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Barker set to rule U’s ‘Tortured Souls’

Helmer returns to o'see demon-for-wife swap pic

A correction was made to this article on Dec. 10, 2003.

In a surprise move, horror aficionado turned painter Clive Barker is returning to the director’s chair after an eight-year absence, inking a pact to helm Universal’s horror pic “Tortured Souls.”

Barker last directed 1995 feature “Lord of Illusions,” a Scott Bakula starrer released by MGM.

Tortured Souls is Barker’s own line of action figures, which debuted at the Intl. Toy Fair in Gotham in February 2001. Released in limited numbers last July by “Spawn” creator Todd McFarlane’s McFarlane Toys, the monster figures promptly sold out.

McFarlane’s company also produces action figures of icons from movies, music and comicbooks, including “Shrek” and “Austin Powers,” as well as rockers KISS and Metallica. McFarlane will consult on the script and produce as well.

“We come from very different areas: I come from books and paintings, he comes from toys and comics,” Barker said of his collaboration with McFarlane. “In the middle, we meet quite nicely, because we both love these kinds of movies, and both of us have a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of them, so we can always be referencing the things that really work for us.”

Each of the six grisly Tortured Souls — Talisac, Lucidique, Scythe-Meister, Agonistes, Mongroid and Venal Anatomica — was sold with a chapter of an original Barker-penned storyline. The combined chapters form a novella outlining the Souls’ origin.

For the bigscreen adaptation, Barker said, the “Souls” storyline centers on a man who decides he wants to be rid of his wife in favor of a more interesting life. The man “exchanges” his wife for a demon goddess from another world, throwing her into a shadowy world of monsters — one from which she must escape and return to his everyday world to rescue their child and vanquish the demon.

Barker, repped by ICM, and McFarlane will produce “Tortured Souls,” and Barker’s Seraphim Films veepee Joe Daley will co-produce with McFarlane exec Terry Fitzgerald. U veepee Dylan Clark supervises for U.

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