Up until the new millennium, cinematic crossovers were largely the preserve of Abbott and Costello or Godzilla. But that all changed in 2003 with the arrival of Freddy Vs. Jason. The Nightmare on Elm Street/Friday the 13th mashup had been 16 agonizing years in the making. New Line Cinema shelled out a reported $6 million on script development alone with as many as 16 different writers taking a stab at the concept.
Despite such inauspicious beginnings, however, Freddy Vs. Jason ended up being a massive hit, raking in $116.6 million off the back of a modest $30m budget. All of a sudden, crossover movies were in vogue. The kind of pop culture hybridization once reserved for the world of comic books was becoming big business in Hollywood. Freddy Vs. Jason was soon followed by Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator which also cleaned up at box office making $177.4m off an initial $60m outlay.
Filmmaker Dave Parker, who went on to enjoy success with horror films like The Dead Hate the Living and The Hills Run Red, revealed during an interview with Creature Corner [via Paul Kane’s book The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy p.224] he pitched an idea for Michael Myers vs Pinhead to Dimension.
“I had pitched, unsuccessfully, Freddy vs Jason to a guy named Ross Hammer at Sean Cunningham’s company around ’94 or early ’95. After that didn’t go well, I started think about what other franchises were at other studios…It was a no-brainer to see that Dimension had both the Halloween and Hellraiser franchises, so I put together a trailer using footage from the Halloween movies … and I called the idea ‘Helloween’.”
Parker elaborated further on his idea for the plot of the movie in an interview with Fangoria Corner [see The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy p.224] published later that same year, saying that explaining why Michael Myers couldn’t die “led to opening the doors” to introduce Pinhead and the Hellraiser mythos.
“I was just trying to come up with a plausible way to get these two guys together to fight,” he said. “So, why does he all of a sudden go out and kill his sister in Halloween? He’s trick-or-treating in a flashback and he goes up to this one house … and sees the guy with the black boots, who gives him the box. He opens it and the Lord of the Dead – Sam Hain – escapes from hell and takes over Michael’s body because he doesn’t want to be in hell. Now, Sam Hain is who the Shape is, and that’s why he can’t be killed.”
With the origin story out of the way, the modern part of the tale naturally followed.
“So, the story takes place when people try to destroy the Myers house and they find the box hidden between the walls. Of course, they open it and Pinhead shows up, and it’s Halloween and it’s the Myers house, so Michael shows up because there are people there and Pinhead recognizes that Michael is Sam Hain because he can feel it – which begins this whole battle in the real world. And of course, the third act takes them all to hell…”
Despite Parker’s intriguing proposal, Dimension rejected the concept – this was the mid-90s after all, a time when Kramer vs. Kramer was about as close as you got to film with a ‘vs.’ in the title. It would take another eight years and the success of Freddy vs. Jason before the studio would be turned on to the idea of a horror movie mashup.
At one point, there were even plans afoot for Pinhead to feature in Freddy vs. Jason. One draft of the script written by Mark Swift and Damian Shannon saw Krueger and Voorhees fight their way down to Hell, only for the familiar Cenobite to appear and say: “Gentlemen…what seems to be the problem?” The cameo could have paved the way for an even more outlandish sequel featuring all three horror icons. Unfortunately, New Line Cinema balked at the idea of licensing Pinhead from Dimension Films.
Not that anyone was particularly disappointed at Dimension. Speaking to Your Move Magazine [via Movieweb], Pinhead actor Doug Bradley said “they didn’t think it would work…They predicted that Freddy vs. Jason would bomb, but it opened at the top of the box office and stayed there for a second weekend.”
Of course, that success made Dimension feel more confident about a Hellraiser/Halloween crossover.
Eager to up the ante, in late 2003 the studio set a release date of Halloween 2004 for the film. They also enlisted the biggest of big guns to get the project rolling. In a surprise move, Dimension Films reached out to the original Hellraiser writer and director Clive Barker as well as Halloween’s own original co-writer and director John Carpenter.
The plan was for Barker to write and Carpenter to direct – something Barker later confirmed during an interview for the Halloween: 25 Years of Terror documentary. Whether Barker got around to writing a script is unclear, but he definitely had ideas. Very interesting ideas, as Bradley revealed to me during an interview marking the 30th anniversary of the original Hellraiser’s release.
“I remember getting quite excited at the prospect of it,” Bradley says. “Clive said that the versus bit, the Michael Myers vs Pinhead bit was a bit beside the point – it was a bit boring given that Michael doesn’t speak, which makes him a disappointment to Pinhead. Clive wasn’t interested in a mano-a-mano confrontation. He was interested in finding the places where the Hellraiser and Halloween landscapes might have crossed over. The first Halloween works like a classic vampire movie with Michael as Dracula and Dr. Loomis as Van Helsing.”
That relationship helped set up the conflict of the film.
“Dr. Loomis spends a lot of the film warning people they don’t know what they are dealing with,” Bradley says. “It gave Michael this supernatural, mysterious element that made him so powerful. There was a suggestion he was something not human and Clive felt there was a way in there. Clive saw him as a sadomasochistic sexual pervert and serial killer which would be enough to pique Pinhead’s interest.”
At the time, John Carpenter was in something of a self-imposed retirement, following the poor reviews that had greeted his most recent film at the time, Ghosts of Mars. Michael Myers vs Pinhead was not only a shot at redemption, it offered a chance to collaborate with one of the most unique voices in the world of horror.
But just when it looked like the most unlikely of crossovers would come to fruition, everything stopped. While Dimension Films believed in the crossover’s potential, long-time Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad was vehemently opposed to the idea.
And it was Akkad, crucially, who owned the rights to the Halloween franchise having purchased Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill’s controlling interests during pre-production on Halloween 4. Barker would later hint at studio interference, telling a Fangoria convention that “The Shape” aka Myers was treated “like Hamlet” by certain big-wigs upstairs.
In any case, the prospects of convincing Akkad of the project’s viability had not been helped by an online fan poll created by the official Halloween movies’ website at the time, which asked fans if they wanted to see a Halloween/Hellraiser crossover.
According to CliveBarkerCast: “Out of 84,427 votes, 54% said NO”. A year after pulling the plug on the project, Akkad was tragically killed, alongside his 34-year-old daughter, Rima Akkad Monla, in the 2005 Amman bombings.
By then Hollywood had moved on from the short-lived fad for movie mash-ups – a Freddy vs Jason vs Ash of Evil Dead fame was pitched but rejected. A second Aliens vs Predator movie made a tidy profit but drew rancid reviews.
Halloween eventually moved on too, with Blumhouse obtaining the rights to the intellectual property in 2015, after Dimension failed to move forward with a planned follow-up. No longer owned by the same studio, there remains one small glimmer of hope for anyone still clinging to hopes of seeing Michael Myers indulge in a spot of sadomasochism: David Gordon Green.