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Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

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Score: 3/10

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Release Date: October 15th, 2002 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Rick Bota Actors: Dean Winters, Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley, Rachel Hayward, Sarah Jane Redmond, Jody Thompson, Kaaren De Silva

J

ust seeing Dean Winters (TV’s “30 Rock”) in the lead role of a “Hellraiser” movie is enough to inspire chuckles. He’s an actor best suited for comedic work, especially considering even his grimace looks like a smirk. But the return of Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton from the first two films is a welcome inclusion that inspires a sense of familiarity. Oddly, she has a very minor role, seen primarily through flashbacks. Whereas the series started with extradimensional, sadomasochistic tormentors seeking victims to drag back to hell for eternal suffering, these last two chapters have been about the personal unraveling of paranoid, confused minds, unable to grasp a strained reality that is continually manipulated by the cenobites. The hell is ultimately a confine of their own design, brought on from guilt and vice and aided by the puzzle box, which apparently unwound their minds and memories long ago.

When Trevor Gooden (Dean Winters) and his wife Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) are distracted on the highway, their car careens off a bridge into the water below. She drowns, while he manages to escape. He awakes in a hospital, where nurse Allison (Rachel Hayward) is tending to his hallucinatory consciousness. As he drifts in and out of reality, he envisions having brain surgery performed on him – an unwitting patient in a torturous experiment. Detective Lange (William S. Taylor) informs Trevor that Kirsty’s body wasn’t recovered, clearly letting on that the husband is a suspect in what could possibly be foul play.

When Gooden finally goes back to work at Cubic Route Actuarial Research, his coworkers appear ignorant to his horrific ordeal – believing he skipped work for promiscuous frivolities. He spies a vague business card in his office, stating “All Problems Solved,” and again begins to daydream. Imperious boss Gwen (Sarah Jane Redmond) reminds him of a fling he seems to have had some time ago, and he begins to remember things that may or may not have actually happened, including further sexual episodes with bondage-favoring neighbor Tawny (Jody Thompson) and exotic acupuncturist Sage (Kaaren De Silva). As the film progresses, so many sequences are revealed to be nightmares or hallucinations that nothing can be taken seriously – after a certain point, it’s as if the story isn’t moving forward, but spiraling around in a confusingly nonlinear fashion. Memories are frequently cryptic clues or lies, while consciousness is like a dream.

Unlike previous “Hellraiser” films, this one begins with a man already seemingly under the haunting control of the mind-toying cenobites. There’s also a preoccupation with jump scares, from telephones ringing to dogs barking to sudden, unnerving imagery flashing across the screen. Making the most of strange, trancelike delusions to generate chills, this latest entry into the franchise feels a lot like the preceding “Hellraiser: Inferno,” which didn’t utilize monster movie tactics so much as it attempted psychological thrills.

Like a ghost film, the camera leaves plenty of room around the edges of the frame for things to sneak about; in a few of the most frightening scenes, typical supernatural shocks are governed by recognizably morbid black leather and pale flesh. Unfortunately, there are also unintentionally funny moments. For the most part, it’s as if the story existed beforehand, with Pinhead and his legion of leather-bound freaks thrown in at the last minute for the sake of using the “Hellraiser” title – and they receive very little screentime. Instead of creating new, inventively ghastly creatures as antagonists, the series keeps drifting further and further away from the gruesome yet fantastical slasher subgenre it helped invent.

– Mike Massie

 

 



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