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EXCL: The Long, Strange History of the Hack/Slash Movie

Based on Tim Seeley’s horror comic book

If any comic book was born ready for the big screen, it’s “Hack/Slash.”

That was a sentiment many were feeling back in 2004 when Tim Seeley’s title first appeared on the stands as a one-shot (called “Euthanized”) under Devil’s Due Publishing. Readers were introduced to the cynical, insecure, socially inept misfit Cassie Hack who, with her mammoth, deformed sidekick Vlad, scours the country saving irresponsible teens from sundry ghoulish “slashers.” Cassie represented the brains and wit, a teen forced to grow up fast after she was forced to put down her own mother who returned from the grave. Vlad was the innocent thug, abandoned and homeless. And as “Hack/Slash” made the leap from one-shots to a monthly series, fans watched the Cassie/Vlad dynamic grow and witnessed their heroine come to grips with not just her past but herself. Furthermore, for the horror nuts, the world of “slashers” expanded in the series, introducing readers to religious nut jobs, crazed imps and wannabe rock stars who strike demonic bargains.

Like everyone said, the series was ripe for adaptation and was equipped with franchise potential. Sure, it was Buffy-esque, however, Joss Whedon’ slayer had long come to an end by the time Hack/Slash‘ made its debut. And Seeley not only created his own mythology, but he opened the door to a wealth of cross-over possibilities. Cassie did take on Chucky from Child’s Play in one mini-series, but imagine if the bat-swinging gal went head-to-head with Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger?

By 2006, Hollywood had taken notice.

Producers Daniel Alter and Adrian Askarieh and Rogue Pictures’ Andrew Rona, Alex Heineman and Andrew Deutschman announced Todd Lincoln, a newcomer to the industry who had directed a handful of impressive short films, was going to bring Cassie Hack to life based on a script he penned with Martin Schenk. The last four years, however, have proven to be the biggest challenge Cassie has ever had to face as fans have yet to see a Hack/Slash feature film.

With rather obscure comic book properties reaching the screen – like Kick-Ass and Red – what’s the hold up?

No fault could be placed at writer-director Todd Lincoln’s feet. The young, enthusiastic upstart avidly hit the press circuit in ’06, stating his intentions to treat the property respectfully. Give horror fans an R-rated film with a sense of realism that “reconstructed the slasher film.” In the wake of these early interviews, heat around Lincoln and the Hack/Slash team got hotter when they took to the stage at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con to preview the project. Devil’s Due, meanwhile, stamped across the cover of every “Hack/Slash” the statement “Soon to be a major motion picture!” Hack/Slash, it appeared, was on a roll.

Almost a year passed with little news about the film until word trickled in that a new writer was being introduced to the mix: Ben Magid. A former assistant to David Kirschner (Child’s Play), Magid was fresh off of a New Line deal where he sold Pan, a reinvention of the Peter Pan story. In the months following the addition of Magid, casting rumors began. Everyone was keen to know who would play Cassie Hack. Lincoln, adept at playing coy at times in the press, wouldn’t even offer his “wish list.” One source tells us, however, that there were serious talks about approaching Megan Fox with an offer to star. But even that news, which exclusively leaked here at Shock three years ago, did little to move the project along.

Hack/Slash ultimately spent more time languishing in development hell until, almost a year after Magid was hired, Justin Marks was brought in to take a crack at the script. Marks had penned a live-action He-Man script and completed Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Lincoln, meanwhile, stayed close to the project as its champion, contributing to the various drafts that were being turned in.

By the summer of 2008, things were looking good for Rogue. The Strangers proved to be a box office hit. That success, compounded by a solid draft of Hack/Slash by both Marks and Lincoln, propelled the film into early pre-production at the end of the year. Concept art and storyboards were being created and location scouting was underway. The goal for all involved was to produce an R-rated thriller that adopted and reinvigorated slasher archetypes, removed any camp value and gave the horror world a new horror heroine.

Principal photography appeared to be just around the corner until Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media announced in January of 2009 that it purchased Rogue Pictures. The news, insiders tell us, came as a surprise to everyone involved in the film. Another twist followed, like in any third act of a slasher film, with the departure of Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman. The pair were moving on to set up shop at Joel Silver’s Dark Castle. Hack/Slash was left under new ownership and was further delayed until Relativity figured out what to do with the title.

Relativity positioned Alexandra Milchan (Mirrors) onto the project as a co-producer alongside Alter and Askarieh. And, as one insider tells Shock, the creative problems truly began. One source says Relativity wanted to turn Hack/Slash into a PG-13 film. Hit the reset button on the entire story and transform the Cassie/Vlad relationship into a love story. One Relativity exec was heard describing it as “Twilight meets Heathers.”

After dedicating three years of his life to developing the film, Todd Lincoln walked away and immediately aligned himself with Rona and Heineman at Dark Castle where he is in presently in post-production on The Apparition (set to open next year).

Relativity quickly replaced Lincoln with Swedish Fredrik Bond, a successful commercial director attached to remakes of The Host and The Hunger. News of his involvement arrived days before San Diego Comic-Con 2009, thus keeping the Hack/Slash buzz fresh and on the lips of comic book and horror fans. Months later, yet another writer was brought in. This time it’s Stephen Susco of The Grudge as well as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a film simmering in development at the house of Saw, Twisted Pictures. The drafts he turned in didn’t get anyone excited, says one insider.

That was over a year ago.

At what stage the film is in presently is anyone’s guess. Fredrik Bond is being connected to other projects. Alter and Askarieh seem to remain involved, but they’re also shepherding other projects like Kane and Lynch with Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx.

“Hack/Slash,” the comic book, has seen a few changes over the last year as well. Seeley brought the series to Image Comics. And most recently, a four-part prequel called “My First Maniac” was published. Beginning in February, “Hack/Slash” will once again become a monthly title. (“My First Maniac” is poised to become an “illustrated film” from Halo-8 Entertainment.)

In speaking with a few industry vets regarding the Hack/Slash film’s incessant delays, some theorize it might be tough going for a “fan boy” picture such as this one to get made given the lackluster performances of Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim Versus the World. Others blame Relativity’s overall constant indecision when it comes to horror projects. Whatever the case is, Hack/Slash is an example that nothing is a “sure bet” regardless of how screen-ready it might be. The fans are there, however, and they’re a patient group eager to see Cassie and Vlad paint the screen red.

As always, keep your eyes peeled to Shock for the latest developments…




Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor