The Hellbound Web is proud to present an exclusive interview with Paul Kane, author of the upcoming "The Hellraiser Films and their Legacy". The book will cover the history and development of all eight films in the Hellraiser series, providing unique behind-the-scenes information and featuring an introduction by Pinhead actor Doug Bradley. The interview was conducted by email in December 2006. Paul Kane answers questions on his career, his views on the Hellraiser films and , of course, what we can expect from his upcoming book.
1. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a professional writer?
I started off wanting to be an artist initially, and even went to art college after my A-Levels. That was a great time as it allowed me to have a go at everything creative, from painting in oils to photography and film-making. I was also penning bits and pieces of fiction at this time. But I was getting higher marks for my theory work, writing about artists and film - so my theory tutor, a man called Eric Popplewell, advised me to do a degree in History of Art, Design and Film, which I completed at Sheffield Hallam. Another tutor called Shelley Baker was into horror and sf movies, so I wrote a lot about these during my time there and she helped me enormously. There was a module called Professional Writing on the course which, in order to pass, required you to submit work to news-stand magazines and newspapers: so I ended up getting feedback from places like The Mirror, which was great. When I left university I did a home correspondence course in writing. That helped me to set up as a freelance writer and also reawakened my interest in writing fiction. I was working for a number of news-stand magazines around the end of the 90s, plus doing film reviews for my local paper and getting into all the press screenings. The fiction took off after I met a writer and editor called John B. Ford. I submitted a piece of fiction for his Terror Tales magazine and we became the best of friends - so much so that I now co-edit the book version of TT that's published work by people like Christopher Fowler (Ten Second Staircase), Stephen (Eleventh Hour) Gallagher, Michael Marshall Smith (Straw Men), and Richard Christian Matheson (Masters of Horror). John kicked off my fiction career, which to date includes three collections and a novella, but I still kept my hand in on the non-fiction side and even took an MA in Film Studies, which I'd recommend to anyone. I also started teaching Film Studies, Art and Creative Writing in 2002 and discovered I love doing that as well, so much so that I now do workshops too with my fiancée, the horror writer Marie O'Regan; the last one was to mark World Horror Day, supported by the likes of Stephen King. So life's always quite hectic these days.
2. Can you recall your first experience of seeing Hellraiser and what attracted you to the film?
I was in my teens, about fifteen or sixteen I think. I'd already been introduced to Clive's fiction by a friend who'd recommended his Books of Blood. I read them all over the course of just a few days, I simply devoured them. They were fantastic. So when I heard that the same writer had also made a film, I knew I had to see it, even though I wasn't old enough legally at the time - not that that had stopped me getting my hands on copies of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist, which were also actually banned at that time. I can remember seeing Hellraiser in the local video rental store and the first thing that gripped me was obviously the figure of Pinhead on the cover. I was fascinated by this character and have remained so to this day. Then there were the pictures on the back, one of a skinless Frank if I remember rightly, and I can remember thinking to myself: this stuff looks really extreme. I managed to convince someone to hire it out for me and watched it at home when nobody else was around. I hadn't been wrong, it was extreme. But as terrified as I was, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. And it also occurred to me even then that this was a clever film, that there were more things going on than just cheap thrills or frights. It made you think, and it had a message at its heart about the grass always being greener. Of course, when I started delving into the themes I realised it was much more complicated than that…
3. What are your views on the sequels and could you give some brief thoughts on the series as a whole?
I really like the immediate sequel, Hellbound, because it broadened the landscape of the Hellraiser mythos, giving us the Cenobites' god Leviathan. Obviously, it has its flaws - the fight scene being one of them - but even Pete Atkins himself admits that there wasn't enough time and money to have done this properly. Hell on Earth was a different kind of Hellraiser completely, and I actually prefer the quieter scenes between Pinhead and Monroe to all the big action set-pieces near the end. Sometimes less is more, and the movie was in danger there of sacrificing story for action. Even though I think the main attraction of Pinhead was his mystery in the first movie, the backstory of Elliott was handled really well and gave Doug some excellent scenes. I can see why he says this was one of his best experiences on a Hellraiser set. Bloodline I think had the potential to be one of the best of the series, but it was let down by the budget and by changes behind the scenes: the inserted scenes really do give it a schizophrenic feel. I do love the ideas behind it, though, they were fresh and original and took the series places it had never gone before. Who'd have thought we'd ever see Pinhead in space? Inferno, if looked at as a non-Hellraiser movie, is an okay film. The problem is that the important and popular parts of the franchise were missing and the focus just became following this detective as he descended into madness. Even the recent reboot of the James Bond franchise - with the bold move of a blond actor in the lead - kept hold of what the fans liked about the whole series. To have Pinhead delivering moralistic speeches just somehow seems odd. And that's before we get to the fact that he's hardly in it at all - unless you count the scenes with the psychiatrist. I was overjoyed when I heard of Kirsty's return in Hellseeker but, I suspect, like most people, disappointed with her absence in the movie itself. The best scene, I believe, was cut and hidden away in the extras section of the DVD. I'm talking about the scene with Kirsty and Pinhead that refers to their history. I can understand Rick Bota not wanting to alienate people who hadn't seen Hellraiser before, but let's face it, the fans know their stuff and if you're on number six of the series it's a pretty safe bet they'll have followed it from the start. Deader, while not a bad film all in all, suffered from having to juggle two lots of mythology. Because it was an original script by Neil Marshall Stevens, the grafting of the Hellraiser mythology onto this jars at times. Having said that, Kari Wuhrer is a superb actress and owns the screen as Amy. Hellworld seems to me to be having fun with the mythology, in the form of a teen stalk and slash really. There are some good bits, one is the confrontation between The Host and Pinhead at the end, but it doesn't really take itself as seriously as it should have.
4. Where did the idea for the Hellraiser book come from and how did you go about organising exactly what the content would be?
I'd worked on a book for Wallflower Press called Contemporary North American Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide (one of my entries was Clive Barker, surprise, surprise). There was talk of an offshoot publishing company that wanted to do small fifteen-thousand-word books on individual movies, kind of like what the British Film Institute had done. I'd already pitched Hellraiser to the BFI but they'd rejected it, so I asked if I could do the film for this place. I worked it into a small book and then that company promptly went the way of the dodo, so I was left with a book that wasn't really big enough to sell anywhere else. When I approached McFarland with it, they were very keen but asked if I fancied writing about all the movies in the series. I had to think very hard about it, as I knew it would be a lot of work - we're talking about eight films - but I also knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Once they'd put the idea in my head, that was it basically. But from start to finish the book's taken about six or seven years to get off the ground.
5. What sort of research and preparation was required for a book like this?
All kinds, from researching the movies in books and old magazines - fortunately I have a massive collection of film magazines and I took frequent trips back to Sheffield Hallam to do research - to talking to people who were around at the time of filming. I've had help from lots of people on this book and it couldn't have been written without them. Stephen Jones, for instance, who as well as being an award-winning writer and editor in his own right, also worked as Unit Publicist on the films, and chats with him at the British Fantasy Society Open Nights were invaluable. I also need to say a huge thank you to Kim Newman for all his advice - Kim's one of the best in the business; I've been reading his film criticism for years - Gary J. Tunnicliffe and his webmaster David Robinson (who was also on the set of the last movie), Doug for his insights and of course for the introduction, Phil and Sarah Stokes at the Revelations site, and ultimately Clive, who has been so helpful and generous with his time and support during the writing of this project. It was great to actually meet him at FantasyCon in September 2006 and thank him for all his long-distance help. There were a lot of people - all thanked in the book - who helped me with rare pictures, many from behind the scenes.
6. Did you have any particular difficulties at any stage in the writing of the book?
Just from the sheer amount of work involved, really. There were many weekends and weeknights where I was totally exhausted from teaching or fiction writing, but I forced myself to work on the book. Once it was commissioned I only had a year to deliver the full 120,000 word manuscript, so that was a good incentive. Marie was fantastic during this time, without her support it really wouldn't have made it to the shelves. She's been my rock and I can't ever thank her enough.
7. In your research did you discover any behind-the-scenes information you found particularly surprising and that you could share with us?
Yes, one thing in particular which not that many people know about was that Stephen Jones and Michael Marshall Smith actually pitched a Hellraiser film to Dimension when they were looking for ideas for number five. Mike kindly let me have a look at a copy of the treatment which totally blew me away. The story brought together all the strands of the series and even brought back Kirsty; it would have made a phenomenal addition to the series and had the backing of Doug and Peter Atkins. It was such a shame it didn't get made. You can read more about it in the book, of course.
8. Will the book look at the comic series in any way, have you ever read them yourself and could you share any thoughts on them if you have?
There's a whole chapter on the comic books, which I religiously collected when they first came out. I think they did a wonderful job with those, taking the mythos in so many different directions. Any of those stories would have made cracking films. I especially liked the idea of the Harrowers who fought the forces of Hell. If you missed them the first time, get hold of the Checker Book reprints. In my opinion the Nightbreed/Hellraiser crossover Jihad was one of the best graphic novels ever written. It was perfect and anyone who hasn't read it should.
9. What was your main objective in writing the book and do you feel you managed to achieve it?
My main objective, I think, was to write something that I would want to buy myself. I've collected all the Barker and Hellraiser books and magazines over the last twenty years, but always felt there was scope for someone to look at the films from a critical standpoint, to examine what makes the Cenobites so appealing, to look at the Cotton family relationship in more detail, to trace the history of the series really. I wrote it because I'm a fan and that particular book didn't exist yet. Hopefully now it does and people will enjoy it.
10. Is there anything you would have liked to have written about in more detail?
I probably would have looked at the later films in slightly more detail if I'd had the room, because the first four take up a good chunk of the book. There was just so much to talk about with them. That's not to say the others aren't thoroughly covered, just that I could have probably written more. Then again, you could say that about anything. I'd also liked to have done a more detailed examination of the individual stories in the comics, but that would have taken up a book on its own.
11. Can you tell us what future projects you have coming up?
I'm working on something pretty major with Marie at the moment that's quite exciting, but I can't say anything about it at present. Other than that, I have a collection of two novellas out in May from Pendragon Press, which will be launched at Alt.Fiction which Iain Banks and Mike Carey are attending, plus a couple of other fiction things lined up and the usual stories in magazines and anthologies. I'm also getting back more into writing articles and reviews, which is kind of like going home for me.
12. Finally, news has recently reached the internet of a Hellraiser remake. What are your thoughts on this possibility?
It's funny, because the final few paragraphs of the book actually speculate about this. I've quoted Clive in an interview where he says it'll happen at some point but he won't have anything to do with it. It's definitely good news to learn that he will, and in fact be the person scripting it. I'm looking forward to it, personally, as it seems like it's going to have more money, and with Clive penning it we should see something that takes the series back full circle. I'm fortunate enough to have also been read - by Clive himself down the phoneline - some of his novella from Scarlet Gospels in which Pinhead faces Harry D'Amour. And let me tell you, it had the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention. No doubt this will also get made at some point, so we'll end up with both the birth and death of Pinhead at Clive's hands. Now it doesn't get any more exciting than that, does it?
The Hellbound Web would like to thank Paul Kane for agreeing to answer these questions and wish him the best of luck with the book. "The Hellraiser Films and their Legacy" is published on December 12th following an unofficial pre-publication launch at the British Fantasy Society’s Christmas Open Night on 8th December at Ye Olde Cock Tavern on Fleet Street. Signed copies of the book will also be available from Paul's website, a link to which can be found below.
Shadow Writer - The Official Paul Kane Website