One of the most enduring franchises in horror history could be in for something of a major shake-up. Clive Barker has filed a lawsuit and aims to get the rights back to Hellraiser, which has major implications not only for the future of Pinhead and the cenobites, but for a couple of high-profile projects that are in the works as we speak as well.
Attorney Larry Zerner, taking to Twitter, made the reveal. Zerner, a former actor, has become known in horror circles for keeping fans updated on the status of the ongoing Friday the 13th legal battle. Now, Zerner has revealed that Clive Barker has filed a similar lawsuit and is looking to regain control of the series, which is based on his book The Hellbound Heart. In sharing a link to the lawsuit, Zerner had this to say.
“For those of you who like the Friday the 13th lawsuit, now Clive Barker has sued for a declaratory judgment that he can terminate his 1986 transfer and get back his rights to the ‘Hellraiser’ franchise.”
As we reported last year, this is something that may become more common in the future, which has to do with The Copyright Act of 1976. The act originally provided musicians and songwriters the ability to regain the rights to music that was licensed after 35 years. The same rights were extended to authors starting in 2003. As it relates to the movie business, people who wrote screenplays for movies, any written work that inspired a movie, can reclaim the rights to those works after 35 years. Such is the case with Clive Barker and Hellraiser. In a follow-up tweet, Larry Zerner provided the following clarification.
“Interesting note: Barker’s termination (if effective) would not take place until December 19, 2021. If the producers can get a new movie out before then, they would be legally in the clear. Just nothing new after that date.”
That bit is extremely important. We recently learned that there are not one but two major Hellraiser projects in the works. First, Spyglass Media is currently working on a bigscreen reboot with director David Bruckner (The Ritual) attached. We also recently learned that David Gordon Green (Halloween) is working on a Hellraiser TV show for HBO. If we are to assume that Clive Barker’s lawsuit is successful, that would mean these projects would need to be finished and released before December 19, 2021. And, beyond that, no further projects could be produced without Barker’s approval.
The tricky legal navigation is what has prevented a new Friday the 13th movie from happening. It is also important to note that this only applies to U.S. copyright law, which further complicates matters. We’ll be sure to keep you posted as any further details are made available. You can check out the relevant posts from Larry Zerner’s Twitter.