Talking Movies: Hellraiser (1987)

Talking Movies

Released: 10 September 1987
Director: Clive Barker
Distributor:
Entertainment Film Distributors
Budget: $1 million
Stars:
Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Andrew Robinson, and Doug Bradley

The Plot:
Newlyweds Larry (Robinson) and Julia Cotton (Higgins) try to start a new life in Larry’s family home. However, when Frank’s depraved brother, Frank (Chapman), returns to gruesome life following a drop of blood, Julia is compelled by lust to help him reconstitute himself and escape the wrath of the extra-dimensional Cenobites, whom he summoned with a mysterious puzzle box.

The Background:
In 1986, British novelist, playwright, and filmmaker Clive Barker published the third of his Night Visions anthology series; contained within this was a novella titled The Hellbound Heart, a horror tale heavily influenced by Barker’s time as a hustler and experiences in S&M clubs. The story of a hedonist trying to escape the pull of extra-dimensional beings from a dimension that blurs the line between pleasure and pain, The Hellbound Heart caught the attention of Hollywood right at a time where Barker was being heralded by iconic horror author Stephen King as “the future of horror” and when Barker was feeling dismayed at the reception of previous adaptations of his writings. Determined to helm the film himself, despite having no experience in movie directing, Barker nonetheless enjoyed the experience even though the studio demanded that the setting and accents by altered to be more American and he was forced to make cuts to secure an “R” rating. Barker’s disturbing vision for the twisted, sadomasochistic Cenobites was brought to life in gruesome detail on film, especially for actor Doug Bradley, who was blinded by his pitch-black contact lenses and endured roughly six hours in make-up to be transformed into the Lead Cenobite. Although largely praised for its disturbing atmosphere and visuals Hellraiser attracted its fair share of detractors and controversy. However, its $14.6 million box office made it successful enough to justify a sequel, which soon ballooned into a long-running horror franchise of largely diminishing returns, with both Barker and Bradley distancing themselves from later entries. Still, despite the franchise being mired in direct-to-video affairs, Barker persisted in his attempts to regain the rights in order to produce a reboot to revitalise his original concept.

The Review:
When I was a little kid, I couldn’t stand horror movies; I would hide behind comic books whenever my family put one on and had more than my fair share of nightmares from watching a handful of slashers and haunted house classics. One of my earliest memories of being disturbed by horror was when I crept downstairs one night for some reason (probably food) and found my parents watching Hellraiser, specifically the scene where Kirsty Cotton (Laurence) unwittingly summons the Cenobites while in hospital, and it scared me for so long that the film, and its sequels, took on an almost mythic quality in the back of my imagination. Now, decades later and having become largely desensitised to all horror, I’ve had the unenviable pleasure of watching all but two (as of this writing) entries in the franchise and have witnessed it decline from a truly unsettling meditation on the limits of human depravity to a run-of-the-mill slasher series with an iconic villain, all subtle and nuance having been stripped away as easily as the Cenobites strip flesh. Furthermore, I’m also of the belief that Clive Barker’s original movie really hasn’t aged too well; some of the special effects falter here in ways they don’t in later movies, and I’ve always hoped for a dark, gritty, atmospheric remake that can do the movie, and its franchise, justice. Still, there’s little doubt in my mind that the original is clearly the best in the series; it told a horror story that had a lot of nuances to it beyond simply being a mindless slasher or a cliché bout of “good” versus “evil” and really emphasised atmosphere and desperation over cheap scares.

Larry just wants to start his new marriage but is unaware of Julia’s sordid past with his brother.

The film is commendable in its simplicity, revolving as it does around four central characters, the Cotton family, and their dealings with a mysterious puzzle box we now know as the Lament Configuration (or, occasionally, the Lemarchand Configuration). Larry is moving his new wife, Julia, into his dilapidated childhood home in hopes of building a new life together, presumably away from the bustle and bustle of big city life though it’s not really made explicit (nor is it explicitly stated what either of them do for a living; Julia seems to be a kept woman and Larry is just “generic eighties businessman” by the looks of it). What is explicit, however, is the gulf that exists between them; Larry is very optimistic about the move, and about setting down roots in the old homestead. He gets stuck in with the moving men, loves to host social get togethers with their mutual friends, and has a playful, if naïve, approach to life. Julia, in contrast, seems largely lethargic to the whole situation; she agrees to go along with it simply to keep him quiet and happy and doesn’t once lift a finger to help make the house into a home throughout the drama of the move. A major point of contention between the two is Larry’s daughter, Kirsty; clearly, Kirsty had a strong bond with her deceased birth mother and views Julia more like the wicked stepmother, so she’s quite abrupt and dismissive towards Julia despite the latter’s best (if half-hearted) attempts to build bridges between them. Kirsty is a typical Daddy’s Girl; she visits and plays nice only to see her beloved father and she’s primarily interested in his safety and happiness above Julia’s, who she could happily live without.

Kirsty is determined to protect her beloved father from all threats, no matter what shape they take.

As Larry is painted as this foolish, if lovable, patriarch, a man who can’t stand the sight of blood and who really enjoys his boxing despite being the furthest thing from a fighter, Kirsty is able to shine all the more as the film’s protagonist. Indeed, as Julia sinks into murderous depravity, the film actively shifts its focus away from following Larry’s naïvety concerning his wife’s twisted nature and more towards Kirsty as she first works to stand on her own two feet with her own place and job, dabbles in romantic trysts with veritable blank canvas Steve O’Donnell (Robert Hines), and then uncovers the truth behind Julia’s shady antics. Were it not for his dislike of her stepmother, Kirsty would’ve been in the Cotton house from the beginning and potentially would’ve fallen victim to the horrors that laid within but her pride and desire to make it as an independent young woman see her firmly on the outside and able to see the warning signs of infidelity that fly completely over Larry’s head. And why wouldn’t they? Larry has no reason to suspect that his hedonistic brother, Frank, didn’t just use their old home as a base camp but literally and figuratively left a part of himself there after solving the Lament Configuration. A seeker of carnal desire, Frank purchased the puzzle box after learning that it opened a doorway to wonders and experiences beyond human imagination, but even he didn’t expect to be confronted by the four scarified, mutilated, androgynous Cenobites or their hellish dimension of chains, pain, and pleasure. It’s only because of his depraved nature that Frank was even able to reconstitute after Larry’s blood spills on the floor where he was torn asunder by the Cenobites’ hooked chain and, having assumed a desiccated appearance (Oliver Smith), Frank is eager to return to his former self and elude the Cenobites out of fear of suffering further untold torments in their nightmarish dimension.

Julia’s lust-filled tryst with Frank is enough to convince her to kill in order to restore him.

To do this, he manipulates Julia, with whom he had forced into a rough and list-filled affair shortly before her wedding to Larry. Julia is both haunted by the experience, which follows her all around the house, and exhilarated by the memory; in the flashbacks, she seems to be a very different person, loving and devoted, before encountering the rugged and forceful Frank and becoming immediately obsessed with desire for more of his particular brand of affection. Although Julia’s absolutely horrified to find Frank’s skinless, desperate form trapped in the attic, her need to be with him, to experience that sensation once more, and to feel truly alive and wanted and not just lethargic overtakes her logic and she readily agrees to lure unsuspecting men back to the house for him to “feed” upon. At first, Frank is far too weak to kill these poor fools but, after literally sucking the flesh off a few of them, he could easily handle the deed himself but, instead, he allows Julia to bash their heads in with hammers. Initially, she’s mortified by her actions, and the sight and sound of Frank’s absorption of the corpses, but she soon not only becomes numb to it but actually starts to enjoy it. By the time Frank begins to feel sensation and has reconstituted himself into something more closely resembling a man, she’s more than happy to touch him and ultimately willing to sacrifice even Larry and Kirsty to get Frank back to normal so she can get laid again. Without a doubt, Julia is the true villain of this piece; a vile, wicked, selfish woman who’s only interested in satisfying her urges, she’s every bit as depraved as Frank, but her downfall comes from trusting that he’s just as devoted to her as she is to him when, in reality, all he cares about is indulging his sick fantasies and staying away from the Cenobites.

The horrific Cenobites are alluring in their morbid eloquence and regal stature.

Speaking of whom, the Order of the Gash actually get very little screen time here compared to later films and other slasher villains, but they certainly steal the show when they do appear and their presence looms over everything. Just listening to the mixture of fear and awe as Frank describes their realm, their utter commitment to extreme sadomasochism to the point where they can no longer distinguish between pain and pleasure, is enough to evoke a feeling of dread, to say nothing of their horrific appearances. Mutilated and twisted into demonic figures, the Cenobites may appear vaguely human but are anything but; lead by an enigmatic priest with pins driven into his head (popularly referred to as “Pinhead”; Bradley), the Cenobites come from an unseen realm that thrives on the indulgence of flesh, the exploration of suffering, and the most excessive forms of pleasure. One of the most alluring aspects of the Cenobites is that they’re not mindless, mute killers; Pinhead is chillingly eloquent, speaking with booming, monotone menace and seeking to impose his twisted design upon whomever solves the box. However, while the Cenobites are clearly beyond pity and have lost all touch with humanity, they’re not beyond reason; Pinhead and the Female Cenobite (Grace Kirby) are enraged at the idea that Frank has escaped their clutches and agree to Kirsty’s plea to reclaim him in exchange for her if she can get him to confess. Although their abilities and origins are kept rather vague here, the Cenobites are beings of considerable extradimensional powers; once the puzzle box is solved, they bleed into reality through schism and openings in the real world and their dimension of chaos and torture comes along with them, meaning hooked chains and pillars of torture spontaneously appear in our world. To travel to their dimension is not to die in the strictest sense of the word but merely to be shunted from this realm to one where you suffer the endless agony of their whims without the reprieve of death. As Pinhead so expressively puts it, the Cenobites are “Demons to some…Angels to others” but, while “Hell” is reference in the title and Kirsty explicitly tells them to “Go to Hel!”, they’re not actually from the Judo-Christian version of Hell and damned souls do not spend eternity in their dimension, it’s simply that their realm is so depraved and gruesome that it is seen to be Hell.  

The Nitty-Gritty:
This is what sets Hellraiser apart from its sequels, and almost all extended canon, and what has constantly bugged me ever since the second and third movie. I get the idea of characters in the films seeing the Cenobites as demonic beings and believing their dimension to be Hell, but I think the franchise lost the message Clive Barker was shooting for in his original, far vaguer, and more disturbing notions of Hell in this movie. Frank actively seeks out the puzzle box to experience new heights of pleasure so, for him, it was a gateway to pleasure and “Heaven” until he was confronted with the horrifying reality of the Cenobites, who’s lusts far exceeded his small-minded fantasies. When they appear to Kirsty, they are framed as fiendish creatures; “Chatterer” (Nicholas Vince) holds her in place, initially with his fingers down her throat, while Pinhead and the Female bark threats at her for her naïvety so, to her, they’re demonic entities. However, while there’s definitely an ambiguity surrounding the Cenobites in this first film, it’s undeniable that they’re far from righteous or moral individuals; they show leniency to Kirsty only to retrieve that which has escaped them and turn on her at the first chance they get. The aura exuded by the Cenobites is bolstered by a terrifically haunting and atmospheric score courtesy of Christopher Young; ominous and daunting with its gongs and almost religious undertones, the orchestral soundtrack really creates a tense and uncomfortable ambiance that goes hand-in-hand with the film’s dark and moody presentation.

While the Cenobites impress, other Hellspawn and special effects don’t fare quite as well.

When the Cenobites appear, all Hell literally lets loose; at their, their appearance is subtle and mostly takes place offscreen and all we see are the hanging chains, the twirling pillar, and the bloody chunks of flesh that were once Frank being carefully (and lovingly) assembled by Pinhead. When Kirsty accidentally summons them, the walls of her hospital room steam, blood fills her IV drip and splatters across the room, and the Cenobites appear in a burst of questionable lightning, all while bright lights and a suffocating smoke fill the room. The Cenobites themselves are absolutely horrific to look at; malformed into walking testaments to sin and excess, their flesh has been stripped back, mutilated, and left them largely devoid of anything resembling humanity. While Pinhead obviously makes an impression with his long leather robes, torn open pectorals, and the grid of pins nailed into his head, the Female is easily the least impressive of the four since she “only” has her throat perpetually ripped open by a strange wire trap. The Chatterer and Butterball (Simon Bamford) more than make up for this, however, by being the most monstrous of them all; while Butterball is the embodiment of perverted gluttony, the Chatterer is cursed with unending blindness and his exposed, raw teeth constantly chattering away as he prepares victims for their pleasure. Two more monstrous beings join the film in the thrilling and horrifying climax, wherein the Cenobites try to forcibly bring Kirsty with them to their realm after reclaiming Frank; one is a strange, hideous puppet known as “The Engineer” (John Cormican). Apparently, this is supposed to be the leader of the Cenobites, at least according to the source material, but it just comes across as a laughable animatronic that flies in the face of the disturbing beauty offered by the main Cenobites. Similarly, the janky skeletal dragon that the weird homeless man (Frank Banker) transforms into was a bit of a misstep considering how intriguing the film’s horror is until the end, and these two creatures are a big part of the reason I feel a remake would benefit Hellraiser is it seems obvious that Barker’s imagination was far exceeding his grasp…and his budget.

The effects use to bring Frank to life are matched only by his repulsive depravity.

However, as striking as the Cenobites are in their gruesome allure, the real star of the show here are the myriad of make-up effects and filmmaking techniques used to bring Frank back to ghastly life. after Larry’s blood is spilt, a disgusting sequence takes place in which the finest stop motion, animatronics, and reversed film footage of the eighties are used to show his dripping, gory skeleton bubbling up from the floor tiles, his spinal column thrusting into his oozing brain, his gnarled bones reconstructing, and him screaming in pain and triumph as he returns to consciousness in the real world. It’s truly an impressive sequence in its design and execution and it’s gut-wrenching seeing Frank’s ribs close up around his guts and entrails as they spill up from the floor and back into his body. Following that, we see Frank in various stages of desiccation; skinless, his veins and muscles and parts of his skeleton on show, he’s a pathetic shell of his former, vigorous self until he sucks enough living flesh up to start feeling and looking a little more like himself. Frank even starts smoking and wearing suits, undeterred by the gore he’s leaving behind on either or on Julia’s hands and lips, and he never seems to be in physical pain throughout any of this (though this is addressed, somewhat, as he states that taking lives is slowly returning his sensation, so I can only imagine the agony he would’ve felt when his nerves fully returned to life before his reconstitution was complete). It’s fitting that Frank spends the majority of the film in a monstrous state as he’s an abolsutely reprehensible and repulsive man; not content with screwing his brother’s fiancée right before their wedding, he makes lewd remarks towards Kirsty and there’s definitely a suggestion that he’s engaged in his fair share of child molestation in his selfish pursuit of pleasures and excess.

When the Cenobites come to collect their souls, Kirsty’s left relying on her wits to survive.

So determined is Frank to return to his human self that he’s willing to manipulate Julia into killing men for him to strip of their flesh in grisly fashion. Although he assures Julia that they’ll run away together and have all the rampant sex they want together once he’s whole again, it’s pretty obvious that he has less intention of living up to this promise than the Cenobites do of honouring their agreement with Kirsty. When Kirsty stumbles upon the skinless Frank while trying to find evidence of Julia’s infidelity, she makes off with the Lament Configuration; terrified at the Cenobites’ reprisals, Frank accelerates his schedule and come sup with an ingenious plan to further avoid detection. Earlier, Julia had begged Frank not to harm Larry and seemed content to simply leave him with Frank but, at this point, she’s perfectly happy for him to kill Larry and slap his skinned face over his own so she can finally get laid. Despite the fact her father clearly has a weeping, open wound around his face, Kirsty is initially horrified to learn that Larry has killed Frank and this unwittingly doomed her to an eternity of torture at the hands of the Cenobites, and she angrily tries to escape the creatures when Pinhead, furious at Frank’s apparent death, demands Larry as recompense. However, Frank’s deception is quickly revealed as he can’t keep up the façade for long; in the ensuring struggle, he accidentally stabs Julia and the betrays her without remorse by sucking out her flesh as she dies. Having revealed his true identity, Frank is dismayed when the Cenobites come to collect him, stretching his flesh to the limit with their chains before exploding him in a shower of blood and guts. Afterwards, the Cenobites try to claim Kirsty as well but she’s able to banish them one by one by fiddling with the puzzle box as the house collapses around her. A surprise and completely useless appearance from Steve gets Kirsty out of harm’s way and, shellshocked by the entire events, she tosses the Lament Configuration into the smouldering fire…only for the homeless man to retrieve it, transform into a roaring skeletal dragon, and spirit the box away to another potential victim of the Cenobites.

The Summary:
There’s no denying that Hellraiser is a true horror classic; it’s dark and gritty and wonderfully visceral in its presentation, with a foreboding score and some truly disturbing sexual undertones that really help it to stand out against other slashers and horror of the time. The Cenobites are some of the most imaginative and horrific entities every brought to life; clearly, the bulk of the film’s budget went into bringing them and Frank’s desiccated corpse to life and the movie is all the better for it as you really can’t cheap out when it comes to creating horror icons such as these. With his stately, almost regal demeanour and abrasive, sinister eloquence, Pinhead stands far and apart from the mute, masked killers and psychotic brutes that ran rampant in horror cinema at this time; there’s a troubling allure to him and his fellow Cenobites, one that makes you wonder what they went through to become what they are, what their Hellish dimension is like, and just how depraved their imaginations go. Hellraiser benefits from keeping all this vague and looming like a shadow and focusing its plot on the manipulations of Frank and Julia’s descent into sadistic murder in a selfish attempt to get her end away with a genuinely repulsive masochist. Although she’s not the strongest female protagonist or “Final Girl” in horror cinema, there’s an innocence and simplicity to Kirsty; she just wants to protect her father, whether it’s from wicked stepmothers or demonic explorers of the furthest regions of experience and I liked that she was both vulnerable but cunning enough to try and cut a deal with the Cenobites. While some of the visual and practical effects haven’t aged too well, and it’s true that only three of the Cenobites are interesting to behold, there’s a lot of ambition and passion crammed into Hellraiser, certainly more than you see in many horror films. Clive Barker’s depraved imagination is on show in all its twisted glory here and it makes for a fundamentally unique horror experience, one that opts for a horror both subtle and explicit at the same time and which presents a concept that’s terrifying in its implications and sadly robbed of all nuance in subsequent sequels.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a Hellraiser fan? If you read The Hellbound Heart, what did you think to the film as an adaptation? What did you think to the Cenobites and the gruesome practical effects used to bring them, and Frank, to life? Were you intrigued by the disturbing mixture of sex and torture offered by the Cenobites? What did you think to Pinhead compared to other horror villains? Which of the Hellraiser sequels was your favourite, if any, and what did you think to their degradation of the original’s nuance? Whatever your thoughts on Hellraiser feel free to share them below or start the discussion on my social media.

10 FTW: Under-Rated Sequels

10FTW

Sequels are funny things; you have to get the balance just right between providing everything people enjoyed about the first moving but expanding upon the plot and characters in a natural way. If it’s difficult for a lot of sequels to get this right, it’s even harder for third, fourth, or other sequential entries to hit the mark.

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It’s not easy to make a sequel that surpasses the original.

There’s a few prime examples of sequels done right (Back to the Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991), and The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) spring to mind as some near-undisputed examples of sequels that were everything their predecessor was and more) and even fewer examples of completely perfect movie trilogies as most stumble by the third entry due to one reason or another. I can’t tell you, though, how often I’ve seen people talk shit about some sequels that are actually not that bad at all and, arguably, criminally under-rated. When movies, comics, and videogames produce remakes or other ancillary media based on these franchises, they either always complete ignore these films or openly criticise them for absolutely no reason. Today, I’m going to shed some light on ten under-rated sequels and, hopefully, try to show why they’re actually not as bad as you might think…

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10 Saw II (Bousman, 2005)

While the Saw (Various, 2004 to present) noticeably dipped in quality as Lionsgate milked the series for all its worth with sequel after sequel after sequel (most of which were actually interquels as they foolishly killed off John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) way too early in the series), I feel like a lot of people don’t give Saw II enough credit. Saw (Wan, 2004) was an intense, terrifying experience that saw two people trapped in a room with the only option of escape being death or sawing a foot off with a rusty hacksaw. It kick-started a whole “torture porn” sub-genre of horror, despite most of its terror coming from the horrific situations rather than copious amounts of gore. Saw II, however, put the focus on Jigsaw, who was an almost mythic figure in the first movie and wasn’t fully revealed until the film’s dramatic conclusion. Here, we delve deep into his motivations for putting people through his gruesome “tests” and this film is a worthwhile watch simply for the subtle menace exuded by Tobin Bell.

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Saw II has some gruesome traps.

Not only that, Saw II ramps up the gore and the desperation by having seven shady individuals all infected with a deadly, slow-acting nerve agent and trapped in a horror house, of sorts. The film’s tension comes from the desperation of Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), who is frantic to save his son from Jigsaw’s trap and to bring Jigsaw in by any means necessary. Yes, there’s more gore and more onscreen violence and, arguably, Saw II set the standard for the myriad of sequels to come by ramping up Jigsaw’s traps and plots to an absurd degree, but this was before the series fell off a cliff. Here, minor characters from the first film are expanded upon, the lore of this world is fleshed out beautifully, and we have some of the franchise’s best traps ever.

9 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Pressman, 1991)

For many of us back in the nineties, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) was the first time the “Hero” Turtles were depicted as being as violent and nuanced as in their original Mirage Comics run. Up until the release of this movie, the Turtles were cute, cuddly superheroes who we watched foil the Shredder (James Avery) week after week and whose toys we bought with reckless abandon. However, given how dark and violent the first film was, this sequel does a massive course correction, increasing the silliness and reducing the onscreen violence and decreasing the Turtles’ use of their weapons in an attempt to align the live-action movies more with their more kid-friendly, animated counterparts. Yet, that doesn’t mean this sequel isn’t good in its own right. The Turtle suits (once again brought to live by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) look amazing and are probably better and more expressive than in the previous movie; the film also stays relatively close to its source material by focusing on the mutagenic ooze that created the Turtles, and it also introduced two mutant antagonists for the Turtles to fight.

Tokka and Rahzar are surprisingly formidable.

While they’re not Bebop (Barry Gordon and Greg Berg) and Rocksteady (Cam Clarke), Tokka (Rock Lyon and Kurt Bryant) and Rahzar (Gord Robertson and Mark Ginther) are a fun, welcome addition. It’s great seeing the Turtles kick the snot out of faceless members of the Foot Clan but Ninja Turtles has always been about the crazy mutated characters and these are two of the most impressive looking and formidable, especially considering their childlike demeanours. The Shredder (François Chau) also returned in this movie and is a lot closer to his animated incarnation, being decidedly more theatrical than in the first movie but no less intimidating. Probably the only thing that lets this movie down for me (no, it’s not the Vanilla Ice rap scene) is the final battle between the Turtles and the ooze-empowered Super Shredder (Kevin Nash) in which Shredder is unceremoniously defeated by being crushed under a pier due to his own foolishness. Apart from that, though, I feel this movie is the perfect balance between the dark, violent Mirage Comics and the light-hearted animated series and this balance is where the Ninja Turtles (a ridiculous concept to begin with) shine the brightest.

8 Batman Forever (Schumacher, 1995)

Now, admittedly, Batman Forever has its fan-base; there’s plenty of very vocal people out there who rate this quite highly among the many Batman (Various, 1966 to present) movies, especially after viewing the special edition and a lot of the deleted scenes which, had they been implemented, would probably have elevated this movie even higher. There’s a couple of reasons why this film is often unfairly attacked: one is because of how God-awful its sequel, Batman & Robin (ibid, 1997) was. That film’s over-the-top camp, painful performances, and nipple-suits are often considered so bad that both of Schumacher’s Bat-movies are unfairly lumped together and judged as a failure, when this just wasn’t the case.

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McDonald’s had Burton’s weirdness replaced with over-the-top camp.

The second reason is because of how dramatically different it is from the previous Bat-movies; after Tim Burton brought us a dark, brooding, serious interpretation of Batman (Michael Keaton) in 1989, he was given free reign on the sequel, Batman Returns (Burton, 1992). While this made for one of my personal favourite Bat-movies thanks to Burton’s Gothic sensibilities, it upset a lot of parents (…and McDonald’s) and, similar to Turtles II, Schumacher was brought in to make Batman more “kid friendly”.

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It’d be some time before Robin would truly fly again.

And yet despite the gratuitous neon lighting, the slapstick elements, and an incredibly over-the-top (and massively unsuitable) performance by Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever not only brought us a physically imposing Bruce Wayne/Batman (Val Kilmer) for the first time but it actually had the balls to include Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell). Schumacher smartly uses Robin’s origin as a parallel to Batman’s so that the film can tread familiar ground but in a new, fresh way while also bringing us one hell of a bad-ass Robin suit. Thanks to the blinkered, narrow-minded opinion that Robin (a character who has been around basically as long as Batman) is somehow “not suitable” for a Bat-movie, it wouldn’t be until the recent Titans (2018 to present) series that we would finally see Dick Grayson realised in live-action once again (though we came so close to seeing another interpretation of the character in the DC Extended Universe). Also, sue me, I grew up in the nineties and have always been a big fan of Jim Carrey’s. His performance as Edward Nygma/The Riddler might be over-the-top but his manic energy steals every scene he’s in and he genuinely looks like he’s having the time of his life channelling his inner Frank Gorshin and chewing on Schumacher’s elaborate and impractical scenery.

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7 Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

Okay, I’m just going to come out at say it: Terminator Salvation was, hands down, the best Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) sequel after Terminator 2 and always will be, no matter how many times they force Arnold Schwarzenegger to throw on the shades and the jacket.

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Salvation focused on the future war, as all Terminator 2 sequels should have.

After how perfectly Terminator 2 ended the series, the only smart way to produce further sequels was to have Terminators travel to other times and target other key members of the resistance (a plot point touched upon in the Dark Horse Comics, the dismally disappointing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Mostow, 2003), and threaded throughout the semi-decent Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 to 2009) television series) or to make prequels that focused on the war against the machines in a post-apocalyptic future. This latter idea would be my preference and, as such, I absolutely love Terminator Salvation. Is it perfect? Well, no, but it’s a different type of Terminator movie…and that is a good thing, people! Rather than making yet another lacklustre retread of Terminator 2, Salvation is, ostensibly, a war movie depicting the last vestiges of humanity driven to the brink of extinction by increasingly-dangerous killer machines.

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Bale always makes for fantastic casting.

Not only that, we got Christian Bale as John Connor! After the pathetic casting and portrayal of Nick Stahl (remember him?) in the third movie, we got freakin’ Batman as the last, best hope of humankind! And he gives a great performance; stoic, gritty, hardened, this is a Connor who is on the edge of accepting his true destiny and is desperate to do anything he can to stay one step ahead of Skynet. Add to that we got a pretty decent battle between Connor and the T-800 (Roland Kickinger). People like to shit on this sequence because Kickinger has Schwarzenegger’s likeness digitally laid over his face but, honestly, it isn’t that bad an effect and, if you can’t get Arnold back, this was a great way to utilise him. The only faults I have with this movie are that Connor shouldn’t have received such a clearly-mortal wound from the T-800 (I know he was originally supposed to die but, after they changed the ending, they really should have re-edited this scene to make his wound less deadly) and that the franchise has largely ignored it with subsequent sequels rather than continuing on from its open-ended finale, meaning we’ll forever be denied the bad-ass visual of an army of Arnold’s marching over a field of human skulls!

6 Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Lucas, 2002)

Okay, just hear me out…Attack of the Clones is not that bad, especially after Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (ibid, 1999) focused way too much on boring shit like “trade disputes” and politics, insulted our intelligence with the dreadful Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), and sucked all of the menace and intrigue out of Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) by portraying Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) a whiny, annoying little brat.

The banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan was a highlight.

Arguably, the Prequel Trilogy would have been better if Lucas had opted to have Anakin discovered as a young adult and cast Hayden Christensen in the role from the start as this would be a far better parallel to his son’s own journey to becoming a Jedi. Christensen is a decent enough actor and he was simply handicapped by Lucas’s dreadful script; if Lucas had opted to let someone else take another pass at his dialogue, we could have seen a bit more of the snarky banter Anakin shares with his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Despite the copious amount of green screen and computer-generated characters thrown at us here, Attack of the Clones has a lot of visual appeal; from the city planet of Coruscant to the rain-swept Kamino and the dry lands of Geonosis, the only location that lets Attack of the Clones down is its return to the sand planet Tatooine but even that is used as a pivotal moment in Anakin’s turn towards the Dark Side.

I would’ve preferred to see what Boba Fett was capable of.

And let’s not forget the fantastic Lightsaber battles on display here; every battle is as good as the final battle from The Phantom Menace, featuring some impressive choreography and setting the stage for one hell of an epic showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan in the next movie. While I don’t really care for Yodi (Frank Oz) being a CG character, or wielding a Lightsaber, there is a perverse pleasure to be gained from seeing Yoda flip about like a maniacal spider monkey. Oh, and this movie has freakin’ Christopher Lee in it! Unfortunately, Lee’s Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus is criminally underused in this movie and killed off all-too-soon in the sequel. Another misfire for me was Lucas wasting time introducing Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison); I’ve never really understood why people love Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) so much as he’s a bit of a klutz and doesn’t really do anything, but he does have a rabid fan base and, since we never see his face in the Original Trilogy, I would have instead cast Temuera as Boba so that we could see him actually do something.

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5 Hellraiser: Bloodline (Yagher (credited as Alan Smithee), 1996)

Hellraiser (1987 to present) is a horror film series that seems to have struggled to be as successful as some of its other peers. I’ve already talked about how the original Hellraiser (Barker, 1987) really hasn’t aged very well and this applies to every sequel in the series as well as they seem to immediately age to moment they are released thanks to the decision to release every sequel after the third movie direct to video. Admittedly, a lot of my fondness for Hellraiser: Bloodline is based on two things: it was the first Hellraiser movie I was able to sit through from start to finish and was responsible for me becoming a fan of the series, and Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997) is one of my favourite science-fiction/horror movies. Arguably, Event Horizon is a far better version of Bloodline’s core concept (that being “Hellraiser…in Space!”) but there’s an important thing to remember about that: Bloodline isn’t set solely in space! Instead, Bloodline takes place in three different timelines and follows the descendants of Philippe Lemarchand (Bruce Ramsay), an 18th century toymaker who was unwittingly responsible for creating the magical Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that, when solved, summons Cenobites from a dimension where the lines between pleasure and pain are blurred.

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Pinhead has lofty aspirations in Bloodline.

Cursed for this act, Lemarchand’s descendants are driven by an inherent desire to create the Elysium Configuration, a means to forever seal the Cenobites from our world forever Dr. Paul Merchant (also Ramsay) is merely the latest in a long line of these toymakers to encounter the demonic Cenobite dubbed Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his acolytes; unlike his predecessors, Merchant actually succeeds in his mission and destroys both Pinhead, and the portal to Hell, forever using a massive space station. There’s a few reasons I think people misjudge this movie: one is that it was absolutely butchered by Miramax, who demanded all kinds of reshoots and changes, meaning that the film’s original director’s cut has never been seen. Another is a holdover from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Hickox, 1992), which saw Pinhead ape Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and become just another slasher villain with a twisted sense of humour. Similarly, in Bloodline, Pinhead goes from being a representative of the Order of the Gash (…lol), to wanting to unleash Hell on Earth permanently like some kind of invading force, to the point where he takes hostages and transforms people into Cenobites whether they have opened the box or not. Yet none of this changes the fact that Bloodline is a pretty decent film; we finally get to see some background into the mysterious puzzle box, there’s multiple times when the structure and history of Hell is hinted at, and there’s some really disgusting kills and gore. Personally, I rate this film higher than the second (because that film is boring) and the third simply because it doesn’t have a Cenobite with CDs jammed in its head!

4 X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009)

This one is gonna cost me a lot of credibility but I honestly do not get why X-Men Origins: Wolverine gets so much shit, especially considering how incoherent and screwed up the timeline and continuity of the X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) movie series became after this film. Sure, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is poorly represented, some of the CG is a bit wonky, and there are a lot of flaws in the plot, but there’s also a lot to like about this film. First, and most obvious, is the film’s opening credit sequence, which many have cited as being their favourite moment of the film. Seeing James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) racing through various wars is stunning and I do agree that the film really should have based around this premise and their slow degeneration into bloodlust, with Logan overcoming it and Victor giving in to it to become Sabretooth. Yet, often, I see a lot of criticism about how the X-Men movies tend to always focus on Wolverine at the expense of other Mutants…yet people still hate on this movie, which puts the spotlight entirely on Wolverine and still manages to feature some new Mutants and fill in a few plot points along the way. We get to see Logan’s time in Team X, the full extent of the procedure that gave him his Adamantium skeleton (although we miss out on the feral Wolverine showcased so brilliantly in the otherwise-disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse (Singer, 2016)), and even how unknowingly pivotal he was in bringing the original X-Men together.

The cast for Origins was pretty much perfect.

The casting really makes this movie shine: Jackman is at his most jacked as Wolverine and, while he’s a little too tame compared to what you’d expect from this point in his life, he always brings a great intensity and charisma to his breakout role. Schreiber was an inspired choice to portray Logan’s brother, who (it is strongly hinted) eventually succumbs to his animalistic ways to become Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), bringing a nuanced menace and sophistication to what is normally seen as a feral character. Danny Huston is always great as a smug, scenery-chewing villain (though he doesn’t exactly resemble Brian Cox) and Reynolds gave a great tease at what he was capable of as everyone’s favourite “Merc with a Mouth” (…until it was sown shut). We also get some new Mutants, which I appreciate even more after subsequent sequels could never seem to let go of having teleporting demons involved in their plots; Fred Dukes/The Blob (Kevin Durand) is fantastically realised in the movie and has a great (and hilarious) boxing match with Logan and everyone’s favourite card-throwing Cajun, Remy LeBeau/Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) also makes his one (and, so far, only) film appearance here. I only expected a brief, unsatisfying cameo from Gambit but he actually has a surprisingly substantial role. Could it have been bigger? Sure, but I’d say he was treated a lot better than Deadpool (who, it should be remembered, was still planned to get a spin-off from this film).

3 RoboCop 2 (Kershner, 1990)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). It told an easily self-contained story of Detroit City police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) being rebuilt from death as a bad-ass cybernetic enforcer of the law and rediscovering his humanity. It’s a classic film, with some amazing effects, hilarious commentary on consumerism, media, and corporate greed, and would be a tough act for anyone to follow. Yet, call me crazy, but RoboCop 2 succeeds far more than it fails. RoboCop has a fresh coat of paint and has (literally) never looked better onscreen; he’s just as efficient and pragmatic as before and, though he seems to have regressed back to a more mechanical mindset, he still exhibits a great deal of humanity but in new and interesting ways. First, he is routinely referred to as “Murphy” by other officers (particularly Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), his partner) and struggles so badly with reconnecting with his wife and son (who believe that Murphy is dead and buried) that he routinely stalks them, which contributes to his superiors deciding to reprogram him. This results in a deliciously over-the-top sequence where RoboCop, his head full of insane, politically correct directives, tries to calm situations with talk rather than bullets. It eventually becomes so maddening that he is forced to electrocute himself just to clear his head enough for him to focus on the big bad of the film, Cain (Tom Noonan).

RoboCain is an impressively ambitious inclusion.

Now, Cain and his psychopathic gang of untouchable drug dealers are great, but they’re not Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith); instead of Clarence’s manic energy, Cain brings a quiet, intellectual approach to his menace. He also manages to dismantle RoboCop’s metallic body, just as Clarence destroyed his human one, and is eventually able to go toe-to-toe with RoboCop as the frankly fantastic RoboCop 2 (or “RoboCain”). If you liked ED-209 from the last movie, RoboCain is bigger, badder, and better. A combination of animatronics and stop-motion, RoboCain was an ambitious choice for the film and actually works really well considering the technological limitations of the time. The fight between Cain and RoboCop also holds up surprisingly well and is far more interesting than Robo’s encounters with ED-209 thanks to the villain being far more versatile than his clunky counterpart. I think what brings this movie down, for many, is that Cain’s gang aren’t as charismatic or memorable as Boddicker’s (I can only name two of Cain’s guys off the top of my head, whereas I can name at least five of Boddiker’s), some of the plot is a bit redundant (Robo’s story arc is, essentially, a truncated version of the same one from the first), and the awfulness of subsequent RoboCop movies leaving such a sour taste that people assume all RoboCop sequels are terrible…and that’s just not the case.

2 Predator 2 (Hopkins, 1990)

Okay, full disclosure: as a kid, I was not a fan of this movie. I loved Predator (McTiernan, 1987); it was over-the-top, filled with massive action heroes, and featured a tense build-up to one of cinema’s most memorable alien creatures. The sequel just seemed to be lacking something; maybe it was because we’d already seen the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) in its full, gruesome glory and didn’t really need to go through the suspense of its eventual reveal all over again. Replacing Schwarzenegger is Danny Glover’s Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, a hardened, smart-mouthed loose cannon who plays by his own rules (as was the tradition for any cop worth a damn in cinema back then). I was in awe at Schwarzenegger as a kid so it was disappointing to go from him to Glover but, honestly, Glover is probably better in many ways: his anti-authoritative, roguish nature makes him more relatable as a character and the fact that he actually gets hurt and struggles to physically prevail makes him far more human. He’s a much more believable protagonist in a lot of ways and, thanks to his more developed acting chops, is more than a suitable replacement for Arnold. Predator 2 also takes the titular hunter out of the jungle and places him in the next most logical place: the concrete jungle. Now, a lot of people hate this change; even Arnold hated that the Predator would be in Los Angles for the sequel but…surely doing the sequel in the jungle again would have just resulted in exactly the same movie as before?

Predator 2 established almost all of the Predator’s lore and society.

It’s so weird that people rag on the city setting as it makes perfect sense, is realised really well, and even set the ground for a lot of the Dark Horse comics. No other sequel around this time repeated the first in this way; Aliens (Cameron, 1986), Terminator 2, Batman Returns, Lethal Weapon 3 (Donner, 1992), just to name a few, all fundamentally alter the concept of the first movie rather than rehashing it so why does Predator 2 get such a hard time for doing it (and doing it well, I might add)? To make matters worse, Predator 2 has been criminally overlooked in subsequent sequels; there was no mention of the film’s events at all in the otherwise-excellent Predators (Antal, 2010), a film that went out of its way to reference (both through homage and direct mention) the first movie, and it only gets a passing mention in the disappointing The Predator (Black, 2018). Jake Busey, son of Gary Busey, even featured as an expert on the Predator species but there was no mention in the film of his relationship to Busey’s character, Peter Keyes, despite the two being father and son! I’ll never understand this; it’s a real insult, to be honest. Predator 2 brought so much to the table; it defined the honour system of the Predator species, introduced a whole bunch of the alien’s iconic weaponry, and laid the foundation for comic books, videogames, and sequels and spin-offs to follow for years to come. Subsequent movies have no problem reusing the weaponry or the culture of the Predator introduced in this movie but when it comes to actually directly referencing the film’s events they shy away and why? It’s a great film! Great kills, great action, great tension, some fantastic effects, and a super enjoyable chase sequence between the Predator and Harrigan across the streets and rooftops of Los Angeles! I just don’t get the hate, I really don’t.

1 Ghostbusters II (Reitman, 1989)

Man, if you thought I was mad about Predator 2, just wait until you hear this one. Ghostbusters II suffers from a lot of the plagues of Predator 2, and other films on this list: it’s unfairly criticised for not being exactly the same as the iconic first film, it’s overlooked time and time again, and direct references to it are few and far between. Just look at the majority of Ghostbusters-related media; be it toys, videogames, or otherwise, the characters almost always look exactly like the first movie rather than this one. And why? Because it doesn’t have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in it. Give me a fuckin’ break! As much as I love him, and that entire sequence, it wouldn’t make any sense of Mr. Stay Puft to appear in this movie! The Ghostbusters destroyed it when they defeated Gozer the Gozerian (Slavitza Jovan and Paddi Edwards) and this movie revolves around an entirely different villain and plot so why bring it back? I guess audiences were just used to antagonists returning ins equels at that time but to judge this movie just for not having Mr. Stay Puft is not only unfair, it’s down-right stupid.

The river of slime always freaked me out as a kid.

After all, it has the Statue of Liberty coming to life instead! Sure, it doesn’t match up to Stay Puft’s rampage, but it’s still pretty decent. Also, the film’s antagonist, Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg), is voiced by Max von Sydow, who is an absolute legend. Vigo’s threat is arguably much higher than Gozer’s in a way as his mood slime has been brewing under New York City for decades and is the direct result of all the animosity in the world (…or, just New York, which is bad enough). It’s powerful enough to cause ghosts to go on a rampage again and turn the Ghostbusters against each other, and is a far more grounded threat than Gozer’s plot to destroy the world. The stakes are raised in Ghostbusters II through the fact that the titular ‘Busters have been forced to disband and go their separate ways. Through this, we see something that is also often overlooked about this movie: character growth. Would you criticise Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) character growth in Aliens? Well, yes, probably; you are the internet after all but this plot point allows Ghostbusters II, like RoboCop 2, to retread the familiar ground of the disgraced Ghostbusters being called upon to save the city in a new way. The characters are all a bit more haggard after how badly the city burned them so seeing them rise up regardless, to the point where they’re even able to resist the mood slime, is a great arc.

There are some really horrific scenes in this film…

Add to that the film’s consistent and enjoyable special effects, the truly gruesome sequence in the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit system, and a creepy performance (as always) by Peter MacNicol and you’ve got a film that, like Turtles II, is more than a worthy follow-up to the original. And, yet, like I said, this film is often overlooked, almost with a vendetta. It doesn’t help that co-star Bill Murray despised the movie, which is always bad press for any film; his cantankerous ways also constantly held up the long-awaited third movie to the point where we had to suffer through that God-awful reboot before a follow-up would be approved. Despite Murray’s opinions, Ghostbusters II has managed to endure in some respects, though; characters and events were directly referenced in Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters (1988 to 1991) and Vigo’s portrait was prominently featured in the true third entry, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009). Yet I wouldn’t at be surprised if Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Reitman, 2021) completely ignores this movie, or at least brushes it off or lampoons it, especially considering the trailers seem more focused on calling back to the first film.

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Do you agree with my list? I’m guessing not and you think most of these movies are terrible but why do you think that? Are there any other under-rated sequels you can think of? Write a comment and give me your thoughts below.

10 FTW: Films That Need Remakes

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It seems blasphemous to say it but, sometimes, films do deserve a modern remake. The stigma that remakes are “bad” or “unnecessary” is one that I have already contested before, as some of the best films in cinema history are actually remakes. However, whether because they haven’t aged too well, or sequels ruined the original concept or expanded upon it in ways that actually affect the original negatively, or there is the potential that some films could just be done better, I put it to you that there are some movies that totally are in need of a remake and here are just some of them.

10 X-Men

I’ve already discussed, at length, my ideas for the surely-inevitable X-Men reboot that will come once Marvel Studios decides to integrate Mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it needs repeating here: the X-Men franchise is a mess! 20th Century Fox could have rebooted the franchise with X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011) but, instead, they chose to produce a sloppy mish-mash of sequel, reboot, and retcon because God forbid that they lose the revenue produced every time Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine pops his claws. Similarly, X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014) could have straightened things out using time travel but that clearly was asking too much; the focus was on powering through with a nonsensical, confusing timeline, not on any sense of continuity or logic. Therefore, X-Men really needs to have the plug pulled and a whole new retelling to help bring some kind of order and logic to one of Marvel’s biggest and most profitable franchises.

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9 Street Fighter

What’s that, you say? “Street Fighter already had a reboot; Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (Bartkowiak, 2009)!” Really? You’re happy for that atrocity to stand as your Street Fighter adaptation? Jeez, at least Street Fighter (de Souza, 1994) was fun; dumb, yes, but fun. The only things Legend of Chun-Li had going for it were higher production values, Robin Shou, and the use of chi; literally everything else was a slap in the face to any fan of the videogames or action movies in general. Now, you might also be wondering why I didn’t pick Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1995) and the answer is simple: it is a fantastic film; fun, witty, with some great fight scenes and decent effects. Street Fighter, however, is still waiting for a halfway decent adaptation; go old-school with it, make it a gritty, Kickboxer (DiSalle and Worth, 1989)/Bloodsport (Arnold, 1988)-style action movie; maybe throw in some inspiration from Warrior (O’Connor, 2011). In today’s climate, where MMA and UFC are mainstream and popular, Street Fighter has the potential to be a pretty solid action film if handled correctly.

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8 The Mask

Our first remake where my overriding advice is simple: “Go back to the source material!” Don’t get me wrong, I love The Mask (Russell, 1994); it’s a great vehicle for Jim Carrey’s talents and looks fantastic as a live-action cartoon but it’s not really a great adaptation of Mike Richardson’s original comic book. In the comics, “Big-Head” was a complete and utter psychopath and the titular Mask was anything but a force for wacky comedy. Therefore, rather than simply trying to ape Carrey’s performance, do a complete 1800 and make a super-stylised, hyper-violent action/horror movie. Honestly, given how successful Deadpool (Miller, 2016) and its sequel were, I am surprised that we haven’t heard rumblings of a new Mask movie as it’s basically the same premise but even more over the top, if you can believe that!

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7 Resident Evil

Easily the most inevitable of all of these films given recent news that a director has already been picked, I once again would advise revisiting the source material this time around (or, you know, actually bother to look at the source material at all) as the movies churned out by Paul W. S. Anderson have little to no resemblance to Capcom’s survival-horror series. Seriously, stop trying to copy Aliens (Cameron, 1986) and concentrate on making a dark (literally and figuratively), tense, atmospheric movie where two characters have to survival against some gory, fucked up zombies and gristly, practically-created (CGI just for enhancement, please!) monsters. It’s a bad sign when Doom (Bartkowiak, 2005) is a better Resident Evil movie than any of the actual Resident Evil movies so, come on, bring back the splatter-gore zombies movies of old and make a real Resident Evil adaptation for once!

(Side note: I actually love Doom. Fight me).

6 The Crow

Here’s one that’s been in and out of development hell for decades now; we have come so close to getting a new Crow movie so many times, with names like Bradley Cooper and Jason Mamoa both attached at one point, only to have it snatched away at the last second. Honestly, I am fine with this as The Crow (Proyas, 1994) remains one of the most haunting and beautiful movies (and adaptations) of all time. However, while I am in no hurry to see a remake, if we do ever get one I again urge those behind it to look a little closer at James O’Barr’s original 1989 comic book, if only to differentiate the new film from the original. Go for a moody, stylised, neo-noir piece, taking inspiration from Sin City (Miller and Rodriguez, 2005), and craft a dark, sombre film that has little to do with heroism and more to do with cold, uncompromising vengeance.

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5 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Ah, yes, the film that notoriously caused Sean Connery to retire from Hollywood altogether. Again, I am actually a bit of a fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Norrington, 2003); it’s not perfect but I liked seeing all these literary characters come together and the steampunk aesthetic of the movie. However, I would not be against Hollywood giving this one another go as it could definitely be done better. Keep the steampunk aesthetic but really emphasise the gritty, world-weary nature of these characters; you’re bringing together some of the most beloved, nuanced, and interesting fictional characters ever created so don’t belittle them with goofy antics. Go back to Alan Moore’s comic books, maybe take some inspiration from the second volume in which Moore has the League participate in the War of the Worlds (Wells, 1897) and for God’s sake do not promote the movie as “LXG”!

4 Fantastic Four

Another pick that is surely inevitable given Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox, I could go into a lot of detail about how the first family of Marvel Comics should be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and hey, maybe I still will!) but, suffice it to say, the Fantastic Four really need a movie deserving of their longevity and popularity. There were things I liked about both of Tim Story’s movies, and even the much-maligned reboot by Josh Trank, but all three films failed to capture the essence of the Fantastic Four and really do them justice. This is a chance for Marvel Studios to make a film with actual responsible adults in it; bring in an older cast for Reed Richards and Susan Storm (Bruce Campbell is a great choice for Reed but may be a bit too old; I’d suggest Pierce Brosnan, if he isn’t used for Magneto), get a popular, utterly handsome guy in his mid-twenties-to-late-thirties for Johnny Storm (Zac Efron?), and use that patented Marvel CGI wizardry (preferably in conjunction with practical effects) to create a truly lifelike Thing (voiced by, I dunno, Danny DeVito?). Whatever they do, though, it is crucial (and I mean absolutely crucial) that they get Doctor Doom right (and I mean pitch perfect); Doom should be a premier villain in the MCU and they shouldn’t shy away from his mystical origins. Get someone who isn’t afraid to wear a mask the entire time and who has the presence and gravitas to pull off such an enigmatic role (again, I would go the older route, maybe try and bring in Arnold Vosloo?)

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3 Spawn

Oh, Spawn, you’re so very nineties! A Spawn remake/reboot has also been kicking around for decades, with creator Todd McFarlane constantly banging on about how it’s being scripted, in production, coming soon, won’t feature Spawn much (which is insanity!), will be super dark, super scary, and loads of other talk but, until we see a poster, a trailer, and the film in cinemas it’s just that: talk. Spawn (Dippé, 1997) is not a great film; you could argue that it’s not even a good film. It’s rushed, sloppy, disjointed, and some of the effects have aged terribly. This is the reason we need a new movie, one that isn’t afraid to go dark, be super violent, and really do justice to the character and his original run. Take the effects work from Venom (Fleischer, 2018), go balls-deep with the violence and surreal nature of the concept, take notes from the excellent animated series, and bring in Denzel Washington to play the titular hellspawn and you could have a winning formula.

2 Hellraiser

Here’s another remake that’s been doing the rounds for a while; despite all the talk and anticipation of a remake, however, it seems we’re doomed to getting ashcan sequels and direct-to-DVD releases that keep this franchise limping along on life support (would you believe that there are ten films in this series!?) Hellraiser makes the list because the original 1987 movie and its immediate sequels have not aged well; in fact, they have aged terribly. I applaud them for using practical effects and making the most of their obviously limited budget but it’s clear to see that this movie could be made so much better with modern filmmaking techniques. Indeed, one of the few good points of the later sequels is how much better the effects are and, done right, a Hellraiser remake could really surprise at the box office. So, I say to you: Go back to Hellraiser and Clive Barker’s original novel, look at the lore and legacy of the series, and put some time, effort, and money into making a truly nightmarish, surreal, and atmospheric horror movie. And if you’re not going to cast Doug Bradley as Pinhead, at least have him dub the lines or something.

1Highlander
1 Highlander

Oooh, boy, this film. Similar to Hellraiser, Highlander (Mulcahy, 1986) makes the list because it just doesn’t hold up; the effects are bad, the fight sequences are shit, and, thanks to all of the nonsense introduced in the sequels, the original movie is a laborious chore to sit through. Yet, the concept is a good one; the franchise clearly had some staying power as well, if the television series is anything to go by. However, we really need to look at the lore and iron out some specifics: what is the Prize? How many Immortals are there and will we address where they come from? What is the exact nature of the Quickening? Seriously, these concepts are so ill-defined in the original and bogged down with retcons and illogical additions in the sequels that I have no idea what’s going on. Either get a clear picture and make a decent fantasy film based on that or ignore some of the sequels and bring back Christopher Lambert in the mentor role; either way, you absolutely must cast Thomas Jane in the title role…and maybe Dave Bautista as the Kurrgan.