Best Hellraiser in 20 years: Hulu franchise reboot is decent, but subjectoutdated. If you missed classic slashers, you’ll love it. Rumors of a reboot of the famous franchise have been circulating for years. We talked about the movie, then the series. The participation of Clive Barker himself, the author of the story from which this story began, and the director of the first film, was mentioned.
But in the end, everything turned out to be much easier. Barker refused to cooperate. The new part was released immediately on the Hulu streaming service. It was shot by a not-so-famous, but sensible horror director David Bruckner, and the famous David S. Goyer worked on the script.
But something else is more important. As soon as the new film, which in the tradition of the current reboots was simply called Hellraiser, began to be advertised, the inevitable critical comments appeared on the network. Well, those same ones: “They will ruin the franchise again.”
This is partly due to the fact that Pinhead – the main villain – was played here by transgender actress Jamie Clayton. Partly – with the fact that the audience is already fed up with the endless sequels and restarts of the horror of the eighties.
To be honest, I laughed a little at such indignations. The thing is that I am a fan and, I will not be afraid of this word, even a connoisseur of Hellraiser. And during such conversations, I tried to remind each time that to date, not one or even four films have been released in this franchise … but ten!
Anyone who says that it will be bad or that the director will spoil something there must definitely watch the ninth part – the most terrible. Even the tenth was better. Because it doesn’t get worse!
Those rubber nails in Pinhead’s head, those amateur camera shots, that ridiculous makeup! Even Pinhead dancing for an hour and a half would have been more interesting to watch.
For reference: the ninth film has 2.7 points on IMDb, 3.0 on KinoPoisk, exactly zero positive reviews from critics and 6% from viewers on Rotten Tomatoes. And a budget of 300 thousand dollars. The tenth, which came out in 2018, has slightly better ratings (4.3 on IMDb) and a budget of 50,000 more.
This is just to give you an idea of the state Hellraiser has been in in recent years. You won’t remember without tears.
Hulu, shooting a new part, invested in the picture about 50 times more (okay, this is not much – only 14 million, but just compare).
Oh, yes: if you take the Hellraiser comics, then a woman has long been there in the role of Pinhead – Kirsty Cotton herself, the heroine of the first films. So the variety of images is also canon.
Therefore, I approached the new picture rather with positive expectations. And they were justified, but only in part. Bruckner made a decent reboot of the first film with an original script that doesn’t copy the classics.
This time the plot tells about Riley (Odessa Adlon) – a girl who is struggling with drug addiction. Her boyfriend invites her to rob an abandoned warehouse.
There, the couple, of course, discovers Lemarchand’s box (a puzzle that opens a portal to the world of evil). After that, Riley begins to see terrible monsters, and her brother immediately disappears.
It all has to do with the puzzle, as well as its previous owner, a mysterious occult collector who is shown in the opening scene.
In general, the plot of the film follows all the standards of slasher movies. The troubled protagonist loses loved ones and tries to figure out how to save herself from the curse.
Cenobites (if anyone doesn’t know – that’s what the franchise calls those ugly monsters that torture people) appear only briefly for the first hour, but in the finale the viewer is allowed to “admire” them. Cruelty is twisted to the maximum: here you can tear a person with chains, and close-ups, when a throat is pierced with a knitting needle, and a terrible mechanism built into the body.
Moreover, the make-up and effects are quite sensible: of course, the images of the Cenobites themselves are already outdated, but if they were greatly changed, recognition would be lost. Jamie Clayton is not trying to copy Doug Bradley, who played in most of the previous films, but he looks very worthy.
In general, it is unlikely that Pinhead has any kind of gender identity, so this choice of authors does not raise questions. But the gloomy reasoning of the villain about pain is set in the spirit of the best parts of the franchise.
And in general, the shooting, although not sparkling with elegance and originality, is simply pleasant: a lot of work in open areas, cool scenery for an expensive mansion (sorry, I still have flashbacks from the last films where everything was set in two rooms).
But, alas, everything is not so rosy. To be more precise, everything is too banal. Notable sequels and reboots of franchises like Halloween and Candyman reimagined the classics in some way.
And the new Hellraiser is the most standard slasher, as if it comes from the eighties. It has an absolutely predictable plot and there is not a single element for which the brain could cling. Even the very first film was much more original.
In addition, it is difficult for me to judge, but the feeling is that for new viewers there is somehow not enough information about the Cenobites, specifically Pinhead and this world in general. Everything is given in words, almost in passing.
The only thing is that they talk cool about the different transformations of the box here – in more detail than in any other part. Otherwise, the monsters remain too standard and faceless.
Of course, each film is best judged separately. But in this case, it is difficult for me to get rid of comparisons with the previous parts. And I can say with confidence that the new Hellraiser is the best thing that came out within the franchise in the last 20 years. After the fifth part, which was directed in 2000 by Scott Derrickson, it was more difficult and more embarrassing to watch new films every time.
So it’s easy for a reboot to compete with the absurdity that was filmed later. But, alas, the new film itself has not left the simplest structure of a banal slasher, which is most interesting to watch for nostalgic fans of the genre.
I first met Hellraiser when I was a child. Pirate studio EA was very fond of recording music videos and trailers on VHS tapes after the movies. I found the Hellraiser video on a Tom and Jerry cassette. I was surprised, I must say, then notably.
Well, then someone brought us a VHS with three films from the series. My favorite, of course, is the first one – based on a book by Barker, a splatterpunk classic. The next few parts were also wonderful, but then the series, so rich in secrets and interesting characters, went into total trash.
And now it’s finally been relaunched on Hulu, and it’s being directed by David Brooker, who previously directed the excellent Ritual. Of course, I had fears that the story about the cenobites, the lords of pain and pleasure, would not work out again.
The main thing in the film is, of course, the Cenobites themselves, who come to everyone who plays with Lemarchand’s box. Remember that big guy with the black glasses? He was not included in the new film. The authors seem to have decided to put pressure on the sick sexuality of the Cenobites: with this approach, the Pinhead woman looks very profitable.
The “guy” with bruxism was transferred to the new part, having updated the design, there was a place for a lady with fishing lines. Other cenobites, looking no less impressive, seem to have never shone anywhere before. Each “hell’s angel” is superbly designed, made up and dressed. The authors clearly understood what was most important for Hellraiser.
After naturalistic violence, of course, and chains with hooks. Violence, however, is not so much, but every time you are surprised in a good sick ingenuity of the authors.
The lore has also been changed a bit: now Lemarchand’s box hurts the one who decides to collect it. But a hole in the hand is half the trouble, because the cenobites come after the poor fellow, subtly execute him and send him to hell. Now the box is not a cube, but a complex puzzle (I can’t even imagine how the authors calculated the movement of its elements), which is saturated with blood.
If a certain number of people die, then the survivor can choose one of several wishes. And this is definitely a good find, which structures the plot well and shows the Cenobites as quite honest creatures. But these desires, of course, are not quite the same as the survivor expects.
Hell here is not Christian – it is an endless labyrinth of pain and suffering, and its god … however, you will see for yourself. The authors, of course, left a lot of things unsaid and did not show, and this is wonderful. The aura of mystery must be preserved. For the future, at least.
There are almost no screamers in the film: the cenobites simply come from the edges of space and slowly follow their victims. And this approach scares much better – this is the inevitability of execution. Where are they in a hurry and why? They have all eternity in store.
Otherwise, the new Hellraiser is a typical slasher in which young people take turns dying. In this regard, the film, of course, loses to the original, which told about … strange love, but then it clearly has a better chance of finding an audience.
And it’s not at all about the slasher, but about how the authors show the “angels of hell” and in what interesting situations they put their victims. I really hope that this movie is just the beginning of a large series of films, and maybe games.
May everything be fine with the Cenobites, these guys definitely deserve a long and happy life. Check out the new Hellraiser – it’s an ingenious reimagining and just a great slasher. Clive Barker’s original ideas have been creatively rethought with input from Clive Barker himself.