Before reviewing the new long-term delivery (35 years!) hellraiser horror movie franchise, I did my due diligence. I rewatched the previous 10 films, from the critically acclaimed 1987 original and its 1988 sequel to the following two films and six direct-to-video entries. Throughout the marathon, I took copious notes, careful to trace the characters and plot development through their many permutations.
It is not a joke!
The bottom line You can’t keep a good Pinhead.
You can’t keep a good Pinhead.
Sure, I saw the first two movies back in the day, and I may have even caught the 1992 one. Hellraiser III: Hell on earth and 1996 Hellraiser IV: Lineage. But when the series went straight to home video, I was happily bailed out, as I’m not the type to proudly own a treasure trove of horror movie memorabilia in my basement. so for all of you hellraiser fans out there, sorry.
For the uninitiated, the series, originally based on the novel by Clive Barker the hellish heart (the writer also directed the original film), revolves around a mysterious puzzle box known as the “Lament Configuration,” a kind of demonic Rubik’s cube that serves as a portal for the sadistic otherworldly beings known as the Cenobites.
Cenobites (am I the only one for whom the name conjures up images of delicious sugary sweets bought at malls?), have a habit of brutally torturing any human unfortunate enough to summon them. Seemingly dedicated to exploring the fine line between pleasure and pain, they would have been a perfect fit for ’80s-era S&M clubs.
The leader of the Cenobites is the iconic horror character Pinhead, previously played in most movies by English actor Doug Bradley. For this remake/reboot/sequel (it’s a bit of each), Jamie Clayton (sense8) makes history as the series’ first female Pinhead. No one knows how well fans will do, as most horror moviegoers aren’t exactly known for their dedication to gender parity. (Just ask anyone involved in women Ghostbusters reboot.) But the character was originally conceived by Barker as androgynous, and Clayton, with his electronically altered voice, strikes an appropriately terrifying, imposing and even sensual figure. Assuming, that is, that you don’t mind the fact that his outfits consist of his own flayed skin and he has, you know, big pins sticking out of his head.
The story, which stretched to two hours too long, revolves around Riley (Odessa A’zion), a young woman with addiction problems who impulsively follows her boyfriend Trevor’s (Drew Starkey) plan to rob a storage unit. . The only item they find there is the puzzle box, which has an unfortunate tendency to stab its users in the hands. All hell literally breaks loose when that happens, beginning with the disappearance of Riley’s brother, Matt (Brandon Flynn).
Riley and Trevor, with the help of Matt’s boyfriend (Adam Faison) and roommate Nora (Aiofe Hinds), try to get to the bottom of the mystery, which leads them to creatures like The Chatterer, The Whisperer, The Gasp, and more. , as well as Pinhead. There’s also a depraved billionaire (Goran Visnjic, chewing the scenery with delight), who unleashed the Cenobites in the first place, and his shady lawyer (Hiam Abbass, Succession, Structure).
The new hellraiser looks great (at least what you do see, it’s terribly dark), with a visual style befitting its relatively large budget and the talents of its director David Bruckner, who, judging by this and the recent the house of the nighthe is quickly establishing himself as a horror filmmaker to be taken seriously.
The screenplay, penned by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (veteran writer David S. Goyer gets story credit), comes across as less than engaging and never bothers to fully flesh out its decidedly diverse cast of characters. Of course, considering what ends up happening to most of the meat on him, that’s not necessarily a huge drawback.
Fans will be relieved to learn that this hellraiser it definitely doesn’t skimp on blood, providing enough viscera and flayed skin to satisfy the most bloodthirsty of viewers. When a pin pierces someone’s flesh, the damage is even occasionally seen from inside the body, as if to provide an educational anatomical experience for young viewers seeking to enter the medical profession. Special mention should be made of the wildly imaginative creature designs and makeup (which leave their cinematic predecessors in the dust), the immersive sound design, and the effectively spooky musical score, which incorporates familiar themes from Christopher Young’s original.
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