomfortable cross between Indiana Jones and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
An even bigger question than how Frank got his hands on the box is the question of what happened to British World War I Captain Elliot Spencer to turn him into the Cenobite we’ve come to know as Pinhead. The movies have only given us glimpses, clues. Each Cenobite has a backstory, but if there’s any that should really be given their due, it’s this one. What was it about this man and his pain that led Hell to see more in him than just another Cenobite, and to lead him to become the High Priest of Hell?
While not specifically Hellraiser, it’s very much in the same vein and is very probably within the same universe. Tortured Souls was initially created as an action figure series for McFarlane toys, each character packaged with a chapter of a novella by Clive Barker himself. The designs only differ from the look of the Cenobites in the fact that they might be even more extreme. The novella was finally published on its own last year. Reading it, this story set a long time ago in a mysterious land could easily, easily be the tale of the first Cenobites or the creatures that would eventually evolve into the Cenobites as we know them today.
Hellraiser: The Series is a concept that has come close to happening for a while now and, for whatever reason, always seems to not happen at the last second. I think a TV series done in the anthology format could prove to be the most interesting. The original comic series from the 1990’s was an anthology and went to some very inventive places. There’s infinite potential for original stories within this universe. How many other people have solved the box? How many other boxes are there? Are there different kinds of boxes and, if so, what do they do? Neil Gaiman’s issue of the comic saw a crossword puzzle become a gateway to Hell. That’s the sort of imagination that a show like this could truly benefit from.
It was a major plot in the most recent comics, Kirsty Cotton, protagonist of the early Hellraiser films makes a deal with Pinhead to take his place as Priest in hope that she might be able to change Hell from the inside. TV is really where it’s at right now. Just about every horror movie you can think of is becoming a series and people are suckers for drawn-out, long-format stories that they can just sit down and binge over a twelve-hour period. This storyline has all the makings of a great show and the best part is that it could be going concurrently with the other Hellraiser related movies and shows, like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or DC’s TV universe.
Every cinematic universe builds toward something. The Marvel movies built toward The Avengers, DC is building toward Justice League, Godzilla is now building toward King Kong vs. Godzilla and the Universal Monster movies are building toward an unnamed crossover extravaganza. Scarlet Gospels seems like the obvious thing to build toward. For one thing, it’s new and fresh. More than that, it’s catered to this model in both scope and style. It’s not only Barker’s big crossover epic with his fictional hero detective, Harry D’Amour—who also should have his own show by now—but it is equally of note for being Barker’s swan song for the Hellraiser universe.