Clive Barker has never achieved the raging success in cinema that he has as a celebrated author of horror and fantasy; his debut feature Hellraiser spawned a never-ending franchise that is a classic case of the law of diminishing returns in practice, while follow-ups Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions were either re-cut or mishandled by studio executives who hired the prolific Barker to deliver on screen what came naturally to him on the page only to realize they never understood quite what his fiction was all about, nor did they want to.
But that has not deterred Barker from signing with Amazon Studios, the entertainment content development division of Amazon.com, to rewrite their action-horror film project Zombies Vs. Gladiators.
“Zombies vs. Gladiators is now in the hands of someone who has written genre-defining material throughout his career,” said Roy Price, the director of Amazon Studios. “We are excited to see how Clive will add his unique narrative to capture the essence of this story and propel the project into something unique and original that could one day be enjoyed by all audiences.”
Barker offered his thoughts on the project:
“I’m excited by the opportunity to interweave two very rich narrative threads. One of them concerns itself with the reality of the decadence of Rome and its rise and fall. The other is a fantastical narrative element – the living dead. My brief to myself on this project is to give the audience not only zombies they have never seen before but also a Rome they have never seen before.”
The story of Zombies Vs. Gladiators takes place in ancient Rome when hordes of the undead are unleashed thanks to a spell by a shaman condemned to die in the Coliseum. A gladiator must battle the zombie army and save his beloved Rome from being consumed in a cannibalistic frenzy.
Regarding his collaboration with Amazon, Clive Barker had this to say:
“Amazon Studios offered up the dream ticket with this project. In twenty five years of working in this town, I’ve rarely had people listen to what I had to say as closely and as carefully as they did and then simply give me the freedom to go do it. Amazon Studios is an innovative creative concept. I am looking forward to providing my own perspective to make Zombies Vs. Gladiators a highly commercial and entertaining movie.”
Amazon’s press release did not mention the project’s original writers, or whether this was an original creation (and I use the term loosely) or something that was developed in-house. No director is attached to the movie for the moment.
Maybe Barker will enjoy the experience of writing the script so much he’ll want to direct the movie, and Amazon will happily allow him to do so. The ratings successes of The Walking Dead on AMC and Spartacus on Starz would make a flick called Zombies Vs. Gladiators a dandy proposition for moviegoers with very low expectations. Whatever happens, Barker’s involvement with a successful movie could possibly spur some movement on the release of a director’s cut of Nightbreed.