EXCLUSIVE: The Hallow director Corin Hardy has made a deal to direct Hell Bent, the Mike Finch-scripted action film that is a priority project for Paramount Pictures and is easiest described as ‘Dirty Dozen Goes To Hell.’ Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian are producing a film that will begin casting shortly as the script gets a polish. At the same time, there might be a thaw regarding Hardy’s exit from the The Crow remake that precipitated a legal joust between producer Ed Pressman and Relativity. It is possible that Hardy might re-emerge on that film after all, but there are obstacles still to be overcome and it is possible another studio could come into the mix as an active partner.

In Hell Bent, a group of mercenaries imprisoned in a Brazilian jail are murdered and led into the depths of hell by a priest who wishes to use their skills to kill Satan before he brings hell to Earth. This project has been on my radar for some time because of its smart construct that is a throwback to how studios once built franchises. The film is designed to cost $60 million or under, a reasonable sum for a possible franchise launch. It’s not dependent on big stars, but on an ensemble of “next” hot guys. That is the way that franchises used to be launched, when films like The Terminator, Austin Powers and many others that only did okay in their theatrical releases, but connected with audiences on video/DVD and created awareness that emboldened studios to throw real money at the sequels. That’s not often done these days, as studios throw all the money at what they hope will become franchises. What helps a package like this is a cutting edge director who can make a stylistic imprint and many think the UK-based helmer fits that bill.

That buzz on him came from his Sundance pic The Hallow, which led to an agency stampede to sign him. He aligned with WME. He also directed the animated short Butterfly and directed music videos for Ed Sheeran, Biffy Clyro, Keane, Paolo Nutini and The Prodigy. All that work got him the The Crow, a remake that was delayed as Relativity worked its way through Chapter 11, and by creative disagreements. Hardy is repped by WME, Hugo Young at Independent Talent Group, Elevate Entertainment’s Jenny Wood and attorney Fred Tozcek.

Here is a look at Hardy’s short film Butterfly: