Juan Jose Campanella Adapting Children's Fantasy Book 'Heck'
by Ethan Anderton
April 29, 2010
With the Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes winning the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar earlier this year, director Juan Jose Campanella has used that newfound acclaim to jump into Hollywood as Heat Vision reports he will make his English-language directorial debut with Heck, an adaptation of Dale E. Basye's children's fantasy series. The story follows a boy named Milton Fauster who, with his shoplifting sister, dies in a freak accident and ends up in an unearthly reform school called Heck, where Lizzie Borden teaches home economics and Richard Nixon is the ethics teacher. And this is a children's book? Read on!
Whilst stuck in the boarding school, Milton meets Virgil, a boy who has a map of the Nine Circles of Heck, and the two escape the netherworld and its leader, the principal of darkness Bea "Elsa" Bubb. Described as a kid's version of Dante's Inferno, this sounds like dark material for a children's fantasy, but I'm loving the concept quite a bit. The film will be based on the first book of the series, Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go, and there's an opportunity for a franchise here since the second book, Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck, was published last year, and the third installment, Blimpo: The Third Circle of Heck is set to hit shelves in May. Using my super sleuth skills, I would assume that there are six more books to follow, so this could be quite a big deal if it catches on, maybe as another filler for Harry Potter (but those are some huge shoes to fill).
Spyglass Entertainment is still figuring out just who will adapt the first book in the series, and Campanella will supervise the writing. Apparently producers are looking at creating a big FX-driven family adventure in the vein of Beetlejuice, which is honestly a very bold undertaking. Few have been able to successfully market dark and dreary fantasy to children. Maybe Brad Silberling deserves some credit for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, but that wasn't really much of a success. This is one of the most interesting films intended for family fare that I've heard of (outside of Pixar and DreamWorks) in quite a long time.