“hellraiser” reboot and how to do newness the old-fashioned way

The filmmaker Colin Trevorrow recently said that the Jurassic Park franchise should have started and ended with Spielberg’s 1993 original, calling it “unfranchise-able,” which is agreeable as a simple fact, probably, since we’ve now got five sequels attesting to it; what’s worth noting is that Colin Trevorrow made three of those sequels. The most recent ones. His latest and final installment just earned $1 billion and a few miles of ink about how awful it is.

He says the first movie was visceral eye candy about dinosaurs. A kid’s imagination brought to life. Probably not so interesting but its huge lifelike dinosaur puppets not been so jaw-droppingly innovative. It’s a good story and well-told but if you imagine Jurassic Park with, say, the CGI visuals of 1998’s Godzilla it’s not just “different” it’s “worse.”

I’m thinking about Trevorrow’s remarks with respect to David Bruckner’s forthcoming Hellraiser reboot. Oct 7 on Hulu. It looks great. I’m guessing that Bruckner, like Colin Trevorrow, probably looked at the source material a thousand times and thought, The sights have been seen and the story’s been told, and then looked for some angle by which to replicate the original movie’s thrill.

Which maybe can’t be replicated.

I wasn’t alive when Clive Barker’s Hellraiser came out (adapted from his novella The Hellbound Heart) and I didn’t see it until I was already a teenage horror movie fanatic who also had an internet connection in his bedroom. Meaning I also had access to porn. 

It sounds horrible and bizarre but if you were a teenager between roughly 2004—2007 you might remember that pretty much every website that traded exclusively in pornography was teeming with pop-ups and viruses. But there were a few websites that aggregated “funny” videos and “cool” videos and occasionally had something explicitly pornographic. A jumble. The downside to this indiscriminate jumble of “cool” videos is that occasionally there’d be a video of some horrific car accident in which somebody ragdolled out the windshield. Or you’d click on some benignly cool-looking video and get rick-roll’ed into watching Bud Dwyer blow his head off on live TV. When people talk about “the Wild West days of the internet” they’re talking about this.

This was my media diet by the time I first watched Hellriaser—which even then made a powerful impression with how sexy it was and how horrific. 

This month’s Hellraiser reboot will be the eleventh installment in the franchise and probably the best one since at least Hellbound: Hellraiser II, which fans enjoy for the visuals and Roger Ebert denounced on TV as basically Satan on celluloid, but I’m wondering how much of the first movie’s charm and significance is rooted in the fact that it was the first of its kind to do what it did. The sexiness and the horror together. The sadomasochism stuff. Maybe, from the viewer’s perspective, you have to be a teenager in order to have your physiognomy shift back and forth so quickly. 

And I wonder if it’s possible that, no matter how effectively executed, there’s simply no recapturing the newness of the first. 

David Gordon Green’s Halloween reboot from 2018 was very good, and 2021’s sequel Halloween Kills wasn’t all that good but it was passionate and earnest and ballsy. I’m psyched for Halloween Ends, which comes out this month, but not in the hand-wringing way I was excited for the first one—whose charm I now think resides in the fact that, by manifesting a cinematic and straightfaced appreciation for the once-new and now-derrided slasher original, it was (in a palimpsesty way) doing something new. 

In other words: the only thing to make these movies new is to let them get replicated to the point that they aren’t taken seriously (shouldn’t take more than a quarter century) and then, when their reputation’s dirt, resurrect them on a grand cinematic scale with good budgets and quality actors doing the same thing. 

Take a disrespected old thing, give it a respectful treatment within a milieu of disrespect, and now it’s new.

Does that make sense? The trap is that, in both of those cases, its success kind of belongs to the moment of its release.

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