Longtime horror fans know disappointment. We have suffered quite a bit when it comes to our beloved franchises, which all have gone through their own version of development hell. None quite as brutal as that of Hellraiser, which has been trapped at The Weinstein Company/Dimension Films for the better part of 30 years.
While we have seen several direct-to-video sequels rushed into production in order for the company to retain the rights, they have been in development on a remake for over a decade. Nobody knows the actual intentions or if the company was just spinning their wheels in order to keep the rights in their firm grasp. Over the years we’ve heard of several remake attempts, one even by Clive Barker, the creator of the franchise and its iconic, pain-loving Pinhead.
In 2011, director Patrick Lussier and longtime collaborative writer Todd Farmer (the duo behind My Bloody Valentine and Drive Angry) would spend the year developing several different takes on the Hell-verse. I was able to get my hands on two of them.
Those familiar with Clive Barker’s remarkable 1987 indie Hellraiser remember that the central antagonist wasn’t actually PINHEAD (brought to life by Doug Bradley) and the Cenobites, but “Uncle” Frank (played by Sean Chapman). The franchise kicked off with Frank receiving Lemarchand’s box and opening it in his attic. When his brother and wife move in, a drop of blood releases him from Hell, sending the Cenobites after him. The treatments that I read are very different and, while possibly also conceived as a prequel, these read as a canonized sequel to Barker’s film and its several sequels. In fact, the duo had hoped on bringing Doug Bradley back as Pinhead for one last hurrah!
The earlier of two drafts recalls much of the franchise’s mythology, but also introduces fresh elements. The TOYMAKER/ENGINEER is reintroduced and what we learn is that, over the years, hundreds of boxes have been crafted and put out into the world. In the process, the Toymaker is murdered with the killer taking the mantle as the new Engineer. The boxes multiply over the years, as do the creation of new Engineers.
An exciting new addition to the mythology would have been the TOYBREAKERS, a secret group of devoted individuals who dedicate their lives to finding and destroying these gateways to Hell.
This version of Hellraiser would have opened with a family’s house being blown up, killing a mother and two of her children. A surviving daughter becomes the central protagonist as “the” box eventually finds her. Later, two of these Toybreakers (BLYTHE and TRUMAN) discover a reconfigured box that offers hope to close all of the gateways forever. This insane sequence introduces the central Cenobites, BLACK and WHITE (the Yin and Yang of Hell) and the big bad, GLASS, a black-clad figure with ribbons of jagged stained glass protruding from his face.
White: “I smell deceit.“
Truman turns on Blythe, but it’s in an attempt to stop the Cenobites forever. This will come into play later as the story returns to the survivor of the explosion, LISA, who is now 19 years old. The character MULE is introduced: a fat and sweaty man that actually delivered the explosive package in the opening scene. This becomes a huge ordeal for Lisa and her friends that ends with a car accident and a trip to the hospital. There, it’s revealed that Mule holds the box in his stomach and cuts it out, while also delivering a message to Lisa:
“I have traveled far to make you an offer.“
He recounts her loss and offers her the opportunity to reunite with her family. She must solve the puzzle and open the box. She’s then haunted by the sight and sound of her family calling her to use the key, and open the box. This unleashes an orgy of Cenobites onto the hospital which are known as LO-BITES. Aided by Black and White, and the return of Glass, the reckoning also reunites Lisa with her father… Truman! This set piece is a massive labyrinth of blood, guts, and torture, before Lisa eventually closes the box and shuts the door on Hell (for the time being).
As the characters come to terms with what just happened, there’s an interesting development in the morgue… the Mule, well, his flesh was just a shell…and inside are dozens of pins! Meanwhile, Black and White are attempting to convince Truman to destroy the Engineer and thus become the Engineer. You know, kill it from the inside. Another wild set piece traps Lisa and Erik in a Hellavator, while clues begin to emerge. The biggest tie-in is the infamous quote, “Jesus wept,” and the elevator leads them all to a frozen statue that doubles as the final puzzle. Lisa solves it and with it comes the Cenobites and a massive battle.
This is when the big reveal occurs: Erik is just flesh and underneath it all is a dying and withering Pinhead.
He urges her to stop her father if she ever wants to see her family again. With the help of Black and White, Truman kills Pinhead and thus takes his throne. Or does he? Something isn’t right. Lisa stands up to reveal her body has become a puzzle box and dares her father to solve it. “Would you destroy the last of your family to get what you want?” Truman explains that he’ll do what he has to because he’s the good guy and folds Lisa up, solving the puzzle. As Pinhead slowly deteriorates, Truman exclaims, “Thought you could trick me? Make a puzzle of my daughter? Well, I solved your puzzle. The world is mine now.”
Pinhead: “You did not… solve it. You put it… back together.“
As Pinhead closes his eyes forever, the Lisa-box lights up and unfolds to reveal that she is now covered in pins. “Perfectly symmetrical pins. Row after row all over. Everywhere.” It is revealed that Truman and Lisa are both part of the Toymaker’s original bloodline and with these turns of events have created the most powerful of all Engineers. Truman has failed and Hell has a new Queen. Lisa’s family is returned, as promised by Pinhead, and Truman’s punishment is to be trapped in his body… to watch as his family lives among the most powerful demon Hell has ever seen.
Interestingly, there was a different spin on this mythology that was outlined later that year, and leads me to believe the executives at Dimension wished for a more teen-friendly, toned-down version of the treatment. While it is dialed back, the film opens with an insane sequence in which the box quickly moves from person to person, killing everyone in its path (right down to a plane explosion) as it makes its way to…TANNER. In this version, which feels rights out of a Final Destination sequel, Tanner is a red herring that’s used to set up the surprise that the box was meant for Lisa. Through the outline, Lisa’s friends are, one by one, turned into Cenobites. In the alternate finale, Pinhead offers her their lives in exchange for her soul.
“Choose hell and the suffering of your friends will end.”
Lisa considers, then, “I don’t choose hell. I choose my friends.” Pinhead: “As I knew you would.”
It appears that the twist here is that Pinhead is unaware that, in turning Lisa into Cenobite, he’s fulfilling the destiny that she’s the last descendant of the Toymaker. Lisa destroys Pinhead. Melts Glass’s face into an eternal, horrific smile. Combines Black and White making Gray.
As Pinhead lays dying, he exclaims, “So the power is yours now. Free your friends yourself then.” She turns to them within her newfound evil. “Why would I want to do that?” Suddenly her friends scream as she changes them back into Cenobites.
As Pinhead dies…he smiles. This was his plan all along…
It’s incredibly important to note that both treatments/outlines were in very early stages of development; much of the structure and dialogue would have evolved and changed drastically. With that said, it’s so much fun to see what could have been and I loved Lussier and Farmer’s strategy to pass the torch from Pinhead to Lisa. The plan to introduce a female Pinhead way back in 2011 was clearly ahead of the times.
What do you think?