Remakes Are Hell

Horror remakes are always interesting and controversial: interesting, because it’s always good to see the old nightmares get new blood; controversial because the movies often trample over the established cannon for the sake of ‘modernizing’ and ‘revamping.’

Often when changes are made to the appearance of the central antagonist, they’re small and more subtle.  Michael Myers’ pristine white mask was dirtied and slashed in the 2007 remake, but still had the William Shatner cast to it. The 2003 ‘Texas Chainsaw’ movie tweaked Leatherface but it wasn’t far from the iconic human flesh grimace. It’ll be interesting to see how the Freddy Krueger appearance turns out in the coming remake. (Hit Flix has a good write-up about Jackie Earl Haley taking on the character, which raises my own optimism for the project)

Recently, I came across the following video concerning the possible Hellraiser remake.

In early 2008, when HELLRAISER Make-up Effects Designer Gary J. Tunnicliffe heard the rumors of a HELLRAISER Remake and a radically different Pinhead, he was faced with a choice…Stand by and let the iconic image of Pinhead be redesigned by others, or have a crack at it himself…

Project: Angel Redesigning an Icon, is the end result of this decission.

(This concept was created during the time when Alex Bustillo was set to direct and was partly based on concepts relating to his version of the film. This has nothing to do with the current director’s version.)

As seen in the video, it’s an interest redesign of the classic character. Done by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who has worked on six of the Hellraiser movies, it suited more than others to apply a redesign to the character.

I asked for feedback from Ben Chester, a special effects artist with numerous credentials under his belt:

I must admit I have never seen the original, but naturally am very familiar with the character. I can’t imagine a greater pressure than the task of re-designing an icon, and don’t envy Gary. 

First impressions is this is a weak attempt. The applications feel very thick and distractingly unnatural. They broaden, almost swell the features to a level that clearly says….”make-up”. And the sloppy slashing effect really, to me, detracts from the menacing power of the character.

I always felt that the symmetry of his scarring suggested a long, slow, calculated torture that was simply unbearable. And his cold, calm demeanor in the face of such pain was what made him so intimidating. This new approach feels like it was a quick, sloppy attack which lessens the meaning of what I believe the wounds are meant to symbolize. 

The pins are also important. While not having a needle phobia myself, I know many do. And I think think rather than the open festering wounds, what would psychologically impose a sense of pain would be thinner needles, and a great many more of them. 

If it were me, I would have suggested more healed, but intricate scarring. Perhaps a fine and ornate design of symboling, like a darker version of the classic henna tattoos. And I would have introduced fine pins at every visible cross-section. Perhaps even including strategic sections in which the skin was stretched and pinned in place at various points. 

I’d keep brainstorming if I were them. They’re dealing with a fanbase that is expecting nothing but dissappointment. The effort has to exceed expectation, or simply not bother.

It’s very interesting to look at the effects side of the movie. I like the mention of a “darker version of the classic henna tattoos” suggested by Ben, since the original movie had the Frank Cotton character purchasing the Puzzle Box in Morocco. It would be a nice call-back to the original movie and would add a clever appeal to the character. As expressed in the second video below, Tuncliffe was working according to the Alex Bustillo script. The project has since underwent a change in direction and remains in development.

Also seen in the video below, Gary Tuncliffe explains his reason behind the redesign. Having worked so close with the movies and the character of Pinhead, he felt that the choice was either to embrace the remake or to let a character important to him be taken in the hands of someone else. It’s a hard choice, since he shares the same ideas expressed above by Ben Chester.

While as fans, we often end up as spectators to redesigns and remakes that often disappoint our expectations, these remakes must be harder on those who have worked on the original material. The videos here and comments show the conflicting positions that effect designers find themselves.

A big thank you to Ben Chester for his comments and to both him and Gary Tuncliffe for their work throughout the years.

Note: You don’t have to go to Morocco to get your own Puzzle Box. Weird Jon showed you how to make your own right here.

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