In what is now an established Halloween tradition, it is time for me to pick a horror franchise, force myself to watch it all and then moan about it on here. So far I’ve done A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Saw (the writing on the older ones makes me cringe) with all five of them successfully driving me a little bit insane. Of course, that’s partly down to the fact that I have developed a habit of binging these increasingly awful films in the last five days of October before promising that next year it will be different. Guess what, folks? It wasn’t!
2019’s franchise of choice is Hellraiser, Clive Barker’s brainchild and a series which has, at the time of writing, ten films, most of which went straight to DVD. Why do I do this to myself?
Hellraiser (1987) directed by Clive Barker
In many ways, Hellraiser is a classic tale. A lonely man with filthy nails decides to shake up his sex life by calling up a group of demonic sadomasochists via a creepy-ass puzzle box. They, of course, rip him apart, but a few years later he’s brought back to life by his brother’s blood and convinces his former lover (who also happens to be his brother’s wife) to bring him more of the red stuff in the hope that he’ll regain a more attractive body. I mean, which film isn’t telling that story?
We’ll give it a pass, though, as it was Clive Barker’s first stint in the director’s chair after he got fed-up of watching other people ruin his writing. Truthfully, that probably plays a part in the creakiness that is on show here. New Order managed to convince him to swap the location of the film partway through, leading to some dialogue being re-dubbed in an American accent and bringing a weird discombobulation to something that is clearly taking place in England. We also have a few non-human monsters that, quite frankly, look a bit silly. The effects creaking thanks to a mixture of age and a small budget.
Thankfully, they’re more than made up for by those that do take a human form. The moment when Frank (the aforementioned sexual thrill seeker) is raised from the dead will turn even the most ardent horror fan’s stomach, the cracking of bones and the slurping of flesh leaving you unsure whether to keep watching or to run away. Then there’s Pinhead, the nail-faced prick who the film dances around even if he barely turns up, probably appearing on screen for under five minutes. That turns out to be an inspired choice, as he and his fellow Cenobites (presumably demon for kinky bastards) become the film’s mystery and its greatest strength. Pinhead is infinitely more terrifying when glimpsed slipping between chains dangling human flesh than he would be if he was soliloquizing at every opportunity. Doug Bradley has a presence, and that’s all that’s needed to sell him.
Because the reason it all works is that we are given the impression that we are only seeing one twisted, fucked-up part of a wider story. There are moments in this film where the supernatural is pushed to the side, the focus shifting towards the family drama instead. It’s as much the story of a cheating wife and a father-daughter relationship as it is some sadomasochists from beyond the grave (which, amazingly, was an early title). While both of the parents are prats (at one point, Andrew Robinson’s Larry Cotton takes a good thirty seconds to stop romancing his wife even though she’s screaming no and stop repeatedly. Sure, she’s doing it because his undead brother who she is shagging and wants to get back to shagging once he has some skin again is about to kill Larry, but still, not cool), daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) provides a bit of humanity, so you at least hope she doesn’t get ripped apart. It’s also true that prat or not, Clare Higgins is having a lot of fun leaning into Julia’s (the evil step-mother) indecision over her wish to fuck lover boy and her desire nae to do some murdering.
Hellraiser is weird and gross and has stood the test of time because there is enough outside of that to intrigue. Who are these lovers of whips and chains? And, more importantly, what was that weird hobo dragon sex-pest who turned up at the end? (I have no evidence he’s a sex-pest.) It’s those touches that elevate it above being another horror film and leave you wanting more. We’ll find out over the next however many words if that was a good idea or not.
Verdict: The Classic.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) directed by Tony Randell
The worry with sequels, and especially those that come just a year after the original, is that they’ll reveal all the mysteries that made the first so tantalising. From Anakin Skywalker to Michael Myers, more than one incredible character has been ripped apart and sold for scrap by going back to the well time after time. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go into Hellraiser II expecting Pinhead to face similar treatment.
It was a worry that was added to by the opening seconds of the film, as we see a soldier open the Lament Configuration (which the internet tells me is the name for the puzzle box) and have his face introduced to a nice fresh batch of nails. However, I was to be pleasantly surprised. Rather than staying with the prickly bastard, Pinhead would then vanish, not reappearing till nearly an hour in.
Instead, we are back with Kirsty, who is unsurprisingly spending some time in a mental institution after the first film. Unfortunately, her doctor, Dr Channard, has an obsession with kinky puzzle boxes and ends up raising Julia from the dead kicking the whole series of events off again. Although, we should probably thank him for that, as it gives us Clare Higgins being deliciously evil. The indecision of the first is gone, as she declares that she’s not only the wicked step-mother but the evil witch too.
It also gives us a slightly different beast of a film. Hellbound takes us to Hell and while the kinky grossness of the first is there, it introduces a surreal edge. There’s a sequence in a circus complete with bizarre babies and creepy clowns that is visually strong but out of step with the horror of the original. It’s still a film that is at its best when disgusting shit is happening to people, and while that leaves you flinching away and trying not to reintroduce your dinner to the world, it’s hard to argue that it does it anything except brilliantly.
Unfortunately, there are some other flaws. The plot meanders, at one point giving us a round-up of what happened in the previous film, before losing its way entirely in the third act, heading quickly towards incoherency and featuring the most horrific heroic action ever from poor Kirsty. We also get a monstrous transformation that is silly rather than terrifying while a scene in which we see the Cenobites being humanised feels like a misstep. I don’t mind knowing that Pinhead was once one of us, but introducing the idea that some of that humanity remains blunts his character. Finally, there’s Tiffany, a young, blonde patient at the hospital who is dressed all in white, never says a word and has an incredible talent for puzzles. The symbolism is so on the nose, that as she unwittingly wanders into hell, you wonder whether the film-makers are about to start hammering nails into your face.
However, despite all that, Hellbound is a decent sequel. It never reaches the heights of the first, but with Barker still writing it maintains its strong sense of kinky style and, the aforementioned issues aside, feels part of that world. It’s good enough that I feel safe saying Hellraiser has gone two for two, and I’m quietly looking forward to seeing what comes next. Although, I do want to lodge a formal complaint about the lack of follow-up with the hobo dragon sex-pest. That might be its greatest sin.
Verdict: A Solid Follow-Up.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) directed by Anthony Hickox
You remember all the worries I had about Pinhead coming into Hellbound? Well, it didn’t long take for them to come to pass.
Hell on Earth sees Hellraiser jettison the original cast (although Douglas Bradley remains) and Clive Barker’s involvement severely reduced, but does stick to the plot established so far. Having been confronted by his humanity at the end of two, Pinhead has been split in half. His evil side lurking in a creepy-ass statue while his goodness is stuck in limbo. Meanwhile, an aspiring reporter (Terry Farrell’s Joey) sees a man ripped apart by chains in a hospital and wants to figure out what the fuck is going on.
As hinted at above, this is the moment where the pin cushion moves out of the shadows and into the limelight. Any subtlety that was present in his characterisation is tossed out the window, as he evolves into a king of hell, slaughtering entire rooms of people in a variety of inventive ways. The first two Hellraiser films don’t feel like slashers, but this does, the wider move in horror towards flashy kills establishing itself in this universe.
It’s a move that changes the entire nature of the film. The sadomasochism of the first two is horrendous and intense, but it does have a certain logic. Pinhead and co come for people that seek those delights, and they deliver them, even allowing the angelic Tiffany to live when she opens the puzzle box because it’s desire, not hands, that calls them. There is no such rule in place here, as the violence comes indiscriminately, no longer rooted in extreme fetish, but in the nonsense of horror as CDs and cameras are inventively used to massacre innocents. Yes, they try to explain it away by layering more and more lore into the film, but that takes away rather than adding to its charms.
Despite all that, I’d be lying if I said Hell On Earth didn’t have its pleasures. Yes, it’s ridiculous, and the acting is, on the whole, atrocious. However, there is a joy to be found in Bradley going full evil, relishing taking Pinhead in this new demented direction. His charisma was what made the character leap off the screen in his previous short appearances, and he steps up to the plate brilliantly here, carrying the film on his back. When he emerges from the statue he was imprisoned in, free to wreak havoc, you can’t help but allow yourself an evil smile.
That all adds up to something that I probably can’t call good, but I can’t slate either. It’s fun, lacking the elements that make the original a classic but providing enough to satisfy the bloodthirsty among us while also using a Motorhead song for the credits. Although, there was still no sign of hobo dragon sex-pest, so I’m beginning to worry about that character.
Verdict: Arise, Sir Nonsense.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996) directed by Kevin Yagher (credited as Alan Smithee) and Joe Chappelle (uncredited)
Alright, you know what I said about Hell On Earth being nonsense? I take it back, that wasn’t nonsense. Bloodline is fucking nonsense. It might even transcend nonsense and reach such incredible heights of stupidity that it starts to be intelligent again. Actually, no, it’s just utter bullshit.
In hindsight, the words directed by Alan Smithee should have been a warning, or the fact that we opened in a fucking spaceship. At that moment, I could have turned it off and given up on this dumb idea. But I didn’t. I soldiered on, hopeful that after three films that were always at least enjoyable, there might be something worth watching here. I was wrong.
Because with Pinhead’s background firmly established, Bloodline decides to go a step further. Yup, it’s time to find out where the fucking puzzle box came from. It turns out it’s a cursed box/design/who knows what, that has been screwing with the family who created it, the LeMarchands, for generations. I could try and explain more, but to be honest, I can’t be arsed. It’s bollocks, and you can rest safe in the knowledge that it doesn’t matter.
My apathy almost extends to pointing out its flaws, as there’s too many to bother. The plot isn’t the only awful thing here as the acting is chasing along behind it, fighting for the throne. But look! Here comes the script, making a late sprint on the outside to try and steal away with pole position and the special effects are hot on its heels, desperately trying to keep in the race. Oh damn, I can’t believe it, they’re all so shit that they’ve stumbled at the last second, collapsing into a tangle of limbs, too incompetent to even win the battle of the shite.
There wasn’t much intelligence left by the end of Hell on Earth, but it quickly drowns in this cauldron of gloop as Pinhead is stripped even further back, reduced to pure evil. Amazingly, Bradley is still fantastic in that role, but it’s not the character we saw at the start. Those soliloquies that were missing are now on display as he’s become a threatener of small children, showing none of the nuances that made him pop off the screen. Although, he’s still better than Angelique, a demon who is part-ally and part-adversary to the pinned prat. One can only assume Valentina Vargas’s direction was simply the words sexy and evil written on a piece of paper, as she slips into the most 90’s role of all time.
Outside of Bradley, the only joy to be taken from this film is Adam Scott turning up in one of his earliest performances. He’s awful, showing none of the charisma or charm he’d later have, but you’ll get a second of pleasure when you realise it’s him. Oh, there’s also a space person called Rimmer which made me think of Red Dwarf, so that was nice.
A dive into the production history does unravel where it all went wrong. The original script was supposed to have been rather good, but the studio got cold feet when they realised Pinhead wouldn’t be front and centre, so they changed things drastically (hence Yagher giving up his credit). Whether the original would have been worth a watch might never be known, but it’s safe to say that this isn’t, with the shitty CGI even taking away from any potential it has as a gory horror treat. Where Hellraiser crunched and slurped this pops and bangs, with all the charm of a wasted evening. You’d think they might have at least giving us a glimpse of hobo dragon sex-pest, but no, we’re even denied those joys.
Verdict: What The Fuck Was That?
Hellraiser V: Inferno (2000) directed by Scott Derrickson
You’ve read the rant above, so it will be no surprise to hear that I wasn’t feeling particularly enthusiastic when it was time for Inferno. The last thing I wanted to do was watch another one of these damn movies. Then I discovered it was the debut film from Scott Derrickson (now famous for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister and Dr Strange) and featured Uncle Keith (better known as Craig Sheffer for those without a love for One Tree Hill) in the lead role. Count me intrigued.
And while it’s becoming increasingly hard to define a Hellraiser film by number five, I think it’s safe to say that no-one would have expected this. It bears more resemblances to a film noir, Sheffer slipping into the role of a dirty cop on the hunt of a mysterious murderer known as The Engineer who is leaving behind a child’s fingers at the scenes of his crimes. The colour palette is dark and dingy, and I kept expecting the monotone voice-over to start talking about dames.
You’ve got to assume that switch in tone comes from this being the first Hellraiser film to go direct-to-DVD, removing the pressure of a big-screen release. It certainly gave Derrickson the chance to move Pinhead back to where he belongs, the shadows. The spiky bastard doesn’t turn up properly until around eighty minutes in, and this has to be the fewest minutes he’s had on screen since the original. After his devolution to generic slasher villain in the previous two films, it’s nice to see him step behind the curtain, pulling the string rather than decapitating them.
All of which might make you wonder where the horror comes from, but don’t fret, there is plenty of it. It might not be the horror you’re expecting, though. Derrickson throws a smorgasbord of influences at the wall here, pulling from Lynchian surrealness, Cronenbergian body horror and Del Toro’s monsters. We even dive into a bit of Groundhog Day on a horrific acid trip, although it’s a hell of a lot darker than anything involving Bill Murray is ever likely to be. It’s the sight of a director finding his feet, working through his influences to discover his voice and, quite frankly, that would be interesting enough to carry the film by itself
Because Inferno is a fascinating watch even if I’m not sure I can say it’s any good. It creaks and groans, a dodgy script that often drops into cliche not being aided by somewhat awkward acting. However, it is intriguing. There is the smell of experimentation in the air, with the only connection to what has come before being Bradley’s appearance as Pinhead. In fact, the script was apparently retconned into the Hellraiser world, which is easy to believe and adds a touch of freshness to proceedings. It would have been so easy for this to be another generic slasher, Pinhead chopping his way through victims left and right, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They took risks on this release, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but they came off.
Of course, there was still no hobo dragon sex-pest, so that means they can shove their interesting ideas up their arse.
Verdict: It’s Not Good But It’s Interesting.
Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2002) directed by Rick Bota
After Inferno caught me off-guard, I came into Hellseeker with renewed faith. Out of the first five Hellraiser films, four of them are at least mildly entertaining with only one coming in as complete dogshit. That means if one more of them is decent this franchise is at least finishing up on a level pegging when it comes to good and bad films, a situation that is unheard of for one of my Halloween retrospectives.
That could still happen, but it won’t be Hellseeker that tips the scales. This film is a fucking mess, meandering around from start to finish in a confusing mishmash of ideas that goes fucking nowhere. For large swaths of it, I was staring at the screen, but nothing was going in. The utter bollocks unfolding in front of me seemed unable to journey from my eyes to my brain.
What plot there is sees the return of Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton. Well, kind of. She’s bumped off within three minutes, flying off a bridge in a car with her husband, Trevor. He gets out (he being Dean Winters), but she doesn’t, or so we think. For a month later Trevor is still plagued by headaches, hallucinations and a plethora of beautiful women who want to fuck him (that last one seems like less of an issue). On top of that, the police are saying Kirsty’s body wasn’t in the car, and he’s the number one suspect in her murder. If only the problems with his memory would go away so he could prove his innocence (yawn).
Written down like that, it might not seem that bad, but on the screen, it’s awful and is yet another Hellraiser film that doesn’t seem to have much to do with Hellraiser (like Inferno it was a spec script adapted to fit the franchise). It’s mainly interested in Trevor wandering around looking confused and then having to fend off the interests of another scantily clad woman. There’s the occasional flash of gruesome horror, but none of it’s scary, as it will at best make you emit a slight ‘eurgh’ as we get sight of something being drilled or prodded (that’s got nothing to do with the scantily clad women).
The main problem is that I’m not entirely sure this film knows what it wants to be. It’s a criticism you could also throw at Inferno, but at least it’s intriguing in its confusion. Hellseeker is boring in it, dancing from Lynchian surrealness to sexploitation to attempts at a suspenseful mystery but with the critical part being that they all fall flat. We’re supposed to be desperate to find out what happened to Kirsty (spoiler, it has something to do with the spiky faced kink lover), but I never gave a shit. I just wanted it to be over.
At least when Bradley finally turns up (around the hour mark), he delivers his now expected fantastic performance as Pinhead. That guy is hitting Robert Englund levels of being able to take any old shite they throw at him and at least produce a smidgen of magic. He tries valiantly to get things back onto some sort of track that we can care about, but even he’s not good enough to do that and a limited screen time makes his job impossible. It all crumbles around him, leaving him standing tall and the rest of us lamenting another wasted ninety minutes.
You know what I’m going to finish on, and by this point, I’m giving up hope. Yea, there was still no sign of the hobo dragon sex-pest. Poor bastard.
Verdict: I’d Have Stayed In The River.
Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005) directed by Rick Bota
Deader. Imagine having the entirety of the English language at your disposal for a title and going for, Deader. I could probably give you at least five hundred words on why that alone is a disgrace. Fucking, Deader. Jesus H. Christ and his band of merry men.
I’m tempted to put as much effort into this review as they did coming up with that title, but I suspect I’ve already slipped over that low bar. Deader tells the story of edgy journalist Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) who writes stories like ‘How To Be A Crack Whore’. (Maybe my unwillingness to go that far is why I never made it as a journalist?) A lead sends her to Romania in search of the Deader cult who are killing themselves only to spring back after a wee ritual. When she arrives, she finds a dead body and a puzzle box which, despite precise instructions not to, Klein opens.
Unfortunately, the title turns out to be representative of the film as a whole. For the third time in a row, a spec script with no connection to Hellraiser was adapted, and you have to wonder why they don’t buy good ones. Christ, this steaming pile of turds is cringe worthy, crammed with dodgy dialogue and desperate attempts to be cool and edgy. At its best it’s incoherent, and no that’s not a typo. It’s easier to watch when it makes no sense because you can turn off your brain. They do make some effort to dip into Hellraiser mythology, but it’s fucking Bloodline as they bring back the cursed LeMarchand family, makers of the puzzle box.
Even with that strand of pubic hair hanging off Deader’s wrinkly old bollocks connecting it to the franchise, it still doesn’t feel like Hellraiser. I realised watching it that the sadomasochistic elements died a long time ago, as Pinhead’s lust for agony has been ripped away to be replaced by a straightforward desire to kill. The idea that his victims went seeking the violence, enjoying the torture, was what made the original stand out. The Cenobites weren’t pure evil, as they brought people the beautiful agony that they desired. Now? They pay lip service to it, but they’ve become a group of dodgy-looking fuckers who like to kill.
The worst part? You can tell it thinks it’s cool, running on some punk rock spirit as we’re smacked around the head repeatedly with the idea that Klein has a deathwish. Then there is our LeMarchand vampire fucker who turns up spouting shite that is probably meant to be philosophical but merely caused my brain to drift off and ponder what I’m going to have for dinner (I had pasta, it was a lot better than the film). In among all that, a thinly fleshed-out tale of parental abuse feels almost crass.
Even Bradley’s continual excellence (once again he waits till the hour mark to appear) didn’t manage to raise a smile out of me. Deader broke me. Honestly, it’s probably nowhere near as bad as Bloodlines or Hellseeker, but is like being repeatedly hit by a rubber mallet. It might not be a sledgehammer, but it’s still bashing away at those brain cells. And, of course, there was no hobo dragon sex-pest. When I started that gag, I didn’t take into account that I was going to have to make it ten times. At what film did it stop being funny for you?
Verdict: Maybe Being Hit With The Mallet Would Be Preferable?
Hellraiser VIII: Hellworld (2005) directed by Rick Bota
Yup, Hellworld came out the same year as Deader, treating the world to two slices of Hellraiser’s straight to DVD tosh in 2005. What the fuck did we do to deserve that? Anyway, to stay true to that torture, I watched these films back to back which is one horrific way to spend a Sunday evening.
For Hellworld is Hellraiser’s attempt at pulling a New Nightmare. However, while Wes Craven’s meta return to Nightmare on Elm Street was intelligent and brilliantly executed, this was, well, shite. Hellworld exists in a reality where Hellraiser is a game, based on fiction, not fact. We know that because in an early scene someone makes sure to point out that Cenobites and the Lament Configuration are not real. They then hit you over the head with a subtlety hammer because why not?
It creates a film with a teen slasher vibe, as we’re introduced to a beautiful gang who a couple of years previously had a friend who committed suicide after getting too into the game. Despite that rather unfortunate event, they decide to spend Halloween at a Hellraiser party because how else are we going to get a plot? Anyway, things sidle quickly into quipping territory as Henry Cavill turns up, looking very pretty, but delivering acting that makes his current talents look quite remarkable.
I’m now going to have to drop the bombshell that said party gets freaky pretty quickly. Our sexy teens (they’re not actually teens, but fuck it) are soon attempting to get their leg over, only for some pesky murdering to get in the way. Hellworld is a slasher film of its time, revelling in the meta of Scream and the torture devices of Saw with a sparkly sheen and a nu-metal soundtrack to boot. No-one needed it, but to give it its credit, it is an infinitely easier watch than the previous two films. While they wallowed in self-pity and dark palettes, this is bright and dumb, its ninety-minute running time never feeling a chore.
It does mean I have to, once again, point out that this is a Hellraiser film in name alone. Doug Bradley is given fuck all to do here, as Pinhead follows the plot by morphing into a video game villain. They explain it away at the end, but that doesn’t change the fact that for the bulk of the film he’s a generic slasher big bad, as far removed from the original character as he’s ever been. The twist is a desperate attempt to have their cake and eat it, which I find wholly unacceptable behaviour.
Despite that, and it might just be that I went into it straight after the tosh that came before, I did kind of enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a good film. However, if you were to ask me which of the awful Hellraiser films I’d like to watch, it would be at the top of my list. If only they’d thrown in the hobo dragon sex-pest, Hellworld might have even been that mythical fifth good film.
Verdict: At Least It’s Fun
Hellraiser IX: Revelations (2011) directed by Victor Garcia
There are a lot of red flags when it comes to Revelations. For one thing, Doug Bradley finally had enough and declared he would not be returning to reprise his role as Pinhead. If that doesn’t send you running to the hills, the whole thing was turned around in a matter of weeks as Dimension Film needed to produce something to keep hold of the rights to the series. Throw in a reported budget of $300,000 and, well, I wasn’t expecting too much.
That budget plays its part as Revelations has all the production values of a mediocre soap and the acting of a shit one. They make a valiant attempt to hide it through a variety of found footage sections, but it does not work. It’s an issue further compounded by the fact they refuse to stick to the gimmick, bouncing between it and an invisible camera. Considering we’re supposed to be eavesdropping on these parts through someone else watching them, it does a fantastic job of breaking any immersion they might have created.
Although if you manage to lose yourself in this story, then you have the concentration levels of a superhero. Revelations works off as generic a plot as you can find, with two assholes making their way for a night of debauchery in Tijuana only to discover the Lament Configuration and release Pinhead’s merry band of goons. The twat who opened the box gets dragged to Pinhead’s layer of chains, but the other survives and ends up trying to bring him back with the blood of dead prostitutes.
Which, to be fair, is a lot closer to the original films than anything which followed. That doesn’t mean it’s good, but in its structure at least, it’s a Hellraiser film. If we’re going to double up on the positives, it’s also only 75 minutes long so it won’t take up too much of your time. Em, yea, that’s it when it comes to the good things.
For this is a stinking, rotting corpse of a film, living off the Hellraiser name while adding nothing to its legacy (which, admittedly, has taken a bit of a beating by this point). Everything about it screams rush job, and there is no soul within this celluloid nightmare. There’s also not a hobo dragon sex-pest, although a hobo does turn up to provide our favourite puzzle box, but shows no ability to turn into a dragon.
There isn’t a Doug Bradley to save the day either. Instead, we have Stephen Smith Collins, who spends the film wandering among bloody chains and girning. He doesn’t even get to voice the role himself, Fred Tatasciore taking that honour. Not that it matters, it’s a half-arsed performance of an iconic character, carrying none of the gravitas or charisma that Bradley brought.
Throw in a touch of incest (which happens in such a casual way that I ended up checking the Wikipedia to see if I’d got my characters mixed-up), and you’ve got a depressingly awful film. Even the most diehard Hellraiser fan doesn’t need to see this, and Dimension would have been better letting the rights expire than subjecting the world to this shite.
Verdict: Soulless And Shite
Hellraiser X: Judgement (2018) directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Seven years on from Revelations, the rights to Hellraiser were once again in danger of leaving Dimensions’ grubby hands, so we were treated to Judgement, a film put together on a tiny budget in no time at all.
However, unlike Revelations, Judgement doesn’t go for the simple story. In fact, it makes the baffling decision to broaden the Hellraiser mythology. We learn that the Cenobites are just one of Hell’s factions, and are introduced to the Stygian Inquisition whose role is to judge the lives of those brought before them. Sadly, both groups are on an economic downturn, as modern technology has rendered the gateways to Hell obsolete, I blame capitalism.
Meanwhile, back on Earth (do you get the sense there is a bit too much plot going on?) a murderer called the Perceptor is on the prowl, and a gang of plucky cops want to bring him down. How do these things overlap? To be honest, the plot is such nonsense that I’m not entirely sure, but they do, trust me on that. Oh, we also seem to confirm the existence of Heaven in the Hellraiser universe as an angel turns up at one point, so that’s nice.
Right, let’s start with some positives. For the first time since Hellraiser II, the horror in Judgement made me flinch away from the screen in disgust. A scene in which we discover a live puppy has been left in the stomach of a victim is stomach-churning (literally, I guess). If anything, it might go a step too far, leaving you not with the thrill of horror, but the queasiness of something rotten.
And if that is how you feel, there will be nothing for you. The police procedural nature of it makes it feel like a slightly shiny episode of Law & Order while the already mentioned plot is mainly nonsense. The one good thing about Revelations was that it stripped back all the unneeded mythology, and got back to basics, so to follow that up by layering lore on top of lore is a fucking stupid move.
There’s a final twist which seems to be setting up a sequel putting the focus back on Paul T. Taylor’s Pinhead (he’s no Bradley, but he’s better than Collins), and I hope that never sees the light of day. It’s time to leave Hellraiser alone because this film commits the ultimate sin and is fucking boring. I could take it being shit or weird or laughable, but by halfway through I just wanted it to end and this whole thing to be over. Thankfully, it is, and I don’t even care that I never got to figure out what the fuck was going on with that hobo dragon sex-pest.
Verdict: Thank Fuck It’s Over
Well, that was quite the journey. My dreams of a franchise with as many good films as bad didn’t quite come to pass, but by my count, we have a classic, a good one, two that are fun and one that is at the very least interesting. In the grand scheme of things, that ain’t too bad. Throw in eight films of Douglas Bradley being consistently brilliant, and Hellraiser was not the torture I was scared it would be. Sure, some of these fucking suck and I would never recommend you watch them, but if you pick and choose, you will have a delightfully kinky Halloween.
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