Somewhere in the bowels of HBO right now, there is probably an executive smirking, “We have such sights to show you.” After all, the prospect of a big budget television adaptation of the Hellraiser franchise on the premium cable network would be a hell of a sight, indeed.
Deadline was the first to report HBO has made a deal to develop a Hellraiser TV series with some big names attached, including David Gordon Green at the top of the list. Green became a horror genre darling after successfully rebooting Halloween for its 40th anniversary in 2018 with a box office hit that brought Jamie Lee Curtis home to the franchise. And he’s now signed on to direct the Hellraiser pilot about Cenobites and Hellworlds as well as several more episodes of the show should it be ordered to series.
Joining Green as executive producers are Mark Verheiden and Michael Dougherty, who are slated to write the pilot and run the series. For genre aficionados, Dougherty has lifetime bona fides after writing and directing the Halloween-themed cult classic horror, Trick ‘r Treat. He also wrote and directed the pretty wild Godzilla: King of the Monsters from last year. Verheiden, meanwhile, worked on genre faves that include Battlestar Galactica, Netlfix’s Daredevil, and the cruelly cancelled (and underrated) Swamp Thing TV series from last year.
Their take on Hellraiser continues to revolve around the world of the Cenobites from the original 1987 film of the same name and is expected to be a continuation of the franchise in all its complexity. The logline for the series says it will assume “the past mythology to be a given.” This also signals the show will be unrelated to the previously announced Hellraiser reboot film from David S. Goyer.
Personally, I wonder if the series, like Green’s own Halloween reboot, could discreetly ignore the often contradictory direct-to-video sequels and just focus on the main mythology established by author and filmmaker Clive Barker in the original ’87 horror classic and its earliest sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988). Despite the hellish titles, those earlier films, the latter of which Barker has a story credit on, were more esoteric and otherworldly than the Judeo-Christian title suggests.
Focused on humans turned into Cenobites, a kinky kind of demon obsessed with torture, the original Hellraiser introduced the concept of a labyrinthine extra-dimensional plane that looks like an M.C. Escher lithograph. Entry into this realm was achieved by solving an ancient puzzle box called the Lament Configuration—not that we would recommend trying to do so unless you’re into that sort of thing. Obviously a rather perverse metaphor from Barker, the original film, which was based on his own novella The Hellbound Heart, is about the danger of knowledge, pleasure, or in the case of the Cenobites’ offer, a type of carnal knowledge, turning into self-destructive horror.
The new TV series is still focused on the Cenobites including Pinhead, the lead practitioner of eternal torment who, in a quite literally different life, was once a World War I captain in the British infantry. He was played by actor Doug Bradley across the eight original films in the series, only the first four of which were released in theaters. The character of Pinhead has appeared in a total of 10 movies, but tying him to HBO could promise a rescue from direct-to-VOD ignominy and a chance of reminding audiences that even during quarantine… some puzzles are best left unfinished.