Hellraiser: Judgment

It wasn’t much more than two years ago that I finally bit the bullet and reviewed the entire HELLRAISER series. I’d always had an attachment to the four theatrical ones (HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II are still classics, HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is ridiculous, HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE is a mess with its hellbound heart in the right place) but had previously stayed the hell away from the DTV sequels (HELLRAISER: INFERNO (directed by Scott Derrickson), HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER, HELLRAISER: DEADER, HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD and HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS). That last one feels for all the world like they just had to shit something out by the end of the month to maintain the movie rights, and that’s what they came up with. Yet they’ve gone almost seven years without making a new one or a remake. Could it be that they finally decided to let it–

AH, FUCK. They made another one. And you know me, I’m a completist, I can’t be the guy who’s watched nine of the ten HELLRAISER movies. I had no choice but to watch this shit.

In many ways it’s the same shit. Same fucking Dimension Films minus one Weinstein brother on the credits. Same low budget, same no Clive Barker involvement, different guy who’s not Doug Bradley playing Pinhead. This one is directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who wrote REVELATIONS, which is by far the worst HELLRAISER, and that’s saying something. In his defense, he told Fangoria “I was devastated to not be able to direct REVELATIONS and to see the script whittled down and shot in a way that I would not have done.” He’s not some Johnny-come-lately to the series – as a makeup artist he’s worked on parts III-8, as well as on the authentic Clive Barker movies CANDYMAN and LORD OF ILLUSIONS. In addition to writer/director, here he gets the credit “Special Make Up, Costume Characters and Key Props Designed and Created by Gary J. Tunnicliffe and Mike Jay Regan.”

And, to be sure, this is a much better movie than REVELATIONS, a more worthy extension of Barker’s universe, and a better guy trying to be Pinhead (Paul T. Taylor looks and sounds more like regal Doug Bradley than the last guy). The pre-credits sequence alone has more sicko imagination than any of the other DTV sequels. There’s a new set of characters who are sort of the legal system working beneath the Cenobites. The Auditor (played by Tunnicliffe himself) is an effectively weird character who interrogates a captured child murderer and types up a report on his sins.

By the seven minute mark we’re already seeing The Assessor (FEAST director John Gulager in a dirty sport coat with no shirt underneath) pouring children’s tears (!) on the report, eating it…

…and puking it into a funnel that pours into a trough where a “jury” of topless women with skinless faces put their hands in the puke and declare the defendant guilty.

You know. That kind of movie.

I’m thinking okay, well the filmatism is on the cheesy side. Barker made his first masterpiece for only a million dollars, but that was when you still got to use film, and anyway most people don’t have the artistic eye he had. Barker was a fringe theater maniac, painter and visionary author, this is a guy who directed HANSEL & GRETEL featuring Howie Mandel and Sinbad and JACK AND THE BEANSTALK featuring Gilbert Gottfried and Chevy Chase. But Tunnicliffe has come up with some genuinely bizarre stuff here, this is not at all a copy of what Barker did, but with a not-unrelated seediness. This is surprisingly good.

But then the plot starts. And god damn it, this is another cop movie that’s barely related to HELLRAISER and also doesn’t cut it as its own thing. When we meet the two detectives, troubled combat vet Sean Carter (not Jay-Z, and played by Damon Carney [THE LONE RANGER]) and prissy uptight David Carter (Randy Wayne, ANDROID COP) the very first line is the ultimate cop cliche: “You look like shit.” A scene or two later we have one of them coming home to his disappointed wife (Rheagan Wallace, SIX STRING SAMURAI, 7th Heaven) because he got too involved in the murder case and forgot her birthday. I guess I didn’t catch their names, because I didn’t understand until near the end that they’re not just partners, they’re brothers. That’s different, I guess.

They’re tracking a serial killer who calls himself the Preceptor and has been killing people in ways based on the ten commandments, which is totally different from SE7EN man I don’t even know what you’re talking about this is commandments not sins and it’s a different number of murders. A higher number. Any similarity is coincidence.

Obviously it lacks the style and grim execution of that other completely different movie, but it does have one thing over all other Fincher rip-offs: a part where the belly of a corpse starts moving because the killer sewed her dog up inside there.

Okay, that was impressively disgusting, but does any of this have anything to do with HELLRAISER? Well, it will later. Until then, enjoy the occasional part where it cuts to Pinhead and he leans back in his chair and smiles.

Eventually one of the officers is questioned by the Auditor and finds out about the puzzle boxes and at the very end there will be a traditional summoning of Pinhead and the chains and also a Chatterer appearance. Still no Engineer. When are they gonna figure out how to bring The Engineer back into this series? He’s still one of my favorite character actors.

The Engineer: still available. Please contact his agent.

But I guess if they can’t afford him I would settle for Kool Aid Man Cenobite.

I’m not sure where it’s supposed to take place, if anywhere. The auditing happens in an abandoned house with the address 55 Ludovico – i.e. the Cotton house where it all went down in parts I and II. Except that was in England and these are all Americans and I assumed it was L.A. But it was filmed in Oklahoma City.

I was excited to see Heather Langenkamp (TONYA & NANCY: THE INSIDE STORY)’s name on the opening credits, but it’s a tiny cameo as a landlady who opens an apartment door for the cops and then doesn’t even go inside with them. I think she’s only in a total of two shots, but I guess at least she gets to (briefly) play against type, being made up to be wrinkly and calling her tenants “cocksuckers.”

To the movie’s credit there is a drastically new twist on the mythology in that there is an angel character named Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald), who has power over Pinhead and is able to make him set people free. This adds new dynamics to the mythology and new imagery (Pinhead in a blinding white light, talking to a normal blonde lady in white leather jacket and pumps) but, like INFERNO, I think it also minimizes and lessens the scary exoticness of Barker’s Leviathan worshippers by turning them into another binary Christianity based thing – good and evil, Heaven and Hell, angels and demons. That’s just not as interesting, even if the movie is nose-thumbingly heretical by (SPOILER) having the angel protect a religion-inspired serial killer. It takes Barker’s stories about the lure of the taboo into SAW style moral superiority porn – high horse horror.

For the opening alone, though, I respect JUDGMENT’s ambitions more than most if not all of the other DTV HELLRAISERs. Also I respect that it’s only 81 minutes long. Thank you. Still, I do not think it’s a good movie. I believe Tunnicliffe is sincere about wanting to make a great HELLRAISER movie, and has better ideas than some, but next time you’re on the road to hell, take a closer look at the pavement and see what it’s made out of. If he is the guy to do it he would probly need a company that gives a shit backing him up. Pinhead actor Taylor admits in an interview with 1428 Elm that the company made it not out of love but out of wanting to maintain the rights. Apparently it sat on the shelf for a year and he speculates that it may never have been released if they weren’t in desperate need of money after the, uh, judgment of Harvey Weinstein.

I’m just some guy, nobody cares what I think, but they’d be doing me a huge favor if they either stopped making HELLRAISER movies altogether or handed them over to like a Blumhouse or even just some random dentist or real estate person or lottery winner who would undoubtedly apply more passion and taste to filmmaking than this godforsaken company ever has or will.

Dimension Films, I am auditing and assessing you, and I find you guilty of ruining everything.


p.s. Two shorts by Tunnicliffe: one about trying to redesign Pinhead for the proposed remake, and a TEXAS CHAIN SAW fan film

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 at 10:54 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.

32 Responses to “Hellraiser: Judgment”

  1. Due to Mardi Gras today is a holiday for me and I decided to watch this one with my new-found time-off. I already posted my thoughts in the REVELATION review (didn’t know you were going to review it so soon). I think you’re being too kind, this one really isn’t all that much better than the other DTV ones. Is it a directive from Dimension to keep making these morality/detective tales? Seems they don’t care enough to push any narrative choices. No clue how you can watch the two Barker ones and come away with the opinion that it’s a typical Christian moral tale and I have even less of a clue how you can spend all this time to ruminate on why no one likes the DTV ones and then STILL try to keep making that movie. Yeah this thing is absolutely terrible.

  2. You guys are way braver than me. I tapped out after PART ALAN SMITHEE.

  3. I held out for years and years without watching any of the sequels past PART HELL ON EARTH (the HELLRAISER movie not the DOOM II video game) until last October where I decided the year’s October theme would be sequels I didn’t see. I regret many, many things in my life…

  4. Watching that video of his attempt to re-design pinhead back in 2008, I can’t help but notice the similarities between the curved grid on his “re-imagined” Pinhead and Tunnicliffe’s own makeup in this new one. Nice that he finally got to use it, after so much soul-searching about whether it was a good idea. (Also, I cant help but find it kind of hilarious how he keeps stressing what a radically different direction the new concept is, while slightly altering the grid pattern and the kind of nails used). As much as you hate to see directors phone it in on these sequels, it’s almost worse to see someone who really does kind of seem to care end up with something kind of lame.

  5. Majestyk, I can confirm that no director since Smithee has matched his achievements in the series.

  6. Having marathoned the entire series a couple of years ago, I feel like I’m obligated to watch this one, if only to get the taste of REVELATIONS out of my mouth. I kind of liked Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s HELLRAISER fan film NO MORE SOULS, which was at least closer to a real HELLRAISER film instead of a generic DTV supernatural-thriller script where Doug Bradley shows up for a handful of scenes. After working in the makeup trenches for so long I’m glad he got a chance to put his stamp on the series, even if it didn’t turn out great. At least Paul T. Taylor makes a better looking Pinhead than that Bobby-Moynihan-looking motherfucker from REVELATIONS.

  7. Also, if you guys are jonesin’ for some of that old HELLRAISER fucked up magic, you ought take a look at the 2015 Turkish BASKIN. It’s pretty much what would happen if Rob Zombie was Turkish and he rebooted HELLRAISER. Crazy and profane and super cool to look at, and I guarantee it cost even less than HELLRAISER: JUDGEMENT. (my review is below)


    Baskin (2015) Dir Can Evrenol Written by Can Evrenol, Cem Özüduru, Erçin Sadıkoğlu, Eren Akay Starring Mehmet Cerrahoğlu, Ergun K...

  8. emteem/Michael Mayket

    February 13th, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    I haven’t seen any of them since the one with Terry Farrell, but I’ve read all of Vern’s reviews at least twice so I feel like I’m caught up.

  9. I tapped out of HELLRAISER some time ago. But the trailer for this one has me really curious, giving me the urge to catch up…

    I guessing all the cool stuff in the trailer is from that first few minutes Vern described. Shame…I think we are all hoping for someone to UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION this motherfucker.

    In somewhat related news…I found the two recent Chuckies (CURSE OF and CULT OF) to be excellent. Seeing some debate on some horror facebook groups I am on shows me not everyone feels this way…but they were pretty darn cool and fun. Everything an odd belated sequel should be…going in a cool and interesting new direction, without negating any of the continuity of the original series. Not sure if Vern reviewed these or not…but they get a whopping thumbs up from me.

  10. I kinda wanna check out his JACK & THE BEANSTALK movie, because of this IMDb trivia:

    “Gary J. Tunnicliffe wanted to use his knowledge and love of martial arts to create an amazing fight sequence in the movie, but knew that to do this, and still maintain a G-rating, might be hard. To solve the problem, he created a two and a half minute “Ninja Pillow Fight”, and called upon some of his industry friends (who can only be described as a group of Martial Arts and Stunt Masters and Legends) to choreograph and perform the sequence. ”

    Or maybe I just check if that scene is on YouTube.

  11. CJ: I dunno, mate. Seems pretty painful.

  12. I’ve always been curious about his HANSEL & GRETEL after years of seeing it in $5 and under bins. The creatures look pretty funny.

    And I saw WITHIN THE ROCK back in the day. Don’t remember it, but vaguly remember the monsters looking cool.

  13. Yeah, that’s more or less what I expected, although I was of course hoping for something more mindblowing, with the pillow feathers being used like the leafs in that one scene in HERO. But this scene makes you appreciate Ronny Yu’s Kangaroo movie even more IMO.

  14. I’m honestly surprised they are still making these (although I shouldn’t be, they do seem to be cashing in inthe good name of the first).

    I do think that a film version of The Scarlet Gospels could work well, but as Vern pointed out, you’d need a the background no of a team of people who actually cared (not to mention a fairly hefty budget).

  15. Seeing as we’ve already had HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER and HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD as sequels, how about this for the next one: HELLRAISER: HELLRAZER. Just throwing that out there.

  16. I hadn’t read any Barker in a long time when I read SCARLET GOSPELS, so when I found nearly every sentence and unending slog of pointless, meandering description of the indescribable, at first I thought Barker had just lost it. Then a couple months later I reread IMAJICA, which I loved so much when I was 15 that I ripped it off for my own fantasy parody adventure novel, and found that I hated that, too, and for the same reasons. I think maybe my aesthetic principles have evolved/calcified to the point where I see Barker’s baroque prose as self-indulgence that is devastating to any sense of narrative momentum. I still like his early stuff because it comes off more precocious than pretentious but it’s seeming more and more like anything after WEAVEWORLD is just a waste of my time.

  17. To go a step further, here’s why I think Barker’s extravagantly descriptive style is self-defeating. You want to describe something otherworldly and unknowable, right? So you start with a few broad strokes. Size, color, shape, a few striking adjectives to give an impression of its emotional effect on the characters. The reader starts to formulate a vague image in his/her own mind. Then you throw in some specifics that are important to the behavior or impact of the thing to anchor that vague impression with some concrete details. The image in the reader’s mind has now soldified. This happens instantly. The smart writer would stop here, realizing not only that the image in the reader’s mind is far more powerful than anything you could come up with, but that any further description on your part will only complicate that reader-generated image and make feel LESS concrete, LESS vivid, LESS real. That image is now a jumble of dots the brain doesn’t know how to connect anymore, and while it tries, the flow of the story is lost. I feel like it’s crucial for a writer to leave a little room in every description for the reader to fill in with their own imagination/subconscious, but Barker is intent on sucking up all the air in every single paragraph. He does not trust you to see what he imagines so he takes the joy of imagining away from you.

    TL;DR: Barker’s style is like somebody explaining a joke to you after you’ve already gotten the punchline, thus making it less funny.

  18. Certainly the worst part of At The Mountains of Madness is that the narrative basically has no choice but to describe the “Elder Ones” in somewhat exacting detail. This was not Lovecraft’s strength. The Elder Ones look, basically, like fat palm trees with wings.

  19. Lovecraft couldn’t describe the lunch he just ate without breaking out the thesaurus. I got respect for his influence on horror but for me the only scary thing about his work is his prose style.

  20. Man, I am just laying waste to writers whose work has touched millions more than mine ever will, aren’t I? Though I doubt I’ll ever conceive of an idea that penetrates our culture as deeply as the Cthulu Mythos, I also know I’ll never write a sentence like “Then one very ancient zoog recalled a thing unheard-of by the others; and said that in Ulthar, beyond the river Skai, there still lingered the last copy of those inconceivably old Pnakotic Manuscripts made by waking men in forgotten boreal kingdoms and borne into the land of dreams when the hairy cannibal Gnophkehs overcame many-templed Olathoë and slew all the heroes of the land of Lomar” so I think it evens out.

  21. The prose is not great (Dan Prestwich likes to point out that he couldn’t write a sentence without first creating a bookend story about a dying sailor who met a antiquarian who tells him about a mad lawyer in Boston who had a book and the sentence was in that book) but at least Lovecraft generally knew to use his obtuse prose to disguise the unnameable horror he was discussing, rather than clearly describe how it looked. When he didn’t, the results are usually, uh, uninspiring (Cthulu being a happy exception).

    While I’d never argue that Lovecraft was exactly a good writer, though, I thing his turgid style fits his temperament, and helps give his stories a stodgy, mythological feel, which works to their benefit more often than not. Barker was just a bad writer, unfortunately. His ideas are great, though, and that is enough to make reading him worthwhile.

  22. I read Barker’s short story “In the Hills, the Cities” in a weird fiction collection and it was just fantastic. Blew my mind. So I got the Books of Blood out of the library, but couldn’t get much further than “Midnight Meat Train.” It could be that his descriptions of dissected bodies just feel like a lot of bad chest-beating ’90s DTV horror now, but there was something in his prioritizing of shock that just seemed immature and sort of dumb. I don’t mind purple prose in some situations, and I think his story concepts can be really good. MMT, Hellraiser and Lord of Illusions all work as movies for me.

  23. Oh, go fuck yourselves.

  24. Waiting for the superior overseas HELLRAISER: HELSINKI remake.

  25. I read somewhere that Langekamp’s involvement was her VFX company handling the effects work on this. I guess they were wrong. Good to hear it’s at least a step up from REVELATIONS. I still cross my fingers hoping that in some similar to Cameron and The Terminator twist of fate that Barker somehow gets his hands back on the franchise rights someday.

  26. Clive Barker is an author I’ve been meaning to read for years and years but never can seem to find the time for.

    So I wish I could add some input but alas.

    A big part of the problem is there’s no clear starting point, with Stephen King it’s The Shining, but Hellraiser was a short story, not a novel, so where do you begin with one of his novels?

  27. Shoot, Griff, I gotta go with some of the others and steer you away from his novels. I’d go with The Books of Blood for sure, although they’re a mixed bag.

    I found his novels generally worsened over time, so if you want to try a novel I’m seconding the notion to go to Weaveworld. As already noted, his strength by far is a wild imagination. His weaknesses include the fact that his prose is, um, workmanlike at best, flowery and ridiculous at worst, and, for me at least, his plot machinations and endings usually leave me wanting.

    Having dropped all that negativity, I’m still looking forward to the fourth book in the Abarat “quintet,” some more recent novels where I think he manages to hold it all together, more or less. I don’t know that there will ever be a fourth, let alone a fifth, entry, though….

  28. As much as I would love to see Dimension just give it up already, I wouldn’t mind if they squoze out. Just. One. More. As long as they bring back Tunnicliffe and let him make it about an obvious Harvey Weinstein surrogate. 1) meta, 2) his story – with the debauchery and the perversion and the abuse of power – does lend itself to one of these crappy Hellraiser police procedurequels, 3) Tunnicliffe would definitely call out Weinstein for his butchery of martial arts movies. Harvraiser?

  29. Wait, no, Hellraiser: Dimensions

  30. Just saw this one. My judg(e)ment? Better than the last few, but that’s more a comment on how far the series has fallen rather than a mark of quality. The pre-credits scene is impressively weird, but the subsequent 45 minutes is a real slog. The live-dog-sewn-inside-of-woman scene made me think of HANNIBAL and how much more artfully that show did baroque horror. Here Tunnicliffe talks about his idea for a sequel, which delves even further into the politics of the afterlife and away from the Cenobites as freaky other-worldly pleasure/pain-seekers. But conceptually it’s more interesting than the SAW/SE7EN riff they’re doing here.

  31. Yesterday Dread Central posted an article talking saying the director of this one has an idea for this one. It was cute how Dread Central said that, that was a good thing and they should let him do it.

  32. I am putting this comment here instead of HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS, because this is the new one, and it’ll get buried over there…

    I was just watching the movie HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT, a harrowing true life drama about homeless heroin addicts, similar in tone to KIDS, except probably even more harsh.

    Anyway, there is a scene where the main girl is zoning out on drug, as pretty gorey footage is playing on the tv. It cuts back and forth from her indifferent, drugged out eyes, to the grizzly footage. Anyway, the movie in question was HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS…and that fake Pinhead steps into frame, with his big doofus head, and I could just not stop laughing.

    There was no humor in HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT, not even irony or black humor. One of the bleakest movies I can think of. But that goofus Pinhead coming out of nowhere in the middle of this serious work, man…that was fucking funny!

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