'Hellraiser: Judgment' Director Points Towards 'Scream's Success For Franchise's Downfall

During the '80s, villains like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers were some of the most recognizable faces in pop culture, with Hellraiser's Pinhead becoming an icon in his own right. Less than a decade after the series' debut, Hellraiser's disturbing mix of sex and violence relegated future installments to the video market, robbing larger audiences of seeing the extent of Pinhead's ferocity. Writer/director of the latest chapter in the saga, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, points towards the success of Scream and similar witty slashers as a contributing factor to Hellraiser's descent into obscurity.

"This series has stumbled and faltered and struggled along the way because the reality is you can't shoehorn this franchise into a commercially successful movie without stripping away the things from it that make it what it is," Tunnicliffe shared with ComicBook.com. "And this is where [producer] Bob [Weinstein] and the guys have had a problem because Bob really isn't a fan of sadomasochistic sexual perversity, and hooks, and flesh, and that kind of stuff."

The fourth film in the franchise, Bloodline, marked the last theatrically released installment in the series.

"That's why I think in 1996 when Bloodline came, and we had the whole debacle of that," Tunnicliffe confessed. "I got a call to go in and meet with Bob about a Hellraiser story I pitched called 'Holy War,' and I was maybe talking about directing that was that. That week Scream came out and did its business, and then Bob and the guys, rightly so, were like, 'Oh, look, let's try and figure out this guy with the nails in his head and this weird sexual stuff. Look, Scream, there it is. Ka-ching. It's easy, it works. It's a f-cking guy in a mask going around with a big knife chopping up teenagers.'"

He added, "It's brilliantly conceived by [screenwriter] Kevin Williamson turning it on its head. But it was so much easier for them to get their head around, and to work with because that's the problem when you're trying to, even as a writer, whether it be Revelations, or Judgment, or whatever I've been involved in when ever you're trying to give these people ... It's literally like f-cking chopped."

Not only is it difficult for producers to wrap their minds around, but audiences might not turn up in droves to see the macabre stories regularly shown in Hellraiser films.

"I mean, ironically, there's the title, but it's like f-cking show," the filmmaker joked. "It's like, 'Okay, so we've got a basket, and in it you've got sadomasochistic sex, and we've got weird betrayal, and then strange movies, and we want you to make a really delicious hamburger that everyone is gonna want to eat.' And you're like, 'I can't. It's gonna turn as many people off as it's gonna enchant them.' So, when I came to Judgment, I was a bit like, 'You know what? F-ck it. I'm gonna make what I want to make, which really was the judgment sequences, the audit. I'm gonna make what I want to make, and if people like it, yay, if they don't, well, I'm terribly sorry.'"

The filmmaker's approach to the story ultimately paralleled another cult classic horror movie that isn't for everyone.


"In the words of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show, 'I didn't make it for you, I made it for me,'" Tunnicliffe remarked. " You know? And I routinely tend to watch the first 15 minutes, and routinely watch the end, which was all predicated on the notion of this."

You can check out Hellraiser: Judgment, now available on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD.