Taken from Dread #6 © 1992


Dread: Let's start out with a movie that you publicly disown, Rawhead Rex. Could you give us a little background to the movie?
Clive: Okay, background to the movie coming up. There was a company in England that, this is before the Books of Blood were even published, came to me and said, "we know you write these horror stories, we hear they're really good." I had an idea for a movie which was going to be mobsters meet monsters, that was the whole idea, what would happen if you got a gang of monsters who were mutants of various kinds meeting mobsters. I thought that was a kind of neat idea.

Then I wanted to make a kind of hard-nosed, kind of stylized, noirish piece of work. They called it Underworld and it got turned into a movie which is now known in America as Transmutations. It was directed by a guy who had no flair whatsoever for either monster-making or gangster stuff. It was sold by its producers to the money people as a kind of rock video, I think. And the result was this terrible movie called Transmutations. But I had already sold to them the rights to five other stories. The first one they wanted to make was Rawhead Rex. I saw Transmutations and thought, "oh my god," and I said to them, "look, this is not a good movie," and they said, "well, we know we didn't get it right but we'll get it more right next time. Write a screenplay of Rawhead Rex for us." So, I was very new to this whole thing and I thought, we'll give it a go. It can't be as bad as Transmutations." And by the way, I don't think Rawhead Rex is as bad as Transmutations. I wrote the screenplay. I'm sure it wasn't a brilliant screenplay, it was my second screenplay, but I think it was probably marginally better than the movie. I followed the process of the book. I wrote a screenplay which was set in England, in the height of summer, so you could really get the full drama out of this strange, dark, child-eating monster lurking in the pleasant countryside of Kent in mid-summer. They called me up and said, "well, we're going to make the movie, but we're going to make it in Ireland, and we're going to make it in February." So immediately, a whole counterpoint of this blazing English summer and this ravaging monster just went out the window. They also didn't spend enough money on the special effects, so you end up with this rubber mask. I didn't actually think the design for the monster itself was bad at all, and I love the poster, but I wasn't comfortable with the picture. The picture tried, but didn't get there.
Dread: In your screenplay, did Rawhead die at the end?
Clive: Yes. And I think, generally speaking, the movie followed the beats of the screenplay. It's just that monster movies, by and large, are made by directorial 'oomph' rather that what's in the screenplay. Jaws could have been a shit movie. It's Spielberg's genius that turns it into a scary movie, not actually the screenplay. What makes that movie work is John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Not Benchley. And I'm sure the screenplay for King Kong must have looked pretty straightforward - giant ape appears, giant ape picks up girl - it's not actually what's on the page in a monster movie. The same with Alien. It's not what's on the page, it's how you interpret it. And so, I'd like to think the screenplay for Rawhead Rex had the possibility of having major thrills in it. I don't think it was quite pulled off. The admirers of the movie, and actually there are quite a lot of them, like it as a sort of sixties movie made in the early eighties kind of deal. I don't think the movie is bad, it had a lot more potential. I just don't like it very much. It didn't take any risks at all. It was a very, very straight down the rope movie. Rawhead Rex as an idea, if you're going to do it, you go for broke. You kill little children in it. That's what you put on screen because that's what's in the book. The whole thing should have been visceral. But the interesting thing for me was that when I actually started to think about it, I thought, "okay, at least I know why this doesn't work." So when we came to do Hellraiser I was determined to compensate for that. And maybe the visceral qualities of Hellraiser are exacerbated...
Dread: ...because of the nonexistence of it in Rawhead Rex?
Clive: Exactly!
Dread: What happened to the option they had on the other four stories from Books of Blood?
Clive: They let them lapse unknowingly and I called them up and said, "you didn't renew." And they said, "oh yes, we did. We were a week late." And I said, "no, you're not having these things." And they tried to develop another couple of projects and I said I would take them to court and got lawyers onto them and they stopped. So I breathed a sigh of relief because a whole bunch of neat ideas were saved.
Dread: Getting back to Rawhead Rex, what did you think about John Bolton's rendering in Pandemonium?
Clive: I loved it! It was wild. It was completely wild. I think that it's great. One of the weird things is that Rawhead Rex seems to have caught people's attention. When we were doing the Nightbreed stuff for Epic Comics, I said to Dan Chichester, "wouldn't it be great to bring in a monster from the Books of Blood. Let's bring in Rawhead Rex." I guess Eclipse already had the rights to the story so we did a deal with Eclipse. It's like the old days in the studios where you had to hire out actors from other studios. We got special permission from Eclipse to have Rawhead Rex in the Nightbreed stories. Dan did great stuff. I like that arc of stories, Rawhead Rex' balls being blown off for making that girl pregnant, all that stuff. It's kind of cool Dan always goes the distance with the stuff. And now Les Edwards, who did Son of Celluloid, is doing Rawhead Rex for Eclipse.
Dread: There was talk of a Son of Rawhead Rex. Would that be a film? A story?
Clive: Oh, I'd love to do that. I have a horrible feeling that the rights to Rawhead Rex film sequels probably still belong to the people who made the original movie.
Dread: Doesn't that right ever run out?
Clive: I don't think so. I think they have it in perpetuity, which is regrettable. Besides which, I think it would be very difficult to sell, to pitch, the sequel to a pretty bad movie. I would love to make another big monster movie, and I think we have it with Primal. Dan Chichester and Erik Saltzgaber have already started the screenplay. It's a killer story, a real killer story. I'm excited by that. And it's a monster movie. Absolutely a monster movie.