Monday, May 15, 2017

An Early Draft of HELLRAISER: Script Review and Commentary

The other day I found this early draft of the script for Clive Barker's horror film Hellraiser. I read it and liked what I found, so here's some commentary...

The Good

*The opening is much better than in the canonical film. It's very scary and vivid, while at the same time leaving a whole lot up to the imagination. It also avoids the canonical film's problem of having Frank getting the hook-chain treatment as soon as he solves the box but Kirsty able to wander about and actually talk to the Cenobites. We don't see just what exactly happens, although once we meet Frank and he tells Julia what happened, we know that it was him who solved the box and is the particular victim you can hear screaming over the others. The opening script also keeps the Cenobites mysterious--you don't really see them at first, unlike in the canonical film where you see the Female Cenobite and Pinhead full-on.

*The Cotton family drama, like the canonical film, is shown rather than told. Neither Larry nor Julia say their marriage is unhappy, nor do Kirsty or Julia say they dislike each other.

*Frank's tale of his suffering at the hands of the Cenobites is much more interesting than in the canonical film. He's showing Julia the box and reflected in its shiny surfaces we can see what Frank experienced in Hell. The thing that comes to mind is the Nightmare Fuel flashback to the destruction of Sandleford Warren in the animated Watership Down film, and some kind of animation might have been the only way to really get some of the trippier aspects of it done. Accomplishing this with the limited special-effects budget Barker had might not have been possible...hence Frank's "pain and pleasure, indivisible" spiel with the images of him spinning around covered in blood.

*Speaking of Frank, he's more developed as a character. His evil is amplified in the attempted rape of Kirsty (his own niece!), but at the same time he's so clearly traumatized by what the Cenobites did to him that he's actually sympathetic. Also, that Julia is nothing more than a means to an end to him is made clearer much earlier in the film, foreshadowing how in the climax when she's accidentally mortally wounded Frank feeds on her rather than making any attempt to help her.

*Steve, Kirsty's British boyfriend, is much more useful than in the movie. In the script he visits her in the hospital and is, unknown to him, taken hostage by the Cenobites who Kirsty can see but he cannot. When they sneak her out of the hospital however it was they did it (I think they used the portal Kirsty opened to transition her out of the hospital), he finds her gone and takes the puzzle box for himself. He then makes his way to Larry and Julia's house and, however ineffectively, helps her battle Frank.

*I liked Kirsty's "what took you so long" take-down of the Cenobites. She's been at their mercy for a time, but now that she's fulfilled her end of the bargain, she can (to an extent) give them the what-for. And the Cenobites actually explain their rationale.

*There's no Puzzle Guardian character, whom I thought didn't really add to the story and whose sudden transformation into a dragon at the end of the film ate up money that could have been better spent elsewhere.

The Bad

*Some of Larry's discussion with the workmen goes on for a little too long. He doesn't really need to explain everything about his family situation to them. The workmen are also blatantly rude to him. Maybe British movers are a rougher crowd than I'm used to, but mouthing off to the guy who signs your checks is not a good idea no matter where you live.

The Verdict

Had Barker went with this, Hellraiser would have been an even better film than it already was. 9.0 out 10.

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