This past June it was revealed that horror icon and creator Clive Barker had sued Park Avenue Entertainment for a declaratory judgement so he could terminate his 1986 transfer and reclaim the rights to his book, The Hellbound Heart which is the source material for what became the iconic horror masterpiece; Hellraiser. This past Monday, Barker’s attorney filed papers in California federal court confirming that both parties had reached a settlement.
In 1987 New World Pictures released the film version of The Hellbound Heart under the new title Hellraiser. It was Barkers feature debut, the first Barker adaptation, an ambitious yet still VERY low-budget horror project and helmed by an inexperienced director. AKA everything under the sun that spelled disaster. But that is far from what happened. Barker created a visual masterpiece that 33 years later remains as shocking, visually striking, gruesome, and as sadomasochistic as it did the day it was released.
Under the Copyright Act of 1976 there is a termination provision that states that authors may reclaim rights from publishers after waiting a prescribed period of time an average of 35 years on for newer works, then sending a notice within a five-year window of said period. What made this specific case prime for a typical long drawn out litigation battle was that the suit was met with a countersuit from Larry Kuppin. Kuppin is a producer who purchased New World Pictures from Roger Corman and according to his lawsuit, Barker was ineligible to terminate the transfer of rights because the terms of the original film contract were to be interpreted under U.K. contract law. All of this made the case prime for what many believed to be a long drawn out battle between both sides yet here we are 6 months later and both parties have come to a deal when the judge was presented with a proposed consent judgement that states that come December 19, 2021, the U.S. rights will revert back to Barker. This case could potentially become the basis for future determinations when the original rights assessment was conducted in a foreign jurisdiction.
Additionally, there has been no word this time if either the previously announced Spyglass Media take on the franchise or the HBO ordered Hellraiser series being directed by David Gordon Green (Halloween 2018, Halloween Kills) will be affected by this development.
Kevin Thomas is an illustrator & graphic artist who uses the pseudonym Death Kat Design. He founded Studiohouse Designs & has worked with Fangoria Magazine, AMC Television, the Halloween franchise, Vinegar Syndrome & more!
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