“…there are things that go bump in the night… We are the ones who bump back.”
In 1944, inspired by the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin (Karel Rodin), the Nazis build a dimensional portal off the coast of Scotland to free the demonic Ogdru Jahad to help with the defeat of the Allies. Rasputin opens a portal with his disciples Ilsa von Hauptstein (Bridget Hobson) and Obersturm Bann Fuhrer Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran). The Allies destroy the portal with the help of scientist Trevor Bruttenholm (Kevin Trainer and then John Hurt). The Germans are killed, though Haupstein and Kroenen escape. A red infant demon with a stone right arm had come through the portal. They call him Hellboy and Bruttenholm adopts him.
Sixty years later, the eternally young Kroenen and Hapstein resurrect Rasputin. FBI agent John Meyers (Rupert Evans) is transferred to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, where he meets the adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and a psychic amphibian named Abe Sapien (Body by Doug Jones, voice by David Hyde Pierce). Hellboy goes to investigate a problem at a museum and battles a creature called Sammael (Brian Steele), then visits Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) at a mental hospital where she has committed herself to control her pyrokinetic powers. Sammael was apparently resurrected by Rasputin and given extra powers. Two eggs will hatch each time one adult dies. Also, Bruttenheim is dying.
Believing the eggs to be in the sewer, Hellboy, Abe, and the FBI descend into the maze to destroy them. Abe is injured and Kroenen kills most of the agents. Kroenen, a ruined body with cyborg parts, shuts down, pretending to be defeated, and is brought back to the bureau offices. FBI director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambour) despises Hellboy’s recklessness. Meyers takes Liz out for coffee and Hellboy secretly follows them, leaving the office unguarded. Kroenen returns to life and Rasputin appears, confronting Brittenholm. Rasputin predicts a future with Hellboy destroying the world, but Bruttenheim thinks of Hellboy as his son. Kroenen kills Bruttenheim, who dies holding his rosary.
Manning takes over the Bureau and locates Rasputin’s mausoleum in a cemetery near Moscow. Manning, Hellboy, and their team enter the mausoleum but become separated. Hellboy and Manning enter Kroenen’s lair and kill him. Hellboy reunites with Liz and Myers at Sammael’s new nest, but the creatures overwhelm them. Liz incinerates the creatures and their eggs. The invaders lose consciousness and are captured by Rasputin and Haupstein. Rasputin sucks Liz’s soul out of her body and tells Hellboy to release the Ogdru Jahad in return for her soul.
Hellboy becomes his true Anung an Rama, regrowing his horns, and begins to release the Ogdru Jahad. Myers breaks out of his restraints, subdues Haupstein, and tosses Bruttenholm’s rosary to Hellboy, who breaks off his horns, reseals the Ogdru Jahad, and stabs Rasputin with his horn. But the behemoth, spawn of the Ogdru Jahad, crawls out of the body and grows to enormous size, Hellboy allows himself to be swallowed by the beast and detonates hand grenades inside. He whispers something to Liz and she comes back to life. What Hellboy said was, “You on the other side, let her go or I’ll cross over and you’ll be sorry.” They kiss.
The film was written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and Peter Briggs, based on the Dark Horse comic Hellboy: Seed of destruction, by Mike Mignola. It received positive reviews and made decent money. Critics and audiences loved Perlman’s gleeful take on the cheerful demon from Hell. It was conceived as a Harryhausen-like film. Various studios rejected it. Harryhausen himself thought it, like a lot of modern films, too violent. Labyrinths appeared throughout the movie, along with Catholic iconography. The part was written for Ron Perlman, and The Rock was rejected. Out of respect for Doug Jones, David Hyde Pierce did not attend the premieres or press tours. Filming was started late because the studios had no respect for comic books. Mike Mignola, the comic creator, was very happy with the film. In the Bible Belt, Hellboy on the marquee was changed to Helloboy.
Del Toro was offered the film because of his success with Blade II. Vin Diesel was considered for both Hellboy and Abe Sapien. Much of the demonology came from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos. Del Toro and Mignolo, at a casting discussion, simultaneously suggested Ron Perlman for the role. When the studio suggested putting the Right Hand of Doom on Perlman’s left hand so he could use his right, he refused. Producers suggested Hellboy should be a human from Hell instead of a demonic hero. Ron Perlman broke a rib jumping on a speeding subway train. Doug Jones’ makeup took five to seven hours to apply. Perlman prepared by reading all the Hellboy comics and working out three hours a day. When a dying boy asked the Make a Wish Foundation for a day with Hellboy, Perlman went back for four hours of makeup to do it for him.