"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Hellraiser (2022)

HELLRAISER (2022) is the new straight-to-Hulu HELLRAISER movie. It’s a genuine, bonafide reboot, by the original definition of the term – it doesn’t seem to work as a sequel, but it’s certainly not a remake, it’s just starting over, I guess. And it’s certainly a new start in that it’s getting more attention and being treated more like a real, existing movie than the DTV sequels that came out in 2018, 2011, 2005, 2002 and 2000. That’s partly because it’s a polished, well-directed movie with plenty of production value, and it was intentionally written to be the new HELLRAISER. Much of the series, as you may know, was just a perpetual rights retention machine – the Weinsteins ramming Pinhead into an unrelated horror script and dumping one out so they could retain the rights to dump another one out to retain the rights further down the road. Now, at last, the rights have escaped Miramax Hell and are sheltering at Spyglass Media Group (who also got SCREAM and SPY KIDS. There must’ve been a sale).

Sort of in the tradition of the excellent EVIL DEAD remake, the heroine of this HELLRAISER, Riley (Odessa A’zion, LET’S SCARE JULIE), is an addict in recovery. So this supernatural business is some unnecessary stress on her at a bad time, and also she’s not somebody people believe when she tells them she saw some weird shit. Maybe this is starting to become more standard in modern horror, but I like that the heroines are allowed to be a mess and still very likable and easy to root for. She’s trying to kick drugs but she’s not totally successful yet, and she’s funny and relatably stubborn and I immediately liked her. It used to be if somebody used drugs in a horror movie they were definitely gonna die, likely in a funny way, at best in a tragic way (like Taryn in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS). These days the genre’s not as judgmental.

Riley has a vaguely weasely new boyfriend named Trevor (Drew Starkey, THE HATE U GIVE – never stopped reminding me of Sam Rockwell) who her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn, LOOKS THAT KILL) disapproves of because a good boyfriend would know not to risk someone’s sobriety by dating them while they’re still in a 12 step program. For now she’s staying with Matt and his boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison, DAPHNE & VELMA) and their other roommate Nora (Aoife Hinds, THE COMMUTER).

Also there’s a famous billionaire pervert guy called Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic, ELEKTRA) trying to get a hold of the famous HELLRAISER puzzle box formerly known as the Lament Configuration or the Lamarchand Cube. I’m pretty sure Voight is supposed to be kind of a Jeffrey Epstein type, though the movie seems to have more sympathy for his lawyer/accomplice Menaker (Hiam Abbass, MUNICH, THE LIMITS OF CONTROL, BLADE RUNNER 2049) than most people do for Ghislaine Maxwell. Voight’s thing seems to be luring in young men to sacrifice to the box in trade for the Cenobites (a term he uses in a journal) giving him what he thinks will be ultimate pleasure.

That was six years ago. The estate is now locked up, Voight is presumed dead, and Riley doesn’t know about any of that shit. But Trevor convinces her they should steal this mysterious shipment he once made for some rich guy that seems to have been abandoned in a warehouse. It is, of course, the box, and she starts playing with it.

Of the eleven HELLRAISER movies this is definitely the one with the most puzzle action. They do a great job of making every weird little click and whirr sound appealing. If you didn’t know you were in a horror movie you would definitely want to mess around with this thing. More than previous versions, the box folds out and expands into different shapes, surely impossible but seeming to make sense. Rather than having a simple solution that summons the Cenobites or shoots hooks and chains at you, it has several different “configurations” – “lament configuration” being only one of them – with different names and meanings. And also it has blades that can pop out and if they draw your blood then you’ve made a contract with Hell.

This time Hell is represented by “The Priest” according to the credits – the character called “Lead Cenobite” on the original credits, but “Pinhead” to the layman – played by Jamie Clayton (Sense8, THE NEON DEMON). She is the fourth actor to play the character and the first since Doug Bradley to look cool. She doesn’t mimic Bradley, she has her own take, and though I personally prefer his dispassionate version (this Priest betrays more enjoyment of tormenting people) this is the first time I’ve accepted a new variation on Pinhead. She’s very effective.

The cinematography (by Eli Born, WILD INDIAN) is the kind that’s controversial right now, because it’s very dark. For me it works – this is the best set of Cenobites since the first batch, and it’s creepy as fuck to glimpse them emerging from darkness as your eyes refocus on them. For the most part I don’t know which is which, but Jason Liles (DEATH NOTE) is the new version of The Chatterer and others are played by Yinka Olorunnife (one episode of the Transporter TV show), Selina Lo (THE DEBT COLLECTOR, BOSS LEVEL), Zachary Hing (one episode of the Halo TV show), and Vukasin Jovanovic. They have various ornate skin mutilations, some make creepy wheezing noises like human iron lungs, one has hands that split open like scissors.

The credits and some articles claim this is a re-adaptation of Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, but that’s just not true, it’s not that story at all. After Riley and Matt have a fight, Matt ends up finding her passed out on a playground with the box, and it cuts him. He goes into a public restroom to clean his wound, and does not come out. So the story is about Riley searching for her brother, figuring out what’s up, and trying to make a deal with Pinhead. They all end up at the abandoned Voight estate, which seems to be built as a sort of puzzle itself, with lots of buttons that open and close secret gates and doors.

I didn’t review director David Bruckner’s last movie THE NIGHT HOUSE, but I liked it – Rebecca Hall is great in the lead, it’s so organically a horror movie “about grief” that it makes other ones on the topic seem like a joke, and it has an obsession with architecture that seems very much in line with the world of HELLRAISER. In fact, Bruckner says the idea partly came out of his rejected pitch for a previous attempt at a new HELLRAISER.

Now that he’s finally made one it unfortunately seems a little more of a standard genre template than THE NIGHT HOUSE. Not at first, but then it turns into some young people in a scary mansion trying to keep the monsters out. The script is credited to Ben Collins & Luke Piotrowski (SUPER DARK TIMES) with the screen story credited to those two plus David S. Goyer (DEATH WARRANT).

(I still think it’s funny that people get mad any time Goyer’s name came up even though the man has credits on DARK CITY, BLADE, and the DARK KNIGHT trilogy, plus two Van Damme movies and a bunch of other pretty good stuff. But he did some that weren’t so hot so people decided they hated him and that he couldn’t have possibly done the good part of the ones he only co-wrote. Shit, who cares, if the man only wrote BLADE and nothing else you should fucking salute him when he enters the room.)

Bruckner handles the Cenobites a little differently than the previous movies. Instead of just appearing inside your house surrounded by hanging chains and shit they actually show up outside of the mansion and stand out there threateningly. There is one part where a Cenobite runs. I don’t know about that part. Also, I’m a little iffy on Riley stabbing the Chatterer and having it count as one of the souls she owes Pinhead. One Weird Trick to Defeat the Cenobites. But at least it didn’t work the second time, and the first time Pinhead gave a look that I sort of read as “I’ll allow it.” Like, she knew it was a cheat but she thought it would be more interesting to watch it play out than just shut it down. (Also maybe Chatterer is terrible company and she was happy to be rid of him.)

At any rate, the Cenobites are certainly given more of an aura and more dignity than they were in, for example, the chapter that introduced us to CD Head, Camera Head and Kool Aid Man Cenobite. OH YEAH!

It definitely helps that composer Ben Lovett (MY SUPER PSYCHO SWEET 16) recognizes the importance of bringing back the original theme by Christopher Young. That goes a long way.

It’s not a Clive Barker movie without some weird shit in it, and there is some weird shit in here. The most inspired, I think, is when (weirdness spoiler?) Voight has a strange metal device going all the way through his body that seems to run some of his innards through it like a film strip. And my favorite bodily mutilation bit is when a needle pierces a throat and we see it from inside the throat. I was also happy to see an appearance by Leviathan, the geometric god of the Cenobites who originally appeared in HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II. On the other hand my boys the Engineer (weird hallway monster) and the Derelict (guy who eats crickets, distributes the puzzle box and turns into a skeletal demon at the end) are missing in action. I get it, I’m the only one who cares about that stuff, and it’s not a remake anyway. But modern special effects seem like a good reason to go hog wild with the weirder mythological shit they didn’t get to do much with. Seems like a waste not to.

Calling this just “HELLRAISER” is yes, trendy, but also risky. Looking at it as a sequel I’d say it’s easily the third best HELLRAISER. But if you’re looking at it as an alternative to HELLRAISER it doesn’t remotely cut it. And it’s weird to me that some people do accept it as a remake. In the tradition of Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, Pinhead and the other Cenobites are such a captivating image that people get hung up on them and forget that they’re only one element of what made the original great. Barker’s HELLRAISER is really not their story, it’s the story of Frank and Julia, the scumbag who escapes from Hell and his sister-in-law who he convinces to lure in men and bludgeon them with a hammer so he can suck up their blood and reconstitute himself from the inside out and once he has skin they can fuck again. And then it’s about Julia’s stepdaughter Kirsty, who gets caught up in it and makes a deal with Pinhead to bring Frank to him rather than go to Hell herself.

Voight is an okay villain, but he’s not Frank, and he’s definitely not Julia. So this is something different. What does really work is Riley, especially that (ENDING SPOILER THIS SENTENCE ONLY) she survives by facing that she can’t just magically change what has happened, she has to accept her massive fuck up and go on living anyway.

I watched this with two friends and we all liked it, but later we talked about what we thought was missing. We agreed that though this is gory and weird and graphic compared to many horror movies, it doesn’t have the full-on Clive Barker vibe where everything and everyone is perverted and gross in ways that you can’t even always put your finger on. As we talked I started to think that having most of the characters be likable – something that’s generally a good idea in horror – might actually be working against capturing that true Barker feeling. I mean, Kirsty in the original is an innocent, we root for her, but also we have Julia, so unhappy with her marriage, so horny for Frank, that she starts murdering dudes. The dudes she’s murdering (strangers who come to her house supposedly to fuck her), also gross. Frank is scary-gross before he even does anything. The filthy mattress he sleeps on, the sweaty shirtless candles and puzzle box ritual – you know this guy smells fucking musky well before wearing his brother’s skin. He’s such an asshole that it seems dishonorable when he tries to sneak out of Hell.

Barker portrays most humans as evil or weak. In part II Dr. Channard tricks a mental patient into slashing himself on the mattress so he can resurrect Julia, and she has no skin, so he wraps bandages around her and then makes out with her. In both RAWHEAD REX and NIGHTBREED people see monsters and immediately start worshipping them. In NIGHTBREED, a cop is seduced by a porcupine lady while on duty. etc. A HELLRAISER movie with mostly nice normal people (and one rich creep) feels a little off.

But that’s okay. Still a huge step up however you look at it. I just hope if they do another one they try to go even wilder than the original part II did. We want you to show us some motherfuckin sights, buddy.


P.S. How did I not guess that Odessa A’zion is Pamela Adlon’s daughter? The clues were all there.

P.P.S. My reviews of every HELLRAISER movie:

HELLRAISER
HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH
HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE
HELLRAISER: INFERNO
HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER
HELLRAISER: DEADER
HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD
HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS
HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2022 at 7:32 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.

19 Responses to “Hellraiser (2022)”

  1. Gotta check this one out.

    Vern, have you seen the Taiwanese zombie movie “The Sadness” yet? It´s really good, insanely bloody and gory. It was released last summer, and is available on streaming.

  2. I thought it was decent, as far as these on-the-nose new horrors go. I think the changes to the mythology make for a sturdier morality play type plot sturcture, but also I think that kinda misses the point of HELLRAISER in general. It became kind of a RINGU thing, didn’t it? Now the cube is just an evil curse that you need to pass on to someone else, not a doorway that, once opened, can never be shut again. I don’t like there being loopholes. Kristy trading Frank for herself was a one-time thing, because even Pinhead recognized that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she opened the cube and also he had a personal grievance against Frank so he’ll make an exception this time. Now it feels like the cube just opens on its own half the time and takes any random asshole in its vicinity. I think that takes away from the queasy allure of the original: You ASKED for this. Why don’t you want it anymore?

    I didn’t think the characters were as likable as Vern did, but I do agree that they’re just too fucking nice to be effective HELLRAISER characters. They have so little darkness in them that OG Pinhead wouldn’t even bother with them. They’re all Kristys, here by chance. None of them are even the slightest bit tempted by the cube, and that seems like a copout. (Also I think the addiction metaphor falls apart almost instantly.) They just become standard horror victims, which turns the cenobites into standard horror monsters. I don’t think they should be running around attacking people like zombies. That seems off-brand and undignified. Their victims come to them. They don’t have to chase them around a big spooky mansion like this is Scooby-Doo.

    Nu-Pinhead is alright. It’s a solidly otherworldly performance, but yeah, there’s just no beating that original design. They keep overdoing these things, throwing on bells and whistles and textures that just kind of distract from the simple iconography that made the originals so memorable. Nothing that can really be done about that, I guess. You can’t improve on perfection.

    But still: not bad. A few inspired gore moments, some creepy monsters, some interesting lore to hold your interest. It’s fine.

  3. Just not a David Bruckner fan. I thought the Night House was ultimately a good Rebecca Hall performance animating a super boring movie with a super-contrived plot. Afraid I’m going to give this one a miss.

  4. I liked it but didn’t love it. It’s definitely better than everything after Hellbound, but that’s really not saying much, is it?

    I thought the new Hellraiser was… OK? Nothing will compare with the original performance and look, so maybe we should just stop? Watching this one it occurred to me (not for the first time) how Doug Bradley’s Hell Priest/Pinhead is similar to Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger in that so much of the performance is what made them iconic that any replacement is going to feel off even if it’s good.

    I also was disappointed that this felt more like a slasher film by the end, which is sort of the trap the entire series fell into after part 2. In fact, I’ve always thought that the original title referred to Frank in the first movie. He was the Hellraiser who ended up raising what he asked for.

    While it seems the film makers on this have a lot of respect for the lore and whatnot, I feel that they didn’t capture any of that seediness that Vern mentions. The original just feels grimy, even long before you get to the cenobites. This one feels more like a typical horror film setup before you get to the cenobites… and you get to them way too soon.

    I am glad that Hellraiser is at least a decent watch this time around and enjoyed watching it as sort of a kick-off to spooky season but was left wanting a bit more. Not the worst, but not quite the return to the form of the first two movies which I was hoping for.

  5. Watched this last night/this morning. I don’t know what Vern’s talking about with this “everybody was likable” stuff. Most of them (brother, brother’s boyfriend, third-wheel girl) were nonentities, and then our two main characters, Riley and Trevor …well, she apparently came out of rehab as a toxic, selfish asshole, and they literally find the box while burglarizing a warehouse! If anybody should have survived this movie, it should have been Riley’s brother Matt, who was the most innocent and virtuous of them all — he really wanted to help his sister, who in my opinion didn’t really seem worth keeping around.

    I guess my nitpicky complaint about the Cenobites would be that the ones with exposed musculature, all skinned and whatnot, didn’t look …wet enough. They looked like they were made out of rubber or beef jerky, when they should have been all squelchy and gross (like Riley’s brother was in that one scene).

    Overall I would say yeah, it’s not as good as the original or Hellbound, but it’s better than anything else released under the Hellraiser name, so worth watching once at least.

  6. At my most generous I could only call it the fifth best, but maybe even less since it had more resources than the DTVs. Glad you liked it more. The Chaterer sacrifice really pissed me off because why they fuck would that work? I like your interpretation, but I can only imagine the filmmakers going “nobody will expect this! It’ll blow their minds!” Yeah we don’t expect it because it makes no sense, and I know I always say movies should make less sense but Hellraiser already established some rules so we’re invested in them.

    The other one that bothered me was when Nora was both in the van in real life but her soul was in hell with the cenobites. That’s also not how HELLRAISER works. This isn’t a Freddy dream. When you open the box the cenobites come to you. Clayton was great though.

    Bloodline4eva!

  7. Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me, burningambulance. They reuse the skinless image for Matt but… he’s just there. He’s not escaping from hell having to reform himself. He’s just skinless in one shot for a jump scare.

    Detroyt, love your interpretation of the title. Also agree with Maj the addiction theme falls apart.

  8. Okay, maybe Riley is the only one I like, but they are generally pretty nice people (save for one secret betrayer), they mostly like each other and only fight over important stuff, they are regular people with friends and roommates, who might be your neighbors or co-workers. They do not seek pleasure through arcane occult pathways to demonic S&M or bow at the feet of Baphomet or put on button eyed masks to murder people they think are filth. So, not really the type of weirdos that populate most of Barker’s worlds, is the point I’m trying to make.

  9. I liked it – it’s a good horror movie – but, as so many have said, not as a Hellraiser movie. It’s just too tame, too normal (which sounds crazy when applied to a movie with these many flayings, but there you go.) I don’t mind the changes, but they’re all changes to make Hellraiser fit a template that it didn’t really bother trying to fit when it was at its nutty best. There’s no pleasure on the other side of pain in this version.

    Having said that, the idea to turn the cube into a tool in an occult ritual is clever, and it’s mostly consistent; I like that they used some shapes that the cube made in previous movies as intermediate shapes while it was being solved (plus the leviathan shape from Hellbound). Speaking of, Leviathan’s appearance with Young’s score was hugely satisfying. And Riley’s ending was great – love the recontextualization for the original name for the cube. I thought it was pretty affecting.
    Also, that very final scene! Using celestial iconography and music to call back to the villain calling cenobites angels was very cool; in any year where Men hadn’t come out, it would have been the craziest way to finish a movie.
    What I didn’t like was most of the cenobites besides Pinhead (who looks great); They’re intricate and very detailed, but… they look like action figures. WTF is it with the pearl-headed pins theme? My grandmother used those. How they’re used as standard monsters wasn’t very impressive, either.

  10. The pearl-tipped pins was actually a throwback to the original novella, in which they were described as “jeweled pins.” Apparently they tried it that way in the first movie but it just didn’t work on camera. I don’t think it’s an improvement, personally. You could imagine the OG flathead pins behind hammered into the skull. It’s much more tactile, in my opinion, than these dainty grandma pins.

  11. I’ve rewatched the entire Hellraiser series twice and still wouldn’t say I’m a “fan” exactly? The first two are still unsettling, often times unpleasant. Definitely not movies that you’d throw on for fun. My big issue with this one is, first and foremost, if there was ever a time to make the super gay, super horny Hellraiser of Clive Barker’s dreams- it was now. Instead, we got a bog standard “kids harassed by monsters and they have to figure out why” horror movie that has some Hellraiser-esque elements in it. I don’t see a difference between this and all the Hellrasiers that Dimension shat out in the 2000’s that were just unmade scripts which got Pinhead inserted into them in the last five minutes?

    The story should have been about the weird rich guy and his quest for sensations. Not poor, drug addicted kids stumbling across the puzzle box. There’s a lot to be mined from the themes of the original which we didn’t get here. It honestly felt like someone described the Hellraiser movies to whoever wrote the screenplay and they took it from there.

  12. I was excited for this one because I really dug THE NIGHT HOUSE, which has a killer central performance from Rebecca Hall, some clever “jump” scares, practical effects, and also the best portrayal of grief I’ve ever seen in a film. I had also never seen a HELLRAISER, so I watched the first two in prep for this one. I liked the originals better. This was okay. Like apparently everyone here, I also thought it missed the point of Hellraiser (wouldn’t the addiction metaphor work better if they stuck to the ‘forbidden desire’ theme in terms of solving the box and summoning the Cenobites?), wasn’t gross or gooey enough, etc.

    I did like Jamie Clayton a lot, and every line of dialogue given to Pinhead was exquisitely sculpted. I also dug some of the new Cenobites, like the Asphyx who constantly suffocates on its own flesh. More of that, please. Odessa A’zion was a cool nontraditional final girl, with some Alia Shawkat meets Tatiana Maslany energy, and I was also surprised to find out she was Pam Adlon’s kid! And I like seeing Goran Visnjic get a juicy part, as I’m an ER fan from way back.

    But on the whole, I didn’t dig the plot structure, which relies too heavily on accidental box stabbings, a game of hot potato, and nefarious plans– it turns into more of a slasher or final destinationer, rather than a sweaty descent into the hell of one’s own making. Most of the characters, human and Cenobite included, were ciphers. And it goes on a little too long– 2 hours is pretty lengthy for a Hellraiser. I was also rooting for an Engineer appearance just for Vern’s sake, but it wasn’t meant to be.

  13. I was expecting this to be on UK Disney+, which is where all the Hulu stuff goes in the UK, but it isn’t on there. I don’t know if it’s a boring legal thing or if this is the line Disney has drawn where they’re thinking “no, people can not see HELLRAISER as a Disney franchise!” (PREY is on there for example) Or, you know, it’ll be on there in a couple of weeks maybe.

  14. Yeah, it’s really unusual these days to have a made-for-streaming movie NOT be available all over the world on the same day. Between no MUNSTERS on Netflix and no HELLRAISER on D+ in this part of the world, it has been a pretty disappointing October so far.

  15. @Majestyk – That’s a good catch – although from a description of jewelled on text, I’d have gone for broken glass first, unpolished amber… anything except fucking pearls.

    One thing I really liked about Riley is that she isn’t just hard-headed, she’s resolutely pig-headed. As in, she will willfully make stupid choices as much out of spite as obstinacy. It’s a rare character trait in film; I’ve known a couple of people like that and they aren’t a lot of fun to be friends with, but they’re certainly a lot of fun to watch in a movie.

    One more one thing! I found it really funny that they show machine-encrusted Goran Visnjic naked at one point. I mean, does he keep a closet full of immaculate suits with a nerve-pulling-machine-shaped-hole on both sides? And it actually makes sense that it’s a suit, as jackets and shirts would be about the only things he could plausibly put on on his own in the morning. I’m sure that was a carefully considered decision on the part of the scriptwriters.

  16. Riley reminded me so much of Caleb Landry Jones I had to check to see if those guys were related, but as it turns out no. She definitely has Pamela Adlon’s Bobby Hill voice, so I’ll have to allow that there’s a family connection there.

    I definitely didn’t buy that the Lament Configuration represented the greatest suffering of all, and all the Cenobites were acting like whoa that’s hardcore she went for that? “To choose to live, to carry that weight, bitter and brief” sounds way more appealing than being hoisted up into the clouds and flayed alive, but maybe that’s just me.

  17. @Fred Thanks! I’ve thought of the movie that way so long that I’ve forgotten if it was an original thought of my own or if I co-opted it from someone else. A friend of mine has a theory that “Hellraiser” refers to the box. His interpretation maybe fits a little better for calling the whole series “Hellraiser”, but I stand by my opinion that at least for the first movie, Barker fully intended for “Hellraiser” to be a sort of double-meaning reference to Frank (he was a hellraiser in the figurative sense of the phrase and by the end he becomes one in the literal sense)

  18. The movie was terrible, they lost the whole point of the box…here just anyone who touches one is fair game. Some of the new Cebonites are awesome, although I wasn’t a fan of the overly-designed bodies. But the one that couldn’t breathe and the one wit the huge eyes were really creepy. And the new Pinhead may have had people complaining, but she’s way better than the original. She’s subtle instead of always yelling in a cheesy deep voice. Her makeup is better too. Other than those few points this movie is terrible and I had to keep forwarding through it…too bad because the rich guy playing around as interesting, too bad then they went to generiteens.

  19. I enjoyed this one, and it’s sitting better with me as time passes – the second act conventional slasher movie business felt like wheel-spinning but has mostly slid from my memory by now. Maybe the cenobites were always meant to stand in for the cosmic idle rich in past films, but I don’t mind how heavy-handed they went with it here, laying it bare just how small these guys actually are. They want to jet around space while the rest of us engage in the horror movie that is everyday human existence? Clowns! Let ’em!

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