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Quick Review: Hellraiser (2022)
Unlock Your Fears
The following is my review for the film Hellraiser. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
A young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.
One of my all-time favorite movies, much less horror movies, of all time is the 1987 film Hellraiser. An adaptation of The Hellbound Heart Clyde Barker novella, the movie launched an entire niche-horror franchise that touches on themes of sex, bondage, queerness, and the mythology of dark beings (Lead by the iconic character of “Pinhead”) in the same way a Lovecraft story would. The original’s first sequel is one I’m fond of (Though don’t quite love as much as other horror films from the time), but the rest of the lineup leaves much to be desired (No pun intended).
But when I learned we were going to get a Hulu-released reboot with a trans-actress (Jamie Clayton) in the role of “Pinhead”, I was excited to see how this new addition to the franchise would play out. And I came away a tad mixed, but generally feeling positive towards this one.
First for the good - if you’re a major fan of the franchise this movie pays tribute to it in spades. From the score that harkens all the way back to the original to the gory effects that don’t hold back, to the building up of the lore and mythology around the cenobites. The performances are all good, and I really bought the fear and sense of hopelessness the characters who “get off-ed” had whenever kills occurred. And Clayton does a great, spooky job as the lead villain. Its dark, its brooding, its frightening. and its uncomfortable like any good Hellraiser movie should be. This isn’t one of those mediocre to bad sequels for sure.
But it also isn’t the reboot it sells itself at either. If anything this feels more like a legacy sequel or just a plain old loose sequel more than a remake attempt. This is pretty much an entirely new story from what I’m aware of, and after the building up of new lore it doesn’t really add much after that. The characters all play certain types and their actions are either bafflingly stupid and obviously written just to progress certain story beats - or they’re boringly predictable in their actions and personal arcs. There’s an incredibly cheesy and predictable trope here in regard to “the human villain” that reeked of laziness in the writing. There’s also some major plot holes and script problems that aren’t resolved by the film’s end which is obviously leaving the door open for a potential direct sequel. And as good as Clayton is in her role as “Pinhead”, the special effects on the cenobites is kind of hit or miss versus the practical effects the original films achieved.
But I came away from this generally entertained even though its doesn’t come close to the second film or certainly the first. It isn’t going to suddenly bring new fans in the fold, it isn’t going to blow you away, it won’t be for everyone, but it does it job for what every Hellraiser fan expects from it, at the very least at the bare minimum that is. Its a box worth opening for horror fans, but there’s much better sights out there to show as well.