The new R-rated Hellboy trailer looks like a low budget horror film – and perhaps that's what this franchise needs to be right now

(Image credit: Dark Horse Entertainment / Dark Horse Comics)

You've likely already seen the new Hellboy trailer by now – a one-minute and ten-second teaser that hints at the very different tone this latest installment is taking. For those who associate the Hellboy franchise with the visual invention, evocative fantasy, and touches of comedy that Guillermo del Toro brought to the first two films, this apparent shift to straight up R-rated horror may come as a bit of a shock.

It's not the first time the series has taken a darker approach, of course. 2019's David Harbour-starring reboot dialed up the gore, but also went big on the apocalyptic action. Even with a fairly modest production budget of $50 million, it flopped spectacularly – and no wonder, it was entirely forgettable. 

Five years and a different director and lead actor later, Hellboy: The Crooked Man looks like a very different sort of film – a much cheaper sort of film. But perhaps that will be its saving grace...

Cover art from Hellboy: The Crooked Man

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

Now, let's be clear, you can't judge the quality of a film based on its trailer. No, not even Kraven the Hunter. Still, as a teaser for the main event, The Crooked Man trailer leaves us wanting, serving up clunky dialogue ("dark things call to dark things"), few memorable images, and very little sense of how Jack Kesy is going to play Hellboy. As many have pointed out online, leaving Kesy with his human eyes (rather than making them yellow, as in the comic and the previous films) has the unfortunate side-effect of making the actor look more like a cosplayer than the Right Hand of Doom himself. And yet, for all of these apparent negatives, it appears that this may well prove to be the most comics-accurate Hellboy movie to date.

The Crooked Man is based on a three-part story of the same title from 2008, written by Hellboy-creator Mike Mignola and drawn by the great horror artist Richard Corben. In it, Big Red travels to the Appalachian mountains and finds a community infested with murderous witches and haunted by the spirit of the titular Crooked Man. It's a gorgeous tale, one steeped in myth and folklore, and beautifully drawn. It's also a classic example of a Hellboy comic where the title character is not the central focus. He plays an integral part, of course, and often acts as an amusing counterpoint to the horror – at one point glumly muttering "I hate that kind of crap" when confronted with talk of cannibalism – but it's the human characters who drive the narrative.

Richard Corben's art from Hellboy: The Crooked Man

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

That appears to be the direction that director Brian Taylor is taking with The Crooked Man, which is based on a script that he co-wrote with Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. Indeed, when the project was first announced, Jeffrey Greenstein (president of Millennium, the studio that owns the Hellboy film rights) played up the Mignola connection, proudly describing the project as, "an authentic version of his stories and characters in film form."

Now, say what you will about the new trailer – and as noted above, I do think it looks like corners have been cut – it does capture the folk horror vibe of The Crooked Man comic, with some scenes appearing to have been lifted straight from the page. It looks creepy and atmospheric rather than action-packed and explosive. It's clearly not del Toro or Neil Marshall's vision of Hellboy... but it does look quite a lot like Mike Mignola's.

Richard Corben's art from Hellboy: The Crooked Man

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

That's good news for fans of the comic, but it may also prove to be a canny move for Hellboy as a sustainable movie franchise. As beloved as those first two films are, there's little chance at this stage of a third installment from del Toro and Ron Perlman, and there seems to be zero appetite for a continuation of the David Harbour reboot. Perhaps the way forward, then, is in a series of smaller horror movies that hew closely to the episodic nature of many of the Hellboy comics.

Finally, a quick reminder of the perils of judging a low-budget film on the basis of one dodgy trailer. Remember Dredd? It's pretty beloved by fandom now, but I strongly recall the negative backlash when its trailer dropped. Hellboy: The Crooked Man might be terrible, brilliant, or somewhere in-between. Whatever the case, the trailer does, at least, suggest a different and more comics faithful approach that may yet pay off.

Hellboy: The Crooked Man does not yet have a release date. For more, check out our list of the most exciting upcoming movies in 2024 and beyond.

Last year Hellboy found himself unexpectedly put into a metal mecha body. We interviewed creator Duncan Fegredo about Giant Robot Hellboy.

Will Salmon
Comics Editor

Will Salmon is the Comics Editor for GamesRadar/Newsarama. He has been writing about comics, film, TV, and music for more than 15 years, which is quite a long time if you stop and think about it. At Future he has previously launched scary movie magazine Horrorville, relaunched Comic Heroes, and has written for every issue of SFX magazine for over a decade. He sometimes feels very old, like Guy Pearce in Prometheus. His music writing has appeared in The Quietus, MOJO, Electronic Sound, Clash, and loads of other places and he runs the micro-label Modern Aviation, which puts out experimental music on cassette tape.