Hellraiser (1987 - Present)
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
Let me preface this by saying after watching the whole series of movies in the Hellraiser franchise it is one of my least favorite franchises (as a collection of movies). My opinions are going to be biased towards that direction as I reflect back on my watches of each film. After watching this franchise I’m switching things up and rather than doing a full synopsis like review I’m just going to give necessary story elements and my opinions on each film.
From a 1986 novella by Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart, a franchise is born. With a total of eleven movies starting with the first, Hellraiser released in 1987 the franchise is considered a horror cornerstone. The main villain, Pinhead, who is an interdimensional being called a Cenobite, is summoned when someone solves a puzzle box from the 1800’s. He has various crews of other Cenobites throughout different films. Once summoned they require a payment of sorts from the puzzle solver, they want to show them sights and opting out gets you hunted down and the punishment increased.
Prior to this marathon I had never seen a Hellraiser movie. I knew the basics that it had to do with some house, a box, and a guy named Pinhead with nails in his skull. Other than that I went in blind from a 2022 perspective and in light of the subject matter I found a lot of it problematic. Not enough to seriously point out due to the knowledge that it came out in a far different time with less knowledge about issues surrounding sexuality and the stigmas associated with the kink community. Sexuality is directly linked to hedonism and depravity throughout the films (some of it in the franchise is in fact but other times it’s consensual, passionate love-making rather than depraved and both receive the same assessment from the Cenobites).
Though one could argue it’s a net positive because the BDSM community got exposure at all but at what cost would be my next question. Regardless I believe a more nuanced and detailed conversation should be had around that but I am definitely not qualified. The other theme that is in at least half of the movies is the connection between wars and the effects that they had on the veterans that came home. Before he became Pinhead, a man named Elliot Spencer lost his humanity after seeing the atrocities of World War I while he served in the British Army. He gets his hands on the puzzle box and after solving the puzzle he’s taken into the other dimension and made into a Cenobite named Pinhead.
The dimension the Cenobites live is called Lament Configuration and they want to take human souls to experiment on in their dimension. Seems simple enough but they are foiled in at least one way every film by the characters who summoned them. The franchise lacks continuity and consistency in regard to the Cenobites, what their motivations are, their costumes, Pinhead’s appearance, and even the lore. While watching I felt it to be messy and disorganized, frustratingly so at times. I now know that Clive Barker, who wrote and directed the first film, signed the rights away prior to its release. So, I imagine, in some part, we can thank movie execs for the atrocities that are the later Hellraiser movies.
Most to Least Favorite:
First- Hellraiser (1987)
Second - Hellraiser (2022)
Third - Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Fourth - Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Fifth - Hellraiser: Bloodline IV (1996)
Sixth - Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Seventh - Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Eighth - Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Ninth - Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Tenth - Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Eleventh - Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)
HELLRAISER (1987) - 7.2/10 IN FIRST PLACE
First and foremost this movie is a good horror movie. I enjoyed it despite some gross (but creative) special effects of the 1980’s. A depraved man named Frank Cotton (played by Sean Chapman) solves the puzzle box and summons the Cenobites, after being tortured for some time he manages to escape-ish and is hiding from them in his house as some sort of organ-mass thing under the attic floor. Frank’s brother Larry (played by Andrew Robinson), his wife Julia (played by Claire Higgins), and his daughter Kirsty (played by Ashley Laurence) move into the house in Frank’s absence.
A series of events leads to Frank coming back to life as a goo blob of human mush that must consume humans (or rats on occasion) in order to regain his physical form. In order to lure the people to the attic where he is hiding he employs the help of Julia, who he had been having a passionate affair with, who lures men to the attic with the promise of sex. Kirsty finds out about their dealings and takes the cube, later opening it and summoning the Cenobites. Terrified, she strikes a deal to exchange Frank for her freedom. They take the deal and warn that they’ll tear her soul apart if she misleads them or is pulling an escape plan of her own.
Frank and Julia have sacrificed Larry at this point and Frank is wearing his skin and appearing as him. It is a great performance from Robinson with Frank and Larry being polar opposites but playing both characters very well. Frank sacrifices and consumes Julia, leaving her a shriveled shell of a person and is then chained to her bed (this detail comes into play in Hellbound: Hellraiser II). The Cenobites renege on their deal with Kirsty despite her delivering Frank and she is able to use the cube to send them back to their dimension.
This movie, in my opinion, is by far one of the best in the franchise by a long shot and it is unfortunate each installment after this gets further and further from this original lore and overall messaging it’s hard to keep up. I appreciated that mentions of religion rarely came up and that the backstory is more creative by it being interdimensional monster-angel-demon things that want to torture for the sake of pleasure and satiating a hunger rather than punishment for sin (though there are hints of that it’s not on the nose). I figured it would be only up from here, definitely not right.
Since its release Hellraiser has been both applauded and disliked in fairly equal measure. It’s not hard to pick out what would make this movie divisive especially in the 1980’s when it hit theaters. Sadomasochism isn’t necessarily a common topic in all social circles, I imagine even less so in the 80’s. The film originally titled Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave changed to Hellraiser at the suggestion of Christopher Figg, a producer. Multiple scenes had to be cut due to the rating being higher than R rated on the first review. One scene included a “more explicit and less violent” sex scene for the affair flashback but violence substituted the sexual nature due to violence being more acceptable than sex in our cultures (Barker, Samhain).
As a first time filmmaker Barker himself stated he wasn’t experienced and lacked some background knowledge. Originally the film took place in Britain but after some convincing from the production company, New World Pictures, Hellraiser relocated to the US, some accents being dubbed in the final product. As mentioned above Clive Barker sold the rights before the first film came out due to not believing it would be a big box office and critical success. Many consider Pinhead and Hellraiser to be iconic in the horror world and often associated with the other big players like Chucky and Pennywise.
HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988) - 5/10 IN FOURTH PLACE
Originally I regarded Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) as a shitty sequel. I felt that it had a good premise but became messy and confused towards the ending. Post-watch of all the movies however this is my third favorite. It’s not horrible and it’s not amazing either. Directed by Tony Randel, the second installment released just a year after the first movie because of its success. Clive Barker did write the story for Hellraiser II but served as an Executive Producer rather than Director.
Hellraiser II picks up where Hellraiser (1987) left off with Kirsty in a psych ward due to the events of the first film and her doctor, Dr. Phillip Channard (played by Kenneth Cranham), is an obsessed collector of all things Cenobites and their world. He tortures and sacrafices a patient and brings Julia back, who’d been stuck in Hell with the Cenobites. Which made me wonder if this other dimension is just referred to as Hell, is Hell another dimension or is that a metaphor?
Charnard and Julia make a patient with an aptitude for puzzles named Tiffany (played by Imogen Boorman) unlock the puzzle box, the Lament Configuration, so that they can go to the Cenobites’ world which is Pan’s Labyrinth like but all stone. We’re introduced to the entity known as Leviathan, a huge diamond that rotates in space above the Cenobites’ home and is considered a god of some sort. Charnard is sacrificed by Julia to Leviathan so that she can become a Cenobite that brings souls to Leviathan. This is when we start to dabble in the Christian motifs and symbols that appear more and more often as the series goes on.
Kirsty and Tiffany find one another and are attacked by Charnard who is now a Cenobite himself. While fleeing they encounter Pinhead and his crew of Cenobites and Kirsty, the badass she is, shows Pinhead a photo of himself as a human, Elliot Spencer. This causes him to revert back to his human form having reconnected with his humanity but at the cost of being killed by Charnard, RIP Pinhead. Kirsty uses Julia’s skin to trick Chanard and enough time to solve the puzzle box. Chanard is killed and the door to hell is sealed.
At Chanard’s home a moving man is consumed by the mattress from earlier and the other moving person witnesses a pillar rise from the mattress with the vagrant’s face fused to it and he takes the movie out with, “What’s your pleasure, sir?” to the man witnessing this development.
Like I said before, I don’t dislike this Hellraiser film as much as I did on first watch. I like that it expands on the lore and gave me what I wanted, more information on the Cenobites. It relies heavily on Hellraiser and initially I thought that to be bad but in hindsight I respect and admire that, I believe it made it a better sequel. It was released to mixed reviews with some critics noting that it’s not a well woven story.
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH (1992) - 5.4/10 IN THIRD PLACE
In 1992 the third installment, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth released to better reception than the previous film. Anthony Hickox directed and Clive Barker returned as Executive Producer, though it’s noted his involvement was limited to post-production. Even Kirsty is back with Ashley Laurence reprising her role in a cameo via VHS interview tape. Hellraiser 3 is for the most part still respecting the source material and lore in regard to background, motivations of the Cenobites, and Pinhead’s costume and makeup.
Joey (played by Terry Ferrell) is an aspiring news reporter who befriends Terri (played by Paula Marshall), a club kid, while investigating the puzzle box and the danger it poses to those who solve it. Terri’s ex-boyfriend, JP Monroe (played by Kevin Bernhardt), purchased the pillar from the second movie as an art piece and she subsequently ripped the cube from the pillar. After Pinhead eats a woman he hooked up with, he's all in to feed Pinhead in order to get power and delight.
Back in the parallel storyline Joey has nightmares of her father in the Vietnam war where she encounters Elliot Spencer aka pre-Cenobite Pinhead who is a British Army World War I veteran. He informs Joey that he lost faith in humanity during the war which led him to seek out the box. After the events of Hellraiser 2 Pinhead split into two entities, Spencer Elliot stuck in limbo and Pinhead who is wholly evil and does not care about Cenobite laws that would stop him from tormenting Earth. Joey needs to help join the two entities and then send him back to Hell using the box. Due to some fuck shit Terri returns to JP’s place seeking shelter and comfort but instead finds herself almost being fed to Pinhead. She fights back and wins however so she feeds JP to Pinhead instead, which is a rather drawn out almost comical scene of her struggling to move his body.
Pinhead kills everyone in the club and turns some into Cenobites. The news of the massacre gets to Joey who heads out there. Joey faces off with the new Cenobites, which includes an unfortunate development that Terri is now a Cenobite. Joey solves the puzzle box and sends them back to Hell and then is tricked in limbo into giving it back to Pinhead. She wins in the end and throws the puzzle box into concrete at the construction site where their standoff took place. We get flashed forward to see that the building that now sits atop the construction site has an interior identical to the box.
In my opinion this is the last decent Hellraiser movie. From here on out it just goes downhill. Hellraiser 3 isn’t awful especially when you take into account it’s the third installment in a franchise. The theme of the trauma associated with war is extremely evident in this film and ties a lot of that background together, cementing it as lore rather than a one or two time occurrence in the franchise.
Director Anthony Hickox has said that Miramax, specifically Bob Weinstein, liked the raw cut and gave him money in order to add effects which turned out to be an early use of CGI to add gory scenes in a horror movie. Clive Barker however states that he didn’t want to be associated due to the ending and low-budget effects and that Bob Weinstein asked him to give him the tea and he did, resulting in Weinstein urging for more gore scenes. Barker takes credit for the scenes with CGI that improved the movie and has a producer credit on the project.
HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINE (1996) - 4.5/10 IN FIFTH PLACE
Off rip let me be clear that I respect where they tried to do with this installment but they lost me at one point and I don’t think I ever came back. The fourth installment in the Hellraiser franchise and next up is Hellraiser IV: Bloodline released in theaters in 1996, the last Hellraiser to have a theatrical release. Directed by Kevin Yagher and Joe Chapelle this is also the last installment that Clive Barker had official involvement with. It’s also noted as the final installment in the original series, putting a period at the end of an era. As I know from the future nothing is last about it and seven more films follow it (poorly).
Hellraiser 4 serves as a prequel and sequel which is as infuriating as it sounds. We start in space and not only is the setting space it is also 2127, so there’s been a major time jump. An engineer, Dr. Paul Merchant (played by Bruce Ramsay) is shut in a room on a space station making a robot solve the Lament Configuration just as guards break into the room and apprehend him. Merchant’s interview sparks the prequel portion of the movie as he tells the tale of his ancestry and how he finds himself where he is today.
The setting is now Paris in 1796 and Merchant’s ancestor is a French toymaker (who speaks English with a British accent for some reason) named Phillip LeMarchand (also played by Bruce Ramsay) who has been commissioned to make a puzzle box. The second he delivers said box to his customer he sacrifices a peasant girl with his assistant. They use her flayed skin to summon Angelique (played by Valentina Vargas), a demon who prefers seduction to Pinhead’s methods, with the puzzle box.
LeMarchand makes plans to create a second box that could take out the first box. The assistant, Jacques (played by Adam Scott) kills the rich guy and then has control over Angelique. They kill LeMarchand and make sure he knows his bloodline is cursed for helping with the portal to hell thing.
The movie takes place in the future, the past, and the present. That’s right, three timelines. In 1996 a descendant of LeMarchand, John Merchant, is an architect who has built a skyscraper inspired by the Lament Configuration. Angelique is not pleased by this and kills Jacques then goes to the US to confront John.
Angelique solves the building's Lament Configuration, opening the portal. Pinhead and Angelique join forces to stop John from destroying the box. Angelique tries to pull a fast one and destroy Hell herself but the prototype is a dud and even though Pinhead kills John, his wife is able to send Angelique and Pinhead to Hell.
In the future Dr. Merchant had a plan of his own and while Pinhead and the Cenobites kill the crew he escapes and reveals the whole ship is an Elysium Configuration and that upon activating it it will kill them and seal the portal to Hell forever. Pinhead is permanently killed and the gateway is closed, so I suppose we know how the whole thing ends long into the future.
The pre and post production of this movie sounds like a nightmare which tracks with this movie being semi good and also horribly bad in other ways. It felt like three different Hellraiser short stories put together in a tales of Christmas that doesn’t work. Yahger came on after other directors left the project and after what has been called “the shoot from hell” he did not want to play along with Miramax’s demands for rewrites. Miramax demanded more Pinhead earlier in the movie and a happier ending thus resulting in the space Merchant to narrate the stories of his ancestors.
Scenes were removed, dynamics between Angelique and the other characters changed, and entirely new scenes filmed. The project looks and feels different from what I imagine the original Hellraiser 4 had planned. Yahger had his name removed by request after the final cut didn’t resemble the original. The stories of the 1796 timeline and the 1996 one are good on their own but as a whole the three don’t work together.
HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000) - 2/10 IN NINTH PLACE
The first direct-to-video Hellraiser released in 2000 and is titled, Hellraiser: Inferno. Directed by Scott Dickinson this installation revolves around a depraved detective that comes into contact with the puzzle box at a crime scene. This is already a deviation from the original lore in that the characters stumble upon the box as if it sought them out rather than them seeking it out wanting to experience what it had to offer. Clive Barker revealed Dimension Films planned on making a fifth installment in 1996 and the endings left room for sequels.
Due to creative differences Clive Barker got dropped from the project in 1999 as Executive Producer. Originally this film had not been intended to be a Hellraiser installment but it was rewritten to add elements that connected it to the series. The claims surrounding the origin are disputed so the truth is probably a little of both. Either way, the film has not been a creative success with a whopping 17% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This movie infuriated me. I hated the main character and even the sight of him on screen made me uncomfortable. I felt so far removed from it being Hellraiser throughout the film and found myself confused why it kept going on. It follows Joseph Thorne (played Craig Sheffer) is a piece of shit Denver police office who is not only a corrupt drug thief but also a philandering sex maniac. He’s obsessed with puzzles and after discovering the Leviathan Configuration at a crime scene he brings it home and solves it.
The puzzle box causes him to have hallucinations and despite these he continues his work investigating a serial killer called “The Engineer” who leaves fingers of a child they kidnapped at every crime scene. His family and friends start being the targets and victims of The Engineer. He goes to therapy for his hallucinations only to find that Pinhead is his psychiatrist.
The whole movie post-puzzle has been psychological torture for Thorne from the Cenobites. The serial killer is a manifestation of Thorne’s worst parts and the child his remaining innocent parts. He’s been killing his inner child through his fucked up way which is the lesson of the film. Thorne is going to be tortured forever for his sins.
For so many reasons I hated this movie. I can’t stand when movies take the easy way out and just say that the whole movie was in a character’s head and didn’t happen rather than find ways to end the more interesting plot lines that aren’t as easily guessed by viewers. The actor had the cheesiest lines, I felt that it read like a wannabe noir detective film rather than a Hellraiser sequel.
The lore has been changed along with Pinhead’s appearance, the later in the franchise the less consistent Pinhead becomes. This being punishment for sins is taking another step towards religious symbolism and implications. I found some of the effects grotesque for no reason or purpose other than to be gross, for example the women literally going under Thorne’s skin as they’re three way making out. I never want to watch this movie again and I’ll leave it at that.
HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2002) - 3.7/10 IN SEVENTH PLACE
Written by Carl V. Dupre and Tim Day Hellraiser: Hellseeker released direct to video in 2002 directed by Rick Bota with “cursory input” from Clive Barker the sixth installment is not as bad as I expected it to be after the fifth. This is the last installment to have influence from Barker, credited or uncredited. I enjoyed the twist with this film and had a good time watching and piecing together the mystery.
A car accident kills Trevor Gooden’s (played by Dean Winters, the Mayhem Man) wife Kirsty Cotton-Gooden (played by Ashley Laurence). Trevor escapes but Kirsty goes missing, not even her body is found. Jumping one month forward Trevor awakes in a hospital, not remembering much and unable to distinguish between real and fake.
Trevor is suspected of killing his wife Kirsty and homicide detectives Givens and Lange are intensely investigating him (played by Michael Rogers and William S. Taylor). He starts to have bizarre experiences that turn out to be figments of his imagination (an eel coming out of his mouth on his bathroom floor as one example). Trevor’s friend and co-worker commits suicide in front of him claiming the detectives are onto their plan, which confused Trevor and me cause what plan.
After some monster-y horror movie events and a chase we come to find that the body Trevor has come to see at the morgue is in fact his own and not Kirsty’s. At this point we are shown the truth that Kirsty is alive and he is in fact dead. His imaginations were things that happened to his recently deceased corpse.
It’s also shown that Trevor is a serial cheater and attempted to fuck Kirsty over by having her open the puzzle box again. She did open the box and when facing Pinhead again made a deal to deliver him five souls if he let her go. Kirsty kills three of Trevor’s mistresses and his friend that he’d conspired to kill Kirsty with.
Trevor is the fifth and final soul Kirsty is giving to Pinhead and the whole series of events in Trevor’s life have been him living in limbo. Kirsty pinned the murders on Trevor and shot him in the head in the car, causing it to crash. Kirsty is free to go and takes the Lament Configuration with her.
It’s not the best Hellraiser movie and it did my least favorite thing but made me hate it less because rather than the events not having happened the events happened but appeared to him in psychologically torturous ways. This could’ve been a short film in my opinion. The idea of the ending is cool especially with Kirsty making a comeback but most of the film is Trevor experiencing non-events that are often uncomfortable to watch (especially the scenes with his mistresses).
HELLRAISER: DEADER (2005) - 3/10 IN EIGTH PLACE
Coming in as the seventh-ish installment (two released in 2005) Hellraiser: Deader has an interesting premise of a journalist investigating a suicide cult that believes their prophet (a descendent of LeMarchand) can bring people back to life. He also believes it’s his right to have access to the puzzle, like an inheritance. Directed by Rick Bota it has similar vibes and themes to the other Rick Bota directed Hellraiser movies. The installment was written by Neal Marshall Stevens as a different project entirely but the plot was rewritten by Tim Day to be a Hellraiser film.
The main character, Amy Klein (played by Kari Wuhrer) is almost impossible to watch, and I couldn’t figure out why that is the case for me. Her interpretations of scenes felt wildly off from the other characters in scenes and the script had her saying cheesy one liners like it was her full time job. Her boss, Charles (played by Simon Kunz), and her have an uncomfortable relationship that’s slightly exploitative and enabling on his part.
Charles sends Amy to Romania to investigate a cult led by Winter LeMarchand (played by Paul Rhys) who sent a video showing him bringing a cult member back to life after she shot herself in the head. The cult calls themselves Deaders and after some immersion into Bucharest Amy meets Joey (played by Marc Warren) in an underground subway car party situation and he warns her about the Deaders but ultimately helps lead her to Winter.
Winter, as the descendant of LeMarchand the Toymaker, feels entitled to the box and to ultimately summon the Cenobites so he can control them. He can’t open the box however and has come to the conclusion that only a specific person can open the box, one with the perfect balance of pain and trauma. His cult’s purpose is to attract vulnerable people in order for him to kill and resurrect them.
Amy participates and ends up in a fugue-like state in a dream world. Upon return to the living world she opens the box, causing the Cenobites to come. Pinhead and the Cenobites kill every Deader and let Amy know she now owes them. Amy decides to kill herself rather than deal with that and this causes the Cenobites to be banished to Hell when the box closes. The electrical charge causes the building to explode and only the box survives. Creepy Charles then assigns another young, female reporter to investigate the Deaders cult and what happened and also gives her the puzzle box.
It just doesn’t make sense. The cult angel doesn’t work and a flimsy story isn’t saved by the acting and chemistry (or lack thereof) between the characters. It’s easy to forget it’s a Hellraiser movie at all and also easy to tune out and forget you’re even watching a movie. Doug Bradley is the exception despite them switching up the design of Pinhead’s attire…again.
HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD (2005) - 4/10 IN SIXTH PLACE
Also released in 2005 the eighth installment, Hellraiser: Hellword, centers around a group of gamers who play a Hellraiser role playing game. One member of the group commits suicide and this causes them to cool it on playing it. Directed by Rick Bota the script is based off of a short story by Joel Soissonn and was not originally intended to be a Hellraiser movie. This is the last film with Doug Bradley as Pinhead.
Two years after their friend commits suicide the group of players are invivted to a Hellworld party at a secret mansion. They’re taken into a secondary private part of the party where guests wear masks and text each other if interested by an eccentric host who insists on them having some of his family’s scotch (wink wink). When Chelsea (played by Katheryn Winnick) refuses he even goes so far as to stab her, which personally would’ve been when I got the hell out of there.
They’re separated from one another and one by one are killed by Pinhead. Before being killed it becomes apparent that they are invisible to other party guests. Chelsea discovers in the attic that the house belongs to their friend’s dad, the friend who commit suicide at the start of the movie.
He drugged them and they’ve been buried alive in coffins as he feeds them suggestions about their reality. They each successively die in the caskets (Henry Cavill’s character is scared to death, another gouges her eyes, and Khary Payton, the voice of Cyborg, has an asthma attack). Chelsea and Jake (played by Christopher Jacot from Slasher) survive for Lance Henriksen to monologue his evil revenge plan to. This ending shocked me when it came to them being buried alive and none of it happening, I guessed the father thing but not the fact that they'd hallucinated it all. I would've thought them to be in the Cenobite dimension rather than that but it's a good twist.
Adam’s dad blames his friend group for his suicide thus the reason for his murderous plot. They are rescued by police who’ve been called from inside the house. We jump to a sad hotel room where the Host is drinking himself into oblivion and messing with the puzzle box. Pinhead appears and kills him. The film ends with the police arriving at the crime scene of the Host’s hotel room.
HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2011) - 0.8/10 IN TENTH PLACE
I didn’t think it could get worse but this is pretty bad. After 6 years another installment is released and I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined it’d be this bad. Directed by Victor Garcia and written by Gary J. Tunnicliffe Hellraiser: Revelations is a mess at best. Dimension Films needed to make another Hellraiser or they’d lose the rights so this mess was put together and is the first Hellraiser without Doug Bradley.
They didn’t treat Bradley with nearly the amount of respect he deserved when approaching him for this film. Not only that but they’d been talking about a remake for years and rather than making that happen threw this mud at the wall and hoped it at least stuck a little. It only took three weeks to film and hit one theater upon release.
Two young men go to Mexico, one murders a woman he hooks up with and after this a character similar to the ones in the earlier movies comes and offers them the puzzle box, identifying them as perfect candidates. They record most of their adventure and after going missing the video footage is all their parents have. This video footage shows Pinhead and other Cenobites appearing and taking them.
The two families are close and are having dinner together after the boys have gone missing. One of the young men has a sister similar in age who is the girlfriend of the other young man. Her boyfriend sucks however and is essentially the Frank of this plot. This boy has taken the skin of her brother and come back pretending to be him. He proceeds to make out with her and shoot his friend’s dad. So this is just wildly uncomfortable.
Despite taking a buckshot to the chest the dad lives for an incredibly long time. Long enough for the daughter to solve the puzzle and bring them to the Cenobites dimension. Pinhead (the worst Pinhead of the entire franchise) is planning to kill the Frank of this movie and probably let the family go but the dad picks toxic masculinity and insists he be the one to kill the new Frank and shoots him. This kills him, rather quickly I might add, and now their “appetite isn’t satiated” so they’re going to torture and kill the families.
The Cenobites do just that and then the daughter is transported back home with her father who dies in a hilariously weird way. She then picks up the puzzle and decides to open it again. Makes no sense just like the whole of the movie. I didn’t see the skin suit thing coming, I’d forgotten that is something they can do. It’s fine for what it is considering the reasoning behind why it was made.
HELLRAISER: JUDGEMENT (2018) - 0.01/10 IN TWELFTH PLACE
Again, I thought it couldn’t possibly get worse and yet it did. This is an awful movie, plain and simple. I didn’t finish watching it because frankly Dimension Films is playing games of greed at this point in the series. I’m not giving this movie any more time than it’s taken from me. The original concept is great and then it becomes Human Centipede and Saw vibes. It’s disgusting and if I wanted to start giving negative scored reviews it’d be for a movie like this.
HELLRAISER (2022) - 6.2/10 IN SECOND PLACE
Since this just hit Hulu I will keep it brief and fairly spoiler free. I enjoyed the story for this movie and took a sigh of relief that the course felt slightly righted after the Dimension Films 2005-2018 mishaps. This is the remake that has been promised and I really enjoyed the deeper dive into the lore and recentering of the original rules of the universe. Screenplayed by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski and directed by David Bruckner, Hellraiser (2022) is a fresh and inspired take on a classic. The success of Halloween is cited as a main reason Miramax renewed their interest in making another Hellraiser film.
A hedonistic lawyer named Roland Voight (played by Goran Višnjić) forces a sex worker named Joey (played by Kit Clarke) to solve the puzzle box. Upon solving it he’s stabbed in the hand and the portal to Hell is opened. We see the chains right off the bat and I love that immediate connection to the franchise main installments. Voight demands that he be able to meet with Leviathan, the God that hovers above the Cenobites’ labyrinth of a home.
The main character, Riley McKendry (played by Odessa A’zion), has no initial connection to Voight however and we time jump six years when we tune into her story. She’s a recovering drug addict who lives with her brother Matt (played by ) and his boyfriend Colin (played by ), along with their roommate Nora (played by ).
Riley’s boyfriend Trevor (played by ) convinces her to break into an abandoned building which leads her to find the puzzle box, and she steals it. Arriving home late her brother assumes she’s relapsed and kicks her out. This leads her to go to a park and solve the puzzle box, thus kicking off the events of the movie.
This new universe has slightly different rules around the puzzle, who solves it, and what happens but the rules make sense and it’s nice to have them clearly established. More background is provided on the puzzle itself and lore centered around the purpose of the Cenobites and their connection to the puzzle. A twist towards the end had me wondering where they would go from there only to be pleasantly surprised. I also liked that it didn’t feel pressured to be a perfect ending but the ending all made logical sense in relation to the events of the plot.
The main character goes through development alongside the torture and pain, she’s someone to root for if not to cringe at when she makes egregious mistakes. One complaint I have is how dark the scenes are lighting wise. I had a hard time seeing a lot of the scenes with the Cenobites because of how dark the scenes are.
The Cenobites have skin as their clothing in this one with their exposed flesh making up the parks pulled back. We also see at the end someone being made into a new Cenobite which we have never seen before. I feel that this is the promised redo for the franchise and despite premiering yesterday to mixed reviews this is light years better than any of the other recent sequels and it gives me hope for where the franchise could go next. I haven’t seen official word that another film is in the works yet but here’s hoping the Hellraiser franchise can become what it always could’ve been with this fresh reboot.
POST MARATHON THOUGHTS & KEY TAKEAWAYS
Getting through the 11 movies that make up this franchise has been a grind. I almost gave up part way through as each installment proved worse and more disturbing than the previous one. Doug Bradley doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for playing Pinhead for seven of the films in the franchise. While I like the new Pinhead I can’t help but give a nod to the OG himself.
The path became blurry as the franchise went on. After learning that the franchise had major influence from the Weinsteins and Miramax regarding the plot, that makes a lot of sense. Everytime I’d read what the plot set out to be after watching one of the movies in the middle of the franchise I’d wonder why they’d changed so much and deviated from those original plans to make a subpar product. They feel like cash grabs that are intended to create good clips of Pinhead saying (oftentimes irrelevant or nonsensical) monologues and recreating Christian imagery, specifically related to Jesus in most cases.
In 2002 according to Doug Bradley Dimension Films had two scripts pitched both with Pinhead and Michael Myers. It went as far as Clive Barker possibly writing it with John Carpenter directing. Don’t get me wrong, that would be a hell of a horror duo…on another project. The idea of Michael Myers and Pinhead existing in the same universe feels silly and it’s impossible to trust it would’ve been handled in a good way considering what other nonsense they pushed out.
A lot of the movies feel like there’s too many cooks in the kitchen pulling the plot in 100 opposing directions and after looking into it there were. I hope that the new start will be more focused, cognizant of the lore and rules they create, and having a cohesive plan rather than cash grab plots for the sake of making a sequel and a little extra money. Most of these movies I never want to watch again but I’m down with the first Hellraiser and the most recent anytime.
Where to watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DpY0jsx5h (rent or buy)
https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.b4a9f76a-8a2d-d389-fa2b-dc2d2596d651?autoplay=0&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb (free with Cinemax subscription - 7 day free trial)
BDSM in Horror & Hellraiser