Hellraiser – Bloodline
The Original Screenplay By Peter Atkins
Reviewed by Paul Flewitt
“Hell is much more ordered since your time, princess … and much less amusing” – Pinhead: Hellraiser; Bloodline
Contains Spoilers For Both Book And Movie
The Hellraiser franchise as a whole is a sad case study in Hollywood interference. It started off so well, with the seminal Hellraiser, and was followed up with two satisfying sequels which (in the eyes of some) surpassed the original. Springing from the mind of Clive Barker, adapted from the Hellbound Heart novella, the original movie was created on a shoestring as Barker’s directorial debut, and went on to become one of the cornerstone movies of the 80’s horror canon.
Things went wrong though, as licensing rights and the aforementioned studio interference began to colour the products of the franchise as it progressed. No longer was it the subversive vehicle it once was, and Pinhead was reduced to being a bit part, slasher icon. The quality of the movies quickly declined, becoming straight to DVD, half-hearted placeholders from a company who never really seemed to give a shit. The fans were ill-served by some scripts retooled to make them fit the Hellraiser blueprint, which often seems to entail shoehorning Pinhead into a scene or two. It was an ignominious fall, and one which caused Barker to cut ties with his own creation for many years. Those ties are being reforged as we speak, with a much needed rebooted Hellraiser movie on the way, and a series in the works.
It could be debated when that fall from grace began, and has been over many years. For some, it began with the dilution of anglophile sensibilities in Hell on Earth, taking Pinhead to America and removing his traditional ensemble of fellow Cenobites. Others would argue the descent began later. Here though, the argument turns to the fourth instalment in the tale: Bloodline. Here, I’ll offer a spoiler warning again. There isn’t a way I can talk about a script and compare the differences between this and the movie without making major spoilers.
The movie was released in 1996, four years after Hell On Earth. The anticipation was keen ahead of time, but the issues became evident as soon as the opening titles rolled for anyone well versed in film lore. The directorial credit was given to Alan Smithee. Smithee is a name given to many difficult productions, where the real director(s) have washed their hands of the whole thing. It’s generally an indication that things have not gone well.
As Peter Atkins, the screenplay writer here readily admits, fans have a strange relationship with Bloodline. On the one hand, there is a good concept here; the backstory of the box, the history of the Lemarchand family, hints at what Hell might have been before Pinhead, Angelique … there were elements here to make a damn good movie, but it fell short. It’s hard to put your finger on why, but the movie just seemed disjointed. We were left with what might have beens, rather than celebrating another Hellraiser movie well made. It was a crying shame, but many still feel that it’s the last Hellraiser movie in the franchise worthy of the name.
Now, 25 years after the release of the movie, Peter Atkins has released the original screenplay. While Miramax own the rights to the movie, they do not own the rights to the script, so this is the closest we’ll ever get to a Director’s Cut of the movie. Atkins actually dashes any hopes of such a thing in the foreword, telling us that the footage doesn’t exist to make a DC possible. So this, dear readers, is the closest we’ll ever come to knowing exactly what the original intention was. His short foreword details, in broad strokes, what went wrong on the production. I’m sure a follow up book could go into more detail and be just as intriguing to read. Of course, interviews over the years have pretty much covered most of those bases.
So, just how different could this movie have been?
The script, as read, is a far more linear and direct experience. We don’t jump from space into the 18th century, as we do in the movie. It opens with what we know as the flashback scene from John Marchant, and things progress from there. It’s a more chronological journey, charting the relationship of the family of toymakers through the years. The relationship with Angelique is more fleshed out, making far more sense. The Angelique character is more well rounded, although the nature of her arrival into our world is left to the imagination and less explicit than the movie.
Essentially, there is very little change to the material except a more keen eye on the detail. The 20th century John Marchant is a much more developed character, with his relationship to a grandmother mentioned only once in the movie being laid out much more succinctly in the script. This makes everything make much more sense, with any ambiguities being dispelled within the dialogue.
Fans of the “twisted twins” may be disappointed, as we are denied their transformation from human to Cenobite in the script. That seems to be a scene added during production, though they do appear later on.
Up to this point, the high point set pieces are all pretty much the same as the movie, which is a good thing. Pinhead in the art gallery deserves its place here, offering a glimpse of the grander scheme to come. The interplay and plotting of Angelique is more pronounced in the script, laying it bare that she is planning to overthrow Pinhead and return Hell to her vision of how it should be. I think this is a detail underused, even in the original script.
The final confrontation is somewhat different to the movie, although the main points remain the same. The space station is still present, and John Marchant has still stolen it to put Hell back in its box. The government still board and try to take the thing back, and it all still leads to some pleasant kills from assorted Cenobites (The twisted twins, chatter beast, Angelique and Pinhead himself.) Where it changes is in the final confrontation, where there is no redemption for the Lemarchand line. A fitting end to the arc which really began in Hellraiser, and was built upon through the next three movies. This ending places a neat bow around all that went before, while not denying the opportunity for exploration in further movies. We have 200 years of Lament Configuration history, after all, and have only seen its effect upon its maker.
So, overall the script was well worth release. No, there are no bombshell revelations of a movie that never was, but enough interest for fans to glean from it. Would Bloodline have been a significantly different movie in its intended form? No. It would have been far more linear and detailed, but it would ostensibly have been the same. Would it have been a better film in its intended form? Arguable, but I think so. For the conclusion alone, I think it would have brought closure to that part of the narrative, while offering possibilities for future movies involving Angelique and Hell … perhaps?
Really, the script raises more questions than it answers, with the main one remaining unchanged: “What might have been?”
Hellraiser – Bloodline
The Original Screenplay
You may well be a fan of the first two or three Hellraiser movies who found that your relationship with this fourth one was … well, what shall we say? Complicated, maybe? You may, if you were of a kindly and forgiving nature, have found the film somewhat interesting, even occasionally entertaining, but you probably also found it confusing, felt that something just wasn’t right about it. You may have noticed the director’s name—Alan Smithee—and googled it, and discovered that Alan Smithee doesn’t exist, that the name is a pseudonym sometimes applied to movies that have been significantly troubled during production and post-production by crises both financial and creative.
Whilst you’ll never get to see a Director’s Cut of Hellraiser: Bloodline, you can read in this book what was supposed to be…
Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author with the CHBB/Vamptasy press. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.
In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.
In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes; A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. “Poor Jeffrey” was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.
In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies; Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane and more.
In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue; The Silent Invader for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.
Paul continues to work on further material.
He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.
You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…