INT: Rick Bota

The Arrow interviews Rick Bota

Shelved for 3 years, HELLRAISER DEADER is finally upon us, raising hell on DVD shelves around the world. The lad behind the flick RICK BOTA is no stranger to the franchise having also directed HELLRAISER 6 (Hellseeker) and the upcoming HELLRAISER 8 (Hellworld). I recently got a jab at exploring the man's melon and here's what he had to say about DEADER and beyond!

Hellraiser 1 to 5…which one is your favorite?

Wow, your not going to include 6,7 or 8? O.K., I can live with that. I would definitely have to go with 1 (by the way, even with 6,7, & 8 included!). Any movie that works well for an audience is going to get a sequel made, and not many sequels can match up to the original. I feel the Hellraiser sequels have all fallen short of the original as well. The first film was derived from Clive Barker’s brilliant short novel The Hellbound Heart, and anyone who has read that work, and enjoyed it as I did, would have to agree that Hellraiser is the best of the films.

It was also a completely different experience for the viewer than any of its successors. It was the first time we met those wonderfully gruesome, now iconic, cenobites. The novelty of seeing Pinhead and the cenobites has since exhausted, and unfortunately, that has put a handicap on their usefulness as a ghastly image to supporting the narrative. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still scary as hell, but the audience is expecting them, and expecting the scare just doesn’t have the same effect as being surprised by it the first time.

In Hellraiser, seeing Pinhead in the hospital for the first time was so shocking that it made for a memorable, and classic horror sequence. Today, the audience demands to see more and more of him, because of that experience. But, it’s like asking to see a magic trick twice. Your experience of the trick, and your motivation for seeing it is vastly different the second time. You really desire the same reaction you had when you were fooled the first time around, but the magician has lost the advantage of surprise.

As the focus of the scares, as Pinhead essentially is, it’s difficult to build tension when everyone knows what’s hiding in the darkness. The latter of the sequels, from Bloodline to the present, tried to build some of the scares elsewhere. The viewer then feels cheated because they didn’t get to see enough of Pinhead. Hellraiser has been so successful as a cult favorite; it’s been a tough act to follow!

Hellraiser Deader is your second Hellraiser sequel out of 3 (with Hellworld coming up). What is it about the franchise that keeps you coming back to it?

I was offered Hellraiser: Hellseeker and had a wonderful experience from all aspects of the production. I was developing a few other projects that were not on the fast track to production when (Executive Producer) Nick Phillips called from Dimension and asked me to do another one. We piggybacked the two together (7 & 8) so it really felt like one film.

Clive Barker was very helpful and considerate in offering idea’s during filming and post production (although Clive officially had nothing to do with the films) and it was in part to his kindness and enthusiasm that I came back for another run at it.

From a production standpoint, I think it’s also a little like episodic television. There are often one or two directors that repeat regularly because they become familiar with the characters and storyline, and with the quick pace of the schedule. These films are direct to video for a reason, there is not a lot of money spent on the production (compared to most theatrical releases) and therefore these have to be done quickly and efficiently. That’ s a big part of getting the job.

At this point are you trying to keep to Clive Barker’s original flavor to any degree with your sequels or are you going your own way?

Clive’s film was made 18 years ago, so the techniques and styles I use are clearly different. But in terms of scare strategy, yes, I watched Hellraiser many times to note his pacing of both the horror, and the storytelling. If you look at Hellseeker, you’ll find several ”winks” to the original (these should be obvious to the true fan). Doug Bradley was also a much-appreciated collaborator in keeping Clive’s mythology on course to the original. Obviously, we have branched off in many directions, but that’s what happens when you get past the third installment of any storyline. Eventually, you’re going to jump the shark. When we did is up for debate.

How prominent is Pinhead’s presence in your upcoming two Hellraiser sequels? Has he changed or evolved since Hellseeker?

That question seems to be at the center of every review and inquiry regarding the sequels. I answer that by saying that Pinhead’s screen time in the original is, in fact, minimal by comparison. In fact, most of the horror films that work for me are the ones in which the “unknown” is kept..... UNKNOWN! As I said, the audience now knows (and loves) Pinhead, and I realize people rent his movies to see him, but from a genre stand point, and as the filmmaker, my intention is to balance his on-screen presence with the characters ability to sustain tension and anxiety for the viewer. That translates into finding new ways to scare without necessarily seeing Pinhead in every horror scene. Too much on screen time for Pinhead renders a “guy in a rubber suit” and not necessarily more scares.

What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while shooting Deader and how did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle is going to be obvious to the Hellraiser fan base. The script “Deader” was a script Dimension had previously purchased, and wanted to make, but could never develop it into something they wanted to finance. It must have started gathering dust on the shelf, so they gave it to Tim Day (who co-wrote Hellseeker) with the directive “turn this into a Hellraiser film”. The central character Winter, who was the antagonist in Deader, suddenly became a secondary character to Pinhead.

This weakened the plot of the Deader script; then the Deader mythology had to be twisted to fit into the Hellraiser mythology, which weakened the Hellraiser script. I feel both storylines suffered to some degree, but I also think we had a tight shooting script to work from. Arguably it was a stretch to link the lineage of Pinhead and Winter to help merge the Deader mythology with the franchise, but it was the mandate set before us. Don’t expect any Winter references in any future sequels.

What’s your favorite gore howler out of Hellraiser Deader?

I knew from the beginning that the bathroom sequence had potential to be a real scream. It works very well, mostly due to an all out performance by Kari Wurher. Runner up would have to be the Marla bathroom sequence. Everyone who watches it knows she’s going to jump out at Amy, but I delayed that moment for so long you let your guard down, and that’s when we strike. It would have been a good popcorn spill had this been released theatrically.

Lots of fans (me included) were disappointed by the Kristy cameo in Part 6. Do you have any intentions of bringing the lass back for a more prominent go at it with Pinhead?

Ashley Lawrence was offered the part very early in the pre-production of Hellseeker. We had all intentions of writing the story around her character more than we did. I was told she wasn’t available, and we changed course. Weeks before shooting Doug Bradley called her directly to say hello, and she told him she never heard anything about it. I think her agents were negligent with the information.

Sadly, by that time we couldn’t really change the course of the story, but we did rewrtte the Kristy part for Ashley with as much of a tie-in to the original as we could. But again, we had a script from Dimension that we had to rewrite and were obliged to a central storyline. I would have most certainly included her more if the script were to be written from page one.

At this point is there a Pinhead Vs. “somebody” being planned or talked about?

There was for a few minutes after Freddy VS. Jason opened so big a few summers ago. I’ve read internet rumors that Clive Barker is considering another storyline centering around Pinheads termination. For me, I’m done with the franchise. But, never say never...

It is said that you shot some sequences for Robert Harmon’s THEY. Care to share with us which ones?

Robert wasn’t available for the re-shoots of They. We re-shoot a small part of the ending that, understandably, Robert wasn’t too happy about. After your question, I looked it up on IMDB and found my name along with his for directing “They” which is a joke. I shot a couple days for the production, but the film is entirely, and completely his. I will be correcting that error on the website as soon as I finish this interview...

What’s next on your plate as a director? Any new projects up in the air?

As a horror film director, it’s a full time job looking up in the air for new projects. In the meantime, I write, I read,...and I watch every horror film I can get my hands on.

Buy Hellraiser Deader here

I'd like to thank Rick for dropping by the site and being so candid about his DEADER experience. Looking forward to Hellworld! BRING IT!

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