Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Ideas for a Soft Reboot/Sequel for HELLRAISER...

A common complaint about the state of the film industry these days is that it's all sequels and reboots, with few original ideas. One film that's been subject to Sequelitis and has had a reboot in Development Hell for years is Hellraiser, the tale of an occult puzzle box that can be used to summon the grotesque Pinhead and his Cenobites, "demons to some and angels to others."

This subject was discussed on one of the horror-related Facebook groups I joined in order to hawk my novel The Thing in the Woods and so I posted some of my thoughts on what such a film should look like in response to a June 23 post. The following discussion is my ideas, expanded.

Much like J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek, one could have a sequel that's also a "soft reboot." Ashley Laurence and Doug Bradley, who are both alive and in good health, could return as Kirsty Cotton and Pinhead respectively. The decline in the series began after Hellraiser 3, in which they have a completely new protagonist Joey Summerskill (Terry Ferrell), and it went straight to video after Hellraiser: Bloodline. They brought Kirsty back for Hellraiser: Hellseeker, but that was direct-to-DVD and had a plot that made no sense--there is no way in hell (hee-hee) that Kirsty would be stupid enough to touch anything resembling the Lament Configuration again. And they replaced Bradley with other actors in Hellraiser: Revelations and Hellraiser: Judgement and I've heard very little good about those films--they were very low budget and existed only so the production company could keep the rights. And Bradley wanted nothing to do with them. Fortunately Bradley himself is a good sport and is up for reprising his role.

However, both actors are a lot older than they were back in the 1980s--Laurence is in her mid-50s and Bradley is nearly 70--so it can't just be "Kirsty and Pinhead at it again." Since the original cast is aging and the idea is to reboot the series, this could be a means of giving the original cast their last hurrah before they hand off the torch to a new generation.

My idea would be take Hellseeker into account, but make it a nightmare Kirsty had or some kind of hallucination induced by a head injury from the film's car accident. Kirsty is older and married to Trevor (Dean Winters) and they have teenage children. Due to her experiences in the first two films, Kirsty has a lot of baggage and isn't the easiest person in the world to deal with, a contributing factor to her husband cheating on her.

(Obviously not to the degree he does in Hellseeker--in that one he was unfaithful to Kirsty with three separate women. However, Kirsty is likely a jumpy paranoid mess due to her backstory, so she might think it was more than just him venting about his marital problems to a sympathetic coworker and things just getting out of control from there.)

Kirsty, though she's understandably upset (especially given how she remembers Frank and Julia), doesn't file for divorce--yet. After all, she knows the pain a broken home can cause a child--she moved out of her father's home and lived in a nasty apartment rather than share a home with Julia--and doesn't want to inflict this on her own children, who aren't aware of his adultery. Furthermore, she recognizes Trevor strayed in part due to drama caused by her own issues. However, their marriage is in a very fragile state and more problems arise when a letter from a foreign bank arrives. They've been trying to find the next of kin for one Frank Cotton for twenty-odd years--a small amount of money he'd stashed away has, through the magic of compound interest, grown to a somewhat larger sum. Trevor would like to put the money for some useful purpose (perhaps a family vacation to make everybody feel better, or some needed renovations on the house), but Kirsty, suspecting the money was gained through crime--Frank in the novella The Hellbound Heart smuggles heroin and earns money through other illegal means--wants nothing to do it.

(In Hellseeker Kirsty was the beneficiary of both Larry and Frank's wills and didn't want to spend the latter's money, viewing it as dirty. However, it was apparently a large sum and Trevor was able to enlist a close friend in a plot to kill her to get his hands on it. However, Larry doesn't seem particularly rich in the first film and in the book Frank is always in debt due to his hedonistic lifestyle. More realistic that Frank had some bug-out money hidden somewhere and it's been slowly accumulating interest ever since.)

However, this isn't going to be a domestic drama however much the original Hellraiser came off as one at times. Pinhead is involved somehow, either to get his hands on Kirsty at long last or go after her children like Captain Hook threatened Peter's family in the film Hook

(Pinhead has shown a willingness to make deals, like sparing Kirsty to lead him to the escaped Frank in the first film and Kirsty's own bargain with him in Hellseeker. Perhaps someone from the bank had solved the Lament Configuration but Pinhead, upon learning he had found Kirsty, agreed to let him help take her instead.)

If the goal is hand off the franchise to a new generation, in the resulting confrontation Pinhead and Kirsty (and perhaps Trevor too) are all killed. That might be tricky given how Pinhead withstands gunshots and even futuristic laser cannon in some of the films, but maybe Kirsty could run him over with her car (something that would inflict a lot more damage than a single bullet or laser beam) and die in the process, defeating her old enemy at the cost of her own life. 

However, her sacrifice is in vain--the forces of Hell claim one of Kirsty's children as a new Cenobite. However, another manages to escape and vows to reclaim them for humanity, something Hellraiser II: Hellbound showed was possible with the Channard Cenobite reverting Pinhead to Captain Elliott Spencer before killing him. To save their sibling, the character would seek occult knowledge and we could use that to bring in concepts from the Hellraiser comics like the Harrowers, human warriors chosen by the hell-god Leviathan's sister-goddess to fight him. Subsequent films can get into the "war of the gods" angle with all-new Cenobites and human characters, much like the comics did.

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