It's not much surprise that a movie with Ian McShane and the sheriff from Stranger Things - who fights Milla Jovovich - is a bit of a gory, violent affair. So when the Classification Board gave Hellboy a R18+ rating, that seemed fairly appropriate.
To presumably get more teenagers through the door, the distributors applied to have the movie re-rated. It makes Hellboy the first piece of content in 2019 to try and get a different classification, and only the 12th decision to be challenged in the past five years.
The Classification Board rated Hellboy R18+ towards the end of March, applying the "high impact violence, blood and gore" consumer advice label. Roadshow Films, according to a release from the censors, challenged the rating three days later, making Hellboy the first piece of content to be reviewed in 2019.
The board originally found that Hellboy's fantasy setting didn't mitigate the need for its high classification, which does come with a genuine cost. Staffers are required by law to check the ID of anyone purchasing tickets for an R18+ film if they appear to be underage, whereas children under the age of 15 can see MA15+ films if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
In the original report, the Board described a scene 98 minutes in describing the level of violence to be expected. There's a sort-of spoiler following this, but if you'd rather keep everything secret before the film's launch, look away.
"After Hellboy claims Excalibur, a fissure forms in the ground, allowing giant, grotesque demons to rise from Hell and enter the human world," the report from the original ruling, which was provided to Kotaku Australia, reads.
A large demon with an oversized sword-arm is viewed climbing out of the fissure. The demon grabs a man and smashes him against the top of its sword-arm, causing blood to spurt from the man's body. The demon pulls the man's body downwards and away from its sword-arm, eliciting a generous blood spurt as the man is implicitly skinned. The skinned body is flung into the air and sliced in half by the demon's sword-arm, causing blood to spray and form a cloud as gore flies through the air. Another demon wraps a clawed hand around a man's head. In a close-up shot, the demon pulls its hand away, stripping the skin from the man's head; the bloody, raw flesh of the man's skinned face and head is viewed as he falls away from the demon.
Naturally, distributors will want their films to be MA15+ rather than R18 whenever possible.
But while reviews helped turn We Happy Few's ban into a rating that allowed it to be sold in Australia, the Review Board effectively honoured the original decision. "In the Classification Review Board’s opinion Hellboy warrants an R 18+ classification because the violence has a high impact," the Review Board, whose decision overrides the original ruling, said in a release.
"The overall impact of the classifiable elements in the film was high. It is the view of the Classification Review Board that the fantasy context does not mitigate the cumulative impact of the violence on a more vulnerable audience."
The report from the Review Board (separate from the rating handed out from the Classification Board) will be published on the Classification Board's website later today. Hellboy hits local theatres from April 11.