Thursday, October 31, 2019

HELLRAISER as...a Lifetime Original Movie

In mid-October I watched Clive Barker's horror film Hellraiser for the first time in several years for the podcast Myopia: Defend Your Childhood. Here's the podcast for your listening pleasure.

Although I saw the film as an adult rather than a child or teen like most of the movies we've done, it didn't hold up as well as I'd thought. One of the big problems was pacing--the film could really stand to use a trimming. And then podcast host Nic made a comment that I can't really refute--Hellraiser came off like a Lifetime Original Movie.

(For those of you who aren't Americans or aren't super into television, Lifetime is a television network aimed at a female audience. It has a reputation for overdramatic low-budget movies focusing on women in peril from the latest in-the-news danger and/or dramatizing real-life incidents like the woman who killed her child's molester in court. Here's an article discussing the phenomenon; it even has an amusing TVTropes page.)

And if you stripped out the supernatural elements, it would seriously look like a "teen girl in peril" film more appropriate for Lifetime than, say, the horror streaming channel Shudder. Seriously, Kirsty could be an older teen (in the original script she's only twenty and she could easily be 18-19) who moves with her father Larry and disliked stepmother Julia to a new town and finds the situation so intolerable she rents an apartment of her own and gets a job she doesn't particularly like to pay for it. She finds a new boyfriend and things seem tolerable at least...until she learns that Frank her pervert uncle has escaped from prison. He's hiding in the attic of the family home and is canoodling with Julia, encouraging her to commit crimes to get money so they can run away together.

Furthermore, some of her uncle's criminal associates are looking for him (Frank in the book and film is referenced as owing people money) and if they can't have him, they'll gladly recoup their losses by taking Kirsty away for sex trafficking (with human trafficking being a major news topic I could definitely imagine a Lifetime movie about it--and I'm pretty sure they've covered this before) instead. She bargains with them by offering to give them her uncle (whom she discovered and who attacked and injured her) instead. This they go along with, arriving at the family home to find her stepmother and uncle have already murdered her father. The criminals kill both of them (or, like in the film, Frank kills Julia by accident before the criminals kill him), then renege on their deal and try to kidnap her anyway. Fortunately she's found her father's gun or managed to steal one from one of the criminals and disposes of them all like a Final Girl in a slasher film.

What do you all think? All of these elements generally line up with what happened in Hellraiser, minus the whole "resurrected by blood from sadomasochistic Hell," "evil Rubik's Cube that opens dimensional gateways,"  and "leather demons" parts. And given the greater awareness of sexual assault (Frank's rampant perving on the teen Kirsty and the very rapey flashbacks with Julia) and human trafficking, this would definitely include Lifetime movies' "ripped from the headlines" tendencies.

Furthermore, Kirsty would be a good protagonist for a film intended for female audiences. She isn't reliant on or obedient to any male character (she gently disregards her father's wish that she live with him and Julia and chooses to support herself), she fights off the rapey Frank by herself upon their first encounter, she's able to bargain with the Cenobites (or in this case a bunch of human criminals) when she can't physically overpower them, and although the film never explicitly depicts her having sex with boyfriend Steve, one of them is definitely staying over at the other's home and yet she doesn't suffer Death By (Possible) Sex like many female characters in slasher films do.

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