Hellraiser: behind the scenes

Hellriaser-Pinhead-Barker

I was a teenager when I watched Clive Barker’s iconic horror movie Hellraiser. It freaked me out, to say the least. I’d never seen evil presented on screen in such a visceral, repulsive way. What made it so scary? First, several years of Catholic school had conditioned me to be afraid of hell. Second, the villains — Pinhead and the rest — were not just mindless monsters. They were human. Too human.

This movie has stayed with me after all these years. I haven’t watched it in a long time. Maybe I should. But will Hellraiser hold up? Sure, it was low-budget, but the core element of pure horror will remain as strong as ever, I’m guessing.

In the meantime, I came across this article in io9.com that details some behind-the-scenes tidbits about the movie. Here are a few highlights:

–Clive Barker sold the script for Hellraiser based on the idea alone. He’d never directed a movie — he didn’t even know how. Unfortunately the two books in the library on directing were both checked out.

–Jennifer Tilly auditioned for the role of Kirsty. But Barker wanted Ashley Laurence, an unknown actor, to play the part. He had to fight for her. Obviously he won.

Kirsty 2

–Doug Bradley, who played Pinhead, did not want to take the role. Why not? Number one, the hours of makeup required. Number two, with all the makeup, who would recognize him? Now that Pinhead is an icon, I bet he’s glad that he took the role.

–The original title was The Hellbound Heart, but the studio heads worried it would be mistaken for a romance. If only.

–The costumes were inspired by those seen in S&M clubs. Then again, that’s not a surprise.

hellraiser

 

Can you really laugh while watching sci-fi/horror?

Sometimes humor can cut the tension and seriousness, but it’s rarely done well.

I love most things horror and sci-fi related. But it can all get so heavy. Horror is basically about ghosts, witches, demons, vampires, etc. And as for sci-fi, well… science isn’t very funny. Scientists take what they do so damn seriously sometimes. Most times. Ok, 99% of the time.

In the fictional world there seems to be a stark divide. On one hand, there’s the hardcore, where pinhead2you never laugh, except maybe unintentionally. Take Hellraiser‘s Pinhead. There is nothing funny about him. Compare that with the comedies — Spaceballs, Scary Movie 1 to infinity. Those play it only for laughs.

But then along come those rare shows that can balance drama with comedy.

The first one that comes to mind is the iconic series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At its core it was a tragedy: a teenage girl is chosen (against her will) to become a vampire slayer. These girls rarely see their 18th birthday. Fun, right?

Well, head writer and creator Joss Whedon and Buffy herself — Sarah Michelle Gellar — made it fun. The writing was sharp and clever and the jokes would fly.

buffy

But Buffy the Vampire Slayer never let you forget the tragedy at its core.

Another example is from the SyFy channel (or SciFi as it was called back then). Farscape was about John Chrichton (Ben Browder), an American astronaut who is shot through a wormhole to a thoroughly alien part of the universe. He accidentally kills the brother of a psychotic military captain, and winds up aligned with a band of escaped convicts. He spends the series on the run while trying to get back to Earth.

farscape 2

Farscape could be heavy, and many times it was. But Chrichton was written as a loose cannon, confounding his adopted compatriots for better and for worse. He was often serious as hell. But he was also funny, sharp and crafty.

I think we need more of this in these genres. Take time travel. Most of the time travel movies are 100% serious (the Terminator franchise). The only non-serious time travel movie I can think of is Hot Tub Time Machine. But that’s straight up comedy.

But there could be alternatives. I came across this short clip below, courtesy of io9.com. It takes place in a world where time travel is common, and is used by drunken assholes. It’s clever, and it left me thinking… what if? What if someone could successfully inject humor into time travel, while keeping the drama?

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/70410780″>Timeholes</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/mallaby”>Ben Mallaby</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I’m waiting, Hollywood.