I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Hellraiser: Hellseeker

tn_h6So here I am on part six. Of nine. Two thirds of the way through the HELLRAISER saga. But that’s only two fifths of the way into the ones I haven’t seen. The DTV ones. The difficult ones. And the God’s honest truth is that spirits are low. Morale is low. Quality is low. Every reasonable part of my brain tells me to turn back. But I won’t do that – I can’t do that – because if I give in now then I’ve come all this way for nothing. I’ll have put myself through all this just to be able to say “I’ve seen most of the HELLRAISER movies.” Not even most of the DTV ones.

That’s not me. No retreat no surrender. I’ve come too far. I’m not a quitter. Did Frank give up and quit? No, he went all the way to Morocco to find that box, and he got it, and he solved it. Maybe that’s a bad example.

By the time this one comes out it is 2002. Alot of important horror business started in 2002: the American popularity of J-horror (remake of THE RING while JU-ON and DARK WATER are released), the short trend of fast zombies (28 DAYS LATER), the endless RESIDENT EVIL series, Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS), Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER), Lucky McKee (MAY), and most importantly it was the year of BLADE II. The closest comparison to HELLSEEKER I guess would be HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, the 8th, last, and worst of a series started in 1978. But that was a theatrical release.

(DTV horror sequels that had come out since HELLRAISER: INFERNO:

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER, CHILDREN OF THE CORN REVELATION, MIMIC 2, AMERICAN PSYCHO 2.)

HELLSEEKER is the first since part II (and the only DTV one) to bring back Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton, stepdaughter of Julia, niece of Frank and Final Girl of the two good HELLRAISER movies. Now she’s married to Trevor (Dean Winters, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 30 Rock, insurance ads) and they’re driving somewhere but they suddenly plummet off a bridge, and Kirsty doesn’t escape. Well, thanks for coming back, anyway.

Trevor has a brain injury. In a graphic open-skull scene he gets surgery that has something to do with the pain and pleasure centers of the brain or whatever. Winters spends a good portion of the movie clutching his temples or the bridge of his nose and groaning in agony. This usually happens after some weird shit happens but then it turns out it was a dream or an imagination or whatever. SPOOOKY.

mp_h6It kind of seems like director Rick Bota didn’t remember much about Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER movies but has seen Scott Derrickson’s INFERNO real recently and figures that must be what it’s supposed to be like. So it’s another movie where the protagonist is a sinner going through a JACOB’S LADDER type endless confusing nightmare, partly in punishment for infidelity. He sees gory imagery (including occasional Cenobites), he talks to people who he’s later told don’t exist, he also keeps being connected to murders that increasingly seem to be his doing. And everybody besides maybe lead Detective Lange (William S. Taylor, THE FLY II, DEAD BANG, Johnny Cochran in MAN IN THE MIRROR: THE MICHAEL JACKSON STORY) believe that he faked the accident to kill Kirsty and get her “sizable inheritance” from when her dad and uncle “died under mysterious circumstances.”

Trevor isn’t as immediately hate-able as the bad cop protagonist of INFERNO, but he has one cliche in common: he can’t stop cheating on his wife. He doesn’t seem to remember what’s going on, but multiple women throw themselves at him, wanting to be tied up and shit. At least one of them seems to be a hallucination, though. She’s his neighbor who shows up right after he sees her topless through her window and gives her this awkward wave:

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The wave of “oh geez, your boobs are hanging out, aren’t they? Ever since I took those figure drawing classes I don’t even notice nudity anymore” casualness. Also, “This is my wedding ring, I am married, I don’t see other women, you are safe.”

So she comes over and jumps on him, but later he goes and knocks on her door and she doesn’t seem to think she has previously spoken to him.

It takes a while, but he does see Pinhead while he’s getting some acupuncture. (Get it?) He’s laying there and Pinhead walks out of a pressure points chart, pulls a nail out of his head (it’s really long) and stabs it all the way through Trevor’s throat. BUT THEN IT TURNS OUT NOT TO BE REAL. HELLRAISER HELLSEEKER, YOU HUSTLIN SONOFABITCH, YOU ARE BLOWING MY GOD DAMN MIND.

There are occasional moments of inspiration. I like the part where Trevor is sitting in the detective’s office and he hears a guy screaming, looks over and sees some cops are just clubbing the hell out of a guy right there in the office, nobody seeming to care.

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Then as he’s being taken down a hallway he goes past a guy being electrocuted.

But “it wasn’t meant to be a social commentary,” explains director Bota on the commentary track. Yes, there is a commentary track, and yes I listened to it.

Another part I kinda got a kick out of was where Lange and Detective Givens (Michael Rogers, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW), after playing good cop/bad cop for the whole movie, actually become a two-headed monster:

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It seems more like a Freddy gag than a HELLRAISER one, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

After a while Trevor starts to remember different things (Kirsty is seen in flashbacks) and piece together that he really (SPOILER) is the bad guy. And had a Lament Configuration, which he gave to Kirsty as a gift. Major faux pas. Never give a Final Girl her slasher’s trademark horror object as a gift. Everybody knows that.

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And I don’t blame her for not faking like she likes it. Etiquette is out the window at this point.

Finally at the end Pinhead shows up, in sort of the way he did in the original movie, and confronts Trevor about what’s going on. He talks about greed and lust, sounding judgmental like in INFERNO, like he’s a tough love angel there to enforce morality, instead of a magic torturer who doesn’t really give a shit about you unless you waste his time by showing up and then not wanting to be ripped apart with hooks and shit. But thankfully he says that Trevor’s sins are “mundane” and then he reveals that (spoiler) he’s actually been using his chump ass just to get to Kirsty.

Suddenly Kirsty is standing there face to face with Pinhead and for a second it’s exciting to have the heroine of parts 1 and 2 back in action. But then you find out (spoiler) that she made another deal with Pinhead, which was to bring him five souls in trade for her own. So that nice girl who we rooted for in the real HELLRAISER movies, who literally went to hell and back and overcame her despicable stepmother and uncle and doctor and escaped the grasp of the Cenobites and their god Leviathan… she grew up to murder her husband and his friend and his three mistresses. How fun!

Who wanted to do that? The credited writers? If so that would be Carl V. Dupre (DETROIT ROCK CITY, THE PROPHECY 3) and Tim Day (HELLRAISER: DEADER). It actually could’ve been worse, though. On that commentary track Bota mentions that the actress who plays Trevor’s co-worker who he’s fucking had read for Kirsty, because they didn’t know until the last minute if Ashley Laurence would be willing to do it. So they were prepared to turn HELLRAISER’s heroine into a multiple murderer even if they couldn’t get the same actress.

I will give HELLSEEKER this. The very end is kind of cool. Detective Lange seems to believe Kirsty’s story that her husband committed the murders and then killed himself. She seems to be free and then hey, one more thing. He found the puzzle box in the car, does she remember what it is? She says (and this is true) that it was her anniversary gift. So he lets her take it “to remember him by.” He looks a little devious about it, but you don’t know if he really understands what happened and is giving her the box to mess with her, or if he’s one of the people tasked with moving the box around (and is liable to turn into a skeletal dragon at any moment) or – my favorite – he has no clue, but it’s Kirsty’s fate that she just can’t get rid of the fucking thing.

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But “We sorta did this as a set up for a future HELLRAISER, purposely,” Bota says. So it’s not that Kirsty can’t get away clean after murdering five people. It’s that we can’t get away clean after watching six HELLRAISER movies.

Well, let’s stay positive. Maybe the next director will figure out how to make these work. Let me check who directed the next one.

Oh. Same guy did the next one. And the one after that.

Hm.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 at 10:51 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “Hellraiser: Hellseeker”

  1. There’s something I think really interesting about Barker’s sense of morality. The Hellraiser symbolism gets co-opted really easily I think into this sort of super, neo-gothic nihilism, but that’s not really the thing about Barker — Barker’s ethic is really a profoundly anti-institutional morality (also something that seems quintessentially 80s to me, and especially quintessentially “Gay man living in England during the reign of Margaret Thatcher”, see also the similarly-named-but-definitely-legally-distinct comic HellBLAZer) that’s also deeply tied up with ideas about BDSM and liberated sexuality.

    It’s fascinating to watch how (in my opinion) much less intelligent successors flail about with the material, where for the most part they take the BDSM-bondage horror aesthetic and apply it to substantially less complex, regular-old horror-morality tales.

  2. caruso_stalker217

    October 20th, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I can’t remember, because I hated this fucking movie, but did Pinhead try to renege on the deal they made? That sounds like his M.O. but I seem to remember that he totally stuck to the whole five souls plan and honored the deal.

    Kirsty is a major piece of shit.

  3. I can imagine that Pinhead might enjoy how his arch-enemy (if you wanna call her that) dropped that low. And I can imagine that Kristy became like that due to the trauma of the first two movies and how it all happened because she couldn’t trust her family. So at one point she was just “Fuck that. Even my husband betrays me, so I make his death as awful as possible, no matter at what cost.”

    But that’s just me, trying to make sense out of a nonsensical movie. I guess the truth is: Nobody who worked on that movie had a clue.

  4. Hilarious review. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the Hellraiser sequels here and there, but never knew that this one even existed. After 3 they all feel like the
    same long, murky, boring flick, especially with those stupid subtitles. So Cenobites don’t use numbers?!
    Anyway, keep up the good work for us sinners out there.

  5. This is a dull, terrible movie, but I have to admit there’s something kinda interesting in the TOTAL-RECALL esque idea that Dean Winter loses his memory and gets to find out secondhand that he’s a total asshole. He seems really bummed out, it turns out his amnesia personality is way nicer and is really disappointed in his normal self. That’s kinda an interesting moral wrinkle, someday I hope a real movie includes it.

    Sorry to say this, but Part VII is a virtual remake of this one, which is basically a remake of V. So strap in, Pinhead is not nearly finished with his time as a life coach.

    (my take on it, for the curious:)

  6. Hang in there, Vern. You’re doing good work.

  7. (As always.)

  8. The Original Paul

    October 20th, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I don’t echo TGD’s comments. Vern, you’ve suffered enough. Let this one go.

    I’ve only seen the first HELLRAISER, and the transformation from the Kirsty of that movie to… what you describe here… it’s almost difficult to mentally process. How could anybody think that would work?

    For some reason, probably because it’s very late and I’m tired, the thing that sticks with me from your review is that image of Pinhead taking a pin from his head and stabbing some guy in the throat with it. (Man, that’s too good an image to be wasted on a dream.) And it got me thinking… if you’re really intent on destroying the HELLRAISER legacy with this interpritation of it, why stop there? Why not have Pinhead appear in front of some guy, put his head down to torso level, and chaaaaarge? We’re talking straight-up impalement here. For added slapstick effect, you could always have Pinhead get stuck on the guy and have to shake him off. Not sure who it’d hurt more – Pinhead or his victim – but still… the laughs!

    So future DTV-HELLRAISER producers, if you’re reading this comment, take note: this is the kind of gem I’m bringing to you. (Although I probably won’t see your movie, so it might be wasted. Honestly, as intrigued as I am by #2 and its giant crystal worshippers, I think I’ll let the sequels pass me by.)

  9. I feel you pain, Vern. This October I finally decided to get through all five SAW movies (turns out there are actually seven). I really liked the first one when it came out, adored the second, and while the third one had some cool parts, I had no desire to continue SAWing after that ending. Every couple of years I thought I should check them out again, but never got around to it. But this year, since they are all streaming from one place or another, I resolved myself. I got through SAW IV before giving up. Yeah, I get it, he’s smarter than you, even after dying.

    What I’m saying is, life’s too short to waste your time on a series you have no hope for. Then again, I’m obsessed with watching all 72 of the original “Video Nasties”, which means having to endure the atrocious Naziploitation stuff, so I guess we all pick our battles.

  10. Zeke, consider SAW I-III as the Jigsaw arc. SAW IV to 3D is the “Detective Hoffman” arc (This is where the series takes a deep decline).

    SAW V in particular is a waste of your time. It’s a filler chapter that deals with some backstory on the new characters.

  11. I kind of love SAW IV, despite having pretty much hated it the first time I saw it. Whether through accident or design, it’s really audacious both in just how excessive it is (starting off with an extremely graphic autopsy scene just to find out Jigsaw hid a tape?) and in its confidence, to whit just how much interest and memory retention they apparently believed the average audience member had with regards to the events of SAW I-III. Plus, did it actually invent the mid-quell?

    Maybe it’s because I always thought the first, while entertaining, was really stupid, but I really got a kick out of the later SAWs at the time. It’s a franchise I have a real love/hate relationship with; pompous, formulaic, idiotic and downright amoral, whilst also being unique, innovative, novel and occasionally provocative. At any rate I miss them now that they’re gone; PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is no substitute.

    SAW 3-D was a let down even to me mind you; even more reason to bring it back!

  12. Also, an update for any UK HELLRAISER completists who don’t want to deal with buffering time; seems I was wrong about HELLRAISER VI-VIII not being released in the UK, they were, but not until 2012 when they were all dumped onto the market at once. REVELATIONS is still M.I.A. though.

  13. Anybody who could make it past SAW II gets points from me for having more patience and tolerance than myself because I felt that SAW II was a piece of pure unadulterated garbage.

  14. “it turns out his amnesia personality is way nicer and is really disappointed in his normal self. That’s kinda an interesting moral wrinkle, someday I hope a real movie includes it.”

    That Hal Hartley movie Amateur has exactly that plot-line.

  15. As for this movie man I completely blanked out that I’ve actually seen it. I think part of it was because of the whole “in the end Kirsty is just as sadistic and warped as her uncle and stepmom were” conceit and how gut wrenchingly stupid it all seemed to me at the time. The only good thing about it was finding out that she was still as cute as she was back in the late 80’s.

  16. Doesn’t UNISOL: DAY OF RECKONING deal with that amnesia angle? He wakes up, thinks he’s a normal family man, finds out he’s the kind of guy who cheats on his wife with strippers and turns dudes into paraplegics with his bare hands.

    Of course there’s more to the story than that but I still think John Hyams could make a great HELLRAISER movie. Which was my original point in my opinion.

  17. jojo — never seen it, I’ll have to check it out. I’m guessing it’s better than HELLRAISER 6: HELLSEEKER?

    On the subject of auteurs making Hellraiser movies, remember when Pascal Laugier was attached to the Hellraiser remake? It doesn’t need to be remade, of course, but if we’re just talking Hellraiser-themed horror movie, I thought that was an inspired choice.

  18. Hang on, doesn’t remember his crimes? Soul gets taken? Isn’t that Angel Heart?

    I think Original Paul’s idea of Pinhead charging people is very funny, specifically if he tells Chaaaarge when he does it.

    Hey, it would be weird if Pinhead’s pins grew like hair and he had to go to a Cenobite barber to trim them down. Or just let them grow out. They can use that idea for amy future reboot if they like.

  19. AnimalRamirez1976

    October 21st, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Wow, I sure hope that people have a new appreciation for INFERNO after this boring piece of shit. I honestly think all the HELLRAISERS had something redeeming and interesting about them. Until this one. The production values are so cheap, even for DTV, that I wonder why they bothered. There is no atmosphere in this film. For a horror film that is death. But hey, at least they had a totally boring plot and a dull protagonist that apparently has no goal or want. That twist at the end was a total FU to the whole HELLRAISER series.

  20. Well. at least it is not found footage. Christ…

  21. I´ve gotta be honest, guys. I am NOT looking forward seeing part 7-9.

  22. Give up now! No one will think less of you! Think of those you’ll leave behind!

  23. Just finished it, agree with Mr. S that it is more interesting than INFERNO (defiantly less boring) but what really got me with the office setting is how much it kept making me think of that PHANTASMAGORIA 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH video game for computers back in the ’90s. After watching this one I can safely say that I was right in never wanting to see it adapted.

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