Clive Barker May Be Getting Back The Rights To Hellraiser

Pinhead in Hellraiser

It’s been a busy year for the Hellraiser franchise, with a reboot movie and a HBO series both in the works. However, the future of the property could be in for big changes, as creator Clive Barker is looking to recapture the rights to his material. Similar to the ongoing Friday the 13th rights dispute, whereby an author can choose to reverse a transfer of copyright, Barker is attempting to terminate his 1986 transfer and reclaim what has been a lucrative franchise.

Back in 1986, Barker likely wouldn’t have guessed that signing away the rights to his novella “The Hellbound Heart” would have such significant consequences. Although he directed the original Hellraiser, and was involved as producer in later movies, for the most part the franchise was exploited by Dimension Films in the 1990s and 2000s, with increasingly poor results. More recently, Spyglass Media have obtained the rights to make the reboot, while a different set of rights are held for the HBO television series.

The news that Barker has filed to regain his rights to “The Hellbound Heart” was shared on Twitter by Larry Zerner, who has also provided regular commentary on the Friday the 13th rights issue:

Zerner also explains that Barker would not be able to regain his rights until December 19th, 2021, meaning that any production currently in the works could be released before this deadline. In addition, Barker could make a deal with the existing producers or another party before regaining his ownership of the material. Given that different rights appear to be carried for the movie and television projects, things could still be complicated for Barker. Zerner also points out what rights Barker would actually get back, commenting as so:

“Barker would get back his rights in the underlying story he wrote and also the rights in first script. He would not get any rights in things that were in any of the sequels that were added.”

What this might mean is that Barker will end up having greater creative and financial control over the Hellraiser franchise, as well as presumably limiting the risk of more sub-standard sequels being made. A similar situation is currently in place with the A Nightmare on Elm Street rights, whereby any future film pitches have to go through the Craven estate.

In any case, we’d be surprised if the Hellraiser reboot won’t make it to release before the end of next year, even with COVID-19 slowing down development. Furthermore, it’s difficult to see HBO making a deal for the series without ensuring that they’re legally in the clear. On a more positive note, though, we could finally see Barker produce another, more personal interpretation of the Cenobites, something that arguably hasn’t been achieved since the original 1987 film.