Posts Tagged ‘Hellraiser’

The other day I watched the movie As Above, So Below (which I highly recommend, by the way. Underrated horror movie). For those of you who haven’t seen it, As Above, So Below is a found footage film that follows an archaeologist and her crew into the bowels of the Paris catacombs to find a mythical treasure. As they make their way down, however, they end up finding a passage that leads straight into Hell. And Hell in this movie isn’t a fiery pit. It’s so much, much more.

As well as terrifying me again and making me remember why I liked this film to begin with, As Above, So Below also made me consider that our portrayal of Hell has changed immensely over the years. If you look throughout the media we create, you’re going to find more than just the traditional fire-and-brimstone images of Hell, but as many as there are writers out there looking for unique twists on old concepts and stories. And that in and of itself is pretty interesting. I mean, how many different versions are there? And why are they showing up so much, especially today?

Well, Hell has always been a concept in human theology. While some early religions–Mesopotamian, Greek, and traditional Judaism–have a general afterlife for all the dead, usually a gloomy place with maybe some nicer perks for those who behaved themselves in life, others had very defined afterlives for sinners and saints. Hinduism and Buddhism have multiple afterlives where various treatments or punishments may be applied to your soul prior to reincarnation. The ancient Egyptians were the earliest to use a lake of fire. The Ainu of Japan, meanwhile, saw Hell as a wet place underground, and the Serer people of Senegal saw Hell as rejection by ancestor spirits, forcing you to become a wandering ghost.

And that’s just a small survey of the various kinds of Hell in religious beliefs.*

The most iconic version, of course, is the underground lake of fire ruled over by Satan from mainstream Christianity, which was adapted from the Egyptian concept and then spread as Christianity took root in the Roman Empire and then was spread by missionaries. But even that has had variations over the years. Some have involved just a cave full of flames, while others have involved individual sections where demons perform different punishments in cauldrons full of boiling water and fire. Some involved a dumb, animalistic Satan, and others portray him as a calculating, powerful evil.

In the Renaissance, we received some of our most famous variations of Hell. Dante Alighieri wrote Inferno, where he travels with the spirit of the poet Virgil through Hell’s nine circles, with each circle containing different punishments for different sins. John Milton featured a Hell featuring a great castle, Pandemonium, created by Satan and the fallen angels to be their seat of power in Hell.

Lucifer’s version of Hell, featuring customized punishments for every person there. It’s a great and adaptable concept.

Further variations have appeared since those landmark works. Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous play, No Exit, describes Hell as other people. Luis Brunel further took this theme along in his movie The Exterminating Angel, where guests at a dinner party hate each other but are unable to leave. Stephen King has defined Hell has endless repetition, and has added that to many of his stories. Some creators have shown Hell as a city or a distorted version of our own world. The Hellraiser movies have shown Hell as a place mixing BDSM with your own sins and life choices. As Above, So Below portrays Hell as a series of tunnels in the Paris catacombs that configures itself, adding elements and figures to fully terrify and punish any who are forced to enter it, going so far to become an alchemical/spiritual puzzle to test the main characters. And increasingly, we see Hell as setting itself up for each individual sinner. The TV show Lucifer utilizes this very effectively, especially in Season 3’s episode “Off the Record,” in which a man is forced to replay the last two years of his life over and over in Hell, because his obsession with the titular character caused him to commit murder.**

But what does all this really mean? Well, at the heart of all these portrayals is the idea of torment. Whether you realize or not you’re in it, Hell is meant to fill you with despair. That may be through pain, psychological torture, or terror. It can vary depending on the needs of the storyteller or the person being tormented, but the point is, it can change for any purpose. And that is why we’re seeing so many variations of Hell in our media.

And I’m sure with the passage of time, we’ll see even more portrayals, matching new ideas and situations we face in our lives, giving us all new reasons to be afraid. I find that kind of exciting. Hell, don’t you?

What are some versions of Hell you’ve come across or created? Why do you think it was so effective or terrible?

*There are also faiths that don’t have any belief or reject beliefs about a punishment-themed afterlife, but I think we’ll skip over those for this article.

**By the way, so excited for Lucifer season 4! Thank you Netflix, for saving one of the best shows on TV right now. I’m working my way through rewatching the show and can’t wait to see what’s been served up. #LuciferSaved

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Halloween (2018) poster

This past weekend, the new Halloween movie was released and eager horror fans, including myself, flocked to theaters to see it (see my review of the film here). At the time I’m writing this, the film has made over 103 million bucks, nearly seven times it’s original budget. This definitely counts as a financial success for the film and its producers, and it’s all but certain at this point that a sequel will be greenlit. This has many horror fans speculating on a particular question: is the slasher genre coming back, bigger and badder than ever?

Now in case you stumbled on this post by accident and have no idea what a slasher is, let me explain: slasher, also occasionally known as splatterpunk, is a sub-genre of horror that focuses on violent deaths and gore, as well as the prospect of those occurring, as the source of its terror and tension. Slashers were really big in the 1980s, but declined as the many sequels kept going for more ridiculous kills and even more ridiculous plots. There were some brief flare-ups of good slashers in the late 90s and early 2000s, with films like Scream, Urban Legend and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and remakes of franchises like 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Rob Zombie’s Halloween, but for the most part it didn’t stick. Recently, slashers have done well in television format with shows like Slasher and Scream (yes, based on the film I mentioned a sentence ago), but Halloween‘s the first in years that’s managed to satisfy this many fans, critics, and bank accounts.

Hollywood can be a very reactive sort of place: anything that’s proven to be even slightly successful will be copied over and over again by movie studios until long after audiences have lost interest. So with Halloween doing so well and sequels definitely being discussed in boardrooms, can we expect more slasher reboots and remakes on the horizon? Which ones? And is this the first of a slasher renaissance similar to their first wave of popularity in the 1980s?

Well, there are actually a few slasher movies being developed right now based on the older franchises. Child’s Play, which first introduced the character of living doll Chucky, is getting both a reboot and a TV series, and A Nightmare on Elm Street has had a new remake in development for a while now. But with the success of Halloween, there’s a chance the studios producing them will give them more attention and funding than they might’ve had without Halloween.

Please bring back Friday the 13th! Jason and I both want to see a comeback for the franchise!

And I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say other series will be getting new films. There has been talk for years of rebooting Friday the 13th with my boy Jason Voorhees. Recently a court case regarding the original film was resolved, and basketball player-turned-actor and producer Lebron James, who is as big of a fan of the franchise as I am, has come forward saying he would like to help produce the film. And while Lebron’s still new to Hollywood, I would welcome his involvement in a new Friday the 13th film. Sometimes it takes the perspective of a fan, especially one who has more power than expressing outrage through a keyboard, to truly give a character or franchise new life.*

And after the crappy 2009 remake, almost anything would be welcome. Seriously, what was with that film? It felt like the filmmakers were making porn, then making a raunchy comedy, and then remembered to put Jason in it! By the time the final third rolled around, I was bored! I’m seriously considering destroying a copy of the film on DVD when its tenth anniversary rolls around, it’s that bad!

But not just Friday the 13th: there’s room for other franchises to get new films. I think a Hellraiser reboot would be great, as the series has devolved into cheap, direct-to-DVD sequels. A proper remake would give the series’ concept the fresh rebirth it needs. Of course, I’d love to see some new Freddy Kreuger, as there’s still so much to do with that character. And I think given our current social/political climate, a director like Jordan Peele could do something great with the character of Candyman.

But there should also be original works, not just remakes and reboots. As you’re reading this, there are plenty of filmmakers out there with fresh ideas for the slasher genre that should be given a chance. Perhaps with the success of Halloween, studios will be willing to give them a chance. Heck, maybe Jason Blum and Blumhouse, one of the companies that produced Halloween, can use this to recruit some female directors to develop some new projects.**

Perhaps we can see all these dudes, and then some, get new films.

And as for if this is the beginning of a slasher renaissance, we’ll just have to wait and see. One film doesn’t indicate a genre’s comeback. Sometimes several films don’t mean a particular genre or sub-genre is going to be the next big thing (*cough* YA dystopia and fantasy films *cough*). It’ll take several successful films, both originals as well as remakes and reboots, before we can really say if the slasher genre is back with a vengeance.

Still, I’m hopeful. I didn’t think until the trailer that anyone could bring Halloween back. Perhaps with the right writers and directors, we could see the return of the genre. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Until then though, we’ll just have to content ourselves with Halloween, the old classics, and this awesome little video (sorry, couldn’t help but post it. Enjoy).

*And if you do end up producing a new Friday the 13th film Mr. James, can I help? I love Jason too, and I’d love to see him given a film worthy of his franchise. Perhaps I can help write the script? I have ideas.

**Sorry Mr. Blum. I love your work, and I even sent a resume to your company after I graduated, but you really put your foot in your mouth with that “lack of female directors” comment. I mean really? One article found 30 female directors who can do horror! Perhaps Halloween‘s success means a chance to start fixing that fiasco and bringing them on board.

Hollywood is stuck in this phase where the studios are obsessed with sequels and prequels and spin-offs and franchises and remakes and reboots and re imaginings and a million other things. I have mixed feelings on this culture. On the one hand, I love the Marvel movies and a clever re imagining of a classic story or stories (like what Once Upon a Time has done with some of my favorite fairy tales when I was young) is a great thing. Plus who doesn’t love a good adaptation of a beloved novel or comic book or even video game into a movie or TV series?

On the other hand, seeing all these stories continued or retold constantly encourages filmmakers ane viewers to seek out familiar stories that are sure bets to be successful rather than new material that they don’t know will work out for them, when there is new material. And plenty of these sequels/prequels/reboots/whatever, when they come out, they are just awful and you wonder how the filmmakers could do this to beloved properties (see my review of the Poltergeist remake or watch these two dudes review the Smurfs movie if you need further proof).

The horror genre has been a big part in this, for better or for worse. Since the success of 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (as opposed to 2013’s remake of the film), there have been a slew of horror remakes, mainly slashers but quite a few others, and they have been showing up with increasing frequency). I’m focusing on the slashers though, because of the horror remakes the slashers are often the ones I see the most advertising for (an exception being Poltergeist, but we know how that turned out), they have some of the most iconic characters in the horror genre (Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, etc.), they’re notorious for putting out too many sequels of varying quality, even for horror, and they’re difficult to get right, because they rely on blood, guts, and gore to scare people rather than suspense and atmosphere.

And for God’s sake, there’s just been so many of them:

  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its prequel (the former was good, the latter awful)
  • Halloween and Halloween II (same deal as TCM in terms of quality)
  • My Bloody Valentine (lacks all that made the original so awesome)
  • Black Christmas (awful murder-porn)
  • Prom Night (awful and nonsensical)
  • Friday the 13th (of all the Michael Bay shit movies, this one is the shittiest)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street (I liked it, but others disagree with me)
  • Leprechaun (more of a re-imagining of average quality)
  • Texas Chainsaw 3D (I liked this too, but not everybody else did)
  • Evil Dead (fun and extremely bloody)
  • Scream (got rebooted as a TV series. Only saw one episode before leaving for Germany, but wasn’t impressed by what I saw)

On TV and in the movies at the same time. Like Kevin Bacon or Viola Davis.

And that’s just the ones that I know of that are out. And believe it or not, there are more on the way: Friday the 13th is getting a new movie as well as being re-imagined as a TV series for CW (haven’t heard anything on the movie, but what I’ve heard on the TV series sounds promising), Halloween is getting a new movie (also looks promising), Evil Dead is getting a TV series set years after the original films (excuse me while I skip it, because I’m not much of a fan of the franchise), and Texas Chainsaw Massacre is getting a prequel exploring Leatherface’s origins (I’m skeptical). There was also talk of a Hellraiser reboot, but there’s been no word in two years on that, so I’m going to say it’s been shelved.

So why are slashers being remade by the dozen? Like I said, they’re difficult to pull off, and they’re formulaic. Plus blood and gore is how they primarily scare you, and a lot of horror fans, including myself, find that distasteful. What makes them so appealing?

I think a lot of it has to do with the characters. Slashers have produced some of the most iconic characters in horror and in cinema: Norman Bates, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers. Heck, Freddy Kreuger isso well-known that he’s made cameo appearances in movies parodying the 1980’s in one form or another. People love these characters as much as they’re scared of them, they love watching them in action and being terrified of them. They like to sit there and think, “What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do–AAAH!”

Studios are aware of that, as well as they are aware of how much people go back to see the old films (the better ones anyway) and see these beloved characters do what they do best. With huge fan followings like this, and how easy it is to make a horror movie under twenty million dollars with minimal special effects, they know people are going to come and see the films so they can see these beloved characters resurrected again and perhaps in a movie worthy of carrying the franchise’s name.

The problem with that is, these same studios may just be banking on the popularity of a franchise and its character or characters to draw in crowds. Take a look at Friday the 13th, or another horror movie that Michael Bay meddled in, Ouija (read my review here). Both of those sucked, but yet they still made money. I think the latter was because of very good marketing, but the former had the draw of the first Friday the 13th film in six years, and one not bogged down by sequels’ worth of mythologies. Problem was, they didn’t invest in a good story, like the first film did and most of the early films tried to do with varying success. Instead they gave it a passable story and then added in as much drugs, sex, nudity, swearing, and gratuitous death scenes as possible so that the audiences would stay interested.

The result was a waste of film that makes watching people defecate on public streets look more entertaining. And I’m very worried that these other films that are on the way will do the same thing. They’ll be made with just drawing in fans and their credit cards in mind and the results will be absolutely terrible. And no horror fan wants to see beloved characters treated that way.

Hoping for better films for all these guys, and more.

On the other hand, I like to imagine that some of these filmmakers are huge fans of the franchises and really are trying to give these characters the stories they should be in, stories that are worth investing seven dollars and two hours in. The Halloween movie supposedly has an interesting plot, and the one thing I’ve heard on the Friday the 13th sequel indicates it’ll take place in the 1980’s, when the series started and where most of the better films are set. Perhaps there is hope here.

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see…and pray that along with better sequels/franchises/whatever, we get some new material too (*cough* Hollywood, call me *cough*).

All for now, my Followers of Fear. I have to get ready for the High Holidays tonight, so I’ll be busy for a while, but I’ll write again when I can.

See you next year, and Shanah Tovah (that means “Have a good year” if you don’t speak Hebrew).