0 Comments | Add
Rate & Share:
Clive Barker Raises Hell at the American Cinemateque Film Festival
After a screening of HELLRAISER, the author joins actress Ashley Laurence for an on-stage discussion at the Egyptian Theatre..
By Denise Dumars
August 28, 2000
One of the more enjoyable evenings at the American Cinematheque's 1st Annual Festival of Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction featured a screening of the ground-breaking horror film Hellraiser
and a subsequent discussion with writer-director Clive Barker and actress Ashley Laurence, who plays Kirsty in the film. (She reprised this role in Hellraiser II and III
and has since acted in other horror films such as The Lurking Fear and Warlock III
is Barker's first and best film as a director, and this was the first time in 13 years that I'd seen it in a theater. I was struck all over again by the graphic horror: the first time Julia kills a man to help her lover Frank come back from the dead is starkly brutal. I was also surprised that the Cenobites were only in a few scenes; their images have become so ubiquitous that memory had cast them in larger parts. And while some of the special effects look a little cheesy by today's standardsspecifically the bad latex 'skin' pierced by hooksthe performances stand as strong as ever, and the film still has the power to thrill, shock, and terrify. The audience was very appreciative; laughter and gasps came in the right places, and I wondered if a film like HELLRAISER could even be released in the year 2000.
The discussion afterward was moderated by Gwen Deglise of the American Cinematheque, a film appreciation society headquartered at the restored Graumann's Egyptian theater on Hollywood Boulevard in downtown Hollywood. The murals of Egyptian gods and exotic Nilotic imagery of the theater's decoration make it the perfect location for a festival of imaginative film.
Clive Barker looked tan and buff in a sleeveless black t-shirt, black slacks and red high-tops, and Ashley Laurence was gorgeous, braving the heat in a simple off-white blouse and black leather slacks. After the discussion Barker and Laurence cheerfully shook hands and signed autographs in front of the theater for a long line of appreciative fansbefore the film, Barker had said, 'If you want any posters or pieces of flesh signed we'll go outside afterwards and do it in the courtyard outside.'
Here is a transcript of the question-and-answer discussion following the screening of HELLRAISER. Some of the questions are a little awkward, owing to the strong French accent of the moderator; some questions are from the audience as well.
QUESTION: YOU WERE A WRITER. HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO DIRECT?Barker:
I decided to direct as a means of self-protection! Before I directed this movie, two movies were made, both of which were made from scripts that I wrote, which are unrecognizably bad. Both are available on video, and if you choose to see them it would be an act of masochism that Frank would appreciate. One is called Transmutations
and one is called Rawhead Rex. Rawhead Rex
has a rather good story line about this creature like a huge phallus with a mouth, which runs rampant and eats babies, as dicks do. [Much laughter from the audience]. This, the movie we just saw, cost $900,000. Rawhead Rex
cost less, and it really shows. You know, zip-up-the-back kind of monsters. The guy who played the monster was a Swedish ski instructorhad no grasp of English whatsoever, was sealed into this mask, didn't understand our instructions and runs around. I mean, this is a really disturbing thing. So I said what I'd like to do if I'm going to be involved with movies is I'd like to direct them. I'd directed for theater, and a lot of the people in the movie were people I'd worked with in the theater. Doug Bradley, who plays Pinhead, played the Devil for me in a play called The History of the Devil
. A lot of my old pals helped out, and it [making Hellraiser
] was a wonderful experience.
Q. [TO ASHLEY LAURENCE] HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE PROJECT?Laurence:
There was an actors' workshop and there was someone there [working as a production assistant] for New World and they were on their way back to London and I got a phone call saying 'Go there now; read this now.' I met Clive, and he said, 'OK, your uncle's wearing your father's skin, and he wants to kill you and have sex with you, probably in that order.' [Laughter from the audience.]Barker:
We were in the offices of New World, and New World is very button-down, very conservative. I said to Ashley, 'If we're going to do this, you have to be a screamer. And it has to be totally unenhanced.' And she screamed the fucking place down! Everything shook. I thought, this is the girl for us. It was an accident happening; so many of the good things in life come along because fate wants them to, and I think Ashley was perfect for this; I think Doug was perfect for this, and he came to embody the spirit of this monster. It just happened; I think it's kismet.
Q. HOW DOES JULIA [CLARE HIGGINS] COME BACK IN THE SECOND MOVIE?Barker:
She comes back from hell. So she kind of gets resurrected through the mattress in which she is found lying at the end of the first one. I loved Clare in this picture. The great thing I think about the actors in the picture is how strong they are. The thing that Clare does is she has a great time being evil! I mean, she just loves it. And I think one of the cool things about horror movies is that all of us are involved in the process. So each of us has a dark side, and has fun with it. I mean, I remembered while we were watching it that I had a handful of maggots which was dropped on Ashley's breast, and it was my hand in the movie that dropped them there.Laurence:
That wasn't in the script! That day there were six or seven investors there to see where the money was going, and there was this sheepish little man who was the maggot wrangler, and he walked up to me and said, 'I need to talk to you about something,' and Clive said, 'Watch me,' and put his hand into this huge box of maggots which really make the sound like in the movielike sandpaperand you have to put sawdust in with them because they stick. Clive's big sell to me was that they wouldn't hurt me because I was alive! [Laughter.]Barker:
This was shot in England. We had a maggot wrangler, and a roach wrangler. And the cockroaches in England are really small and uninteresting. Our American cockroaches are much more interesting cockroaches! The deal was this: The British would not let us bring in American cockroaches of both sexes, because what if they mated and then we had an infestation of the Houses of Parliament. So the wrangler had to sex the roaches. They were all male. So they could go out to leather bars together but they couldn't reproduce. [Laughter.] And we had a fridge. They move very fast, so the only way to slow them down was to chill them. We chilled the maggots and the roaches. It was fun.Laurence:
And no rats were hurt.Barker:
No rats were hurt. And no roaches were hurt, either. They opened their bars. [Laughs.]
Q. I WAS AT THE FANGORIA CONVENTION AND SAW SOMETHING ABOUT THE NEW HELLRAISER MOVIE. WHY DIDN'T YOU DIRECT THAT ONE?Barker:
The new Hellraiser
movie is not something I would like to direct. I really don't like to say this about another's work but I really hate this movie and it seems to have violated a lot of the things that I like about Hellraiser
. I kept away from Hellraiser IV
; I kept away from Hellraiser V
, because in both cases I tried to be involved in the process, and in both cases they said, 'No, we can do this better than you; go away.' That wasn't from the director, by the way, who is really nice, but it was from some of the suits at Dimension who had absolutely no intention of getting Clive Barker involved in a Hellraiser
movie and said, 'Why would we want Clive Barker involved in a Hellraiser
movie?' [Laughter.] It's painful, because I loved making this movie; I loved making the second movie; I actually had a good time at the third one, and then it started to fall apart. The reason it falls apart is because of certain people who are not creative, who are pencil pushers, the people who went to business school, who went to law school, who have absolutely nothing to do with the creative process who think they know better than creators. And this town is full of them! [Spontaneous applause.] It's not a matter of a sequel or sequels, but everybody becomes an expert. Everybody's seen horror movies, and says, 'Oh, we know how that's done,' and actually, making horror movies, which I still think is a relatively disregarded craft, is actually kind of difficult. Making good horror movies is difficult. If it weren't difficult, Bless the Child
d be a good movie. [Laughter.]
Q. DO EITHER OF YOU HAVE SPIRITUAL BELIEFS?Barker:
Ashley first, perhaps?
Laurence: Yes, of course I have spiritual beliefs. And like Clive said, I do believe that things happen unintentionally, that you can go about your life planning other things, and unexpected things show up and it makes sense somehow, when you stand back and look at it later.Barker:
I have room in my worldview for, well, the Hindus have 33 million gods. I always thought we were a little mean-spirited just having the one. I think we are surrounded by spirit and inhabited by spirit. I think the issue is not trying to find a place that's spiritual, but to find a place that isn't. I think everythinglike William Blake, my hero, believeseverything is holy. Horror moviesscience fiction movies do the same thingallow you to play with ideas of good and evil. I don't make any great metaphysical claims for my pictures, but it is an interesting place to play with a certain ambiguity. We have an interest in evil, a fascination with evil, and one of the great lessons for me was the way the fans responded to this movie was that it was the guy with the pins in his head that everyone wanted to see! And he had caused bloodshed; and they just wanted to see him again. I went to Japan and they had painted an entire skyscraper with his image. And that was the first time I realized that there was something of a cult here. Now, in the twelve, thirteen, fourteen years since we made that movie, people have pierced themselvesthere are people probably here who have piercings in places that some of us don't have places! And that kind of thing has become a lot more commonplace. Back then it was a lot more shocking. And the guy with the pins in his head was a lot more shocking back in 1987.
Q. IF YOU WERE TO DO THIS MOVIE NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?Barker:
Oh, everything. A lot of the special effects. Like the creature that attacks Ashley at the end. We had so little money! And we were just like flinging this thing at her.Laurence:
And the monster that looks like a Gap ad.Barker:
Oh, yes, terrible. So the special effects. I think there are some things that I'm extremely proud of. And the rest of it, you know, I'm ashamed of! The performances are really solid. Watching it tonight, I'm thinking, 'You know, this is a really well-acted movie.' And that I'm proud of. I think it's well-lit. Which is important for a $900,000 movie; it doesn't look like a TV movie. I think the score is superb. In placesin places, onlythe script is fine. In other places, it plays along with hackneyed clichés. But you know, you make your mistakes. You can only learn by doing it, I think. I'm just pleased that everybody was engaged in the movie when they saw it this time, and the laughs were solid laughsyou know, Christ coming out of the closet is a good solid laughand there's a sense of camp and kitschiness in the sheer excess of Frank, covered with blood, in the suit and with the cigarette, looking like Bette Davis. [Laughter.] That's great. And those were always intended to be funny, because he's a skinned man, for God's sake!Barker:
It's a snappy suit, though.
Barker: [Amidst laughter.] Very snappy. I like the mixture. I'm rather proud of the mixture of comedy and horror. The rest of itas I want to do with my writingis fix and fix and fix it.
Q. NOW IT'S 14 YEARS LATER. DID YOU EVER IMAGINE YOU'D BE HERE AT THE EGYPTIAN IN HOLLYWOOD?Barker:
What's great is that the movie has gotten a following. It makes sense as a narrative, and even though the effects are not as great as one would like the narrative carries you through and you're engaged in the movie. But then you see a film like Hollow Man
that has amazing effects and think that in five years they'll say, 'Oh we can do better.' What dates the movie for me is hairstyles. Those do date the movie, right? And clothing. Those things you can do nothing about. I was particularly aware of Clare's hairstyle.Laurence:
She looks like a Patrick Nagel.Barker:
In grey and mauve.Laurence:
There's a scene where her hair is sticking up in front, and she looks like Simon LeBon. [Laughter.] I think you have to have a sense of humor because you can do nothing about that. You make a movie now, and in 15 years' time it looks old. Looking back, I think we pulled some stuff off, and there's some stuff which I regret. There's stuff I regret in everything I doin writing, in moviemaking, in painting. The great thing about theater is that it's gone! So you can lie about it: 'It was perfect!' The books and the films are there for people to judge.