Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Release Date: September 6th, 2005 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Rick Bota Actors: Lance Henriksen, Katheryn Winnick, Christopher Jacot, Khary Payton, Henry Cavill, Anna Tolputt, Doug Bradley, Malonga Desiree, Magdalena Tun
everal friends gather at the funeral for Adam (Stelian Urian), a young man who committed suicide during his lengthy addiction to an online game called “Hellworld,” a massive, multiplayer role-playing computer game based on the “Hellraiser” films. Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick) wanders over to the closed casket and pries the lid up to unveil a badly decomposed body. When the corpse suddenly grabs her, she screams and struggles, while nuns and mourners fail to acknowledge her ordeal. It turns out to be nothing more than a nightmare inspired by events from two years prior.
Now, Chelsea and her new boyfriend Mike (Henry Cavill) pretend as if they’re no longer interested in the “Hellworld” game, but it’s obvious they still partake from time to time. Best friends Derrick (Khary Payton) and Allison (Anna Tolputt) don’t even try to hide their continued involvement with the online dalliance, and are overjoyed when they receive an exclusive invitation to the 5th Annual Secret Hellraiser Party at the Leviathan House. Chelsea and Mike go along to look after their pals, awkwardly meeting up with Jake (Christopher Jacot), the final member of their group, who has remained distant and isolated since the funeral. The hip gathering, reminiscent of a rave (and an orgy), is hosted by an unequaled collector (Lance Henriksen) of macabre “Hellraiser” props and items of lore. As viewers might expect, the guests indulge in anonymous debaucheries, ignore signs that say “Keep Out,” wander into deathtraps, and are plagued by nightmarish hallucinations of Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his cenobite minions.
This film has a marked playfulness to it, with comic relief, sarcasm, and goofy characters. Rock beats routinely overshadow the ominous orchestral music, bass-heavy sounds, and jump scares, attempting to keep the atmosphere youthful and hip. As a result, this eighth installment in the “Hellraiser” franchise takes on the tone of a “Scream” movie, with self-aware spoofs and gimmicky acknowledgements that “Hellraiser” is merely a cinematic entity. “None of it’s real!” Additionally, the characters are trapped in a haunted house full of torture devices, like something from the “Saw” flicks, getting separated and graphically butchered one by one.
It’s a peculiar direction to take for the series, considering the previous entries all focused on adult leads and mystery/thriller concepts that were generally far from generic teen slashers in the vein of “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Urban Legend,” and “Final Destination” (though, admittedly, they all have mysteries to be solved, most of which require flashbacks to become moderately comprehensible). Here, the selection of players never once appears like the type to obsessively play online games. When they drink, dance, and start having sex with strangers, they more suitably fill the roles of recklessly wild, popular partygoers. And Chelsea alternates between fleeing the premises in hysterics and bravely returning to rescue the survivors calling for help (at one point, Chelsea even unleashes a smooth spin-kick against an enemy).
Odder still is the fact that Rick Bota helmed this chapter back-to-back with “Hellraiser: Deader,” released straight-to-video during the same year. It’s not that this effort is any worse than the last several episodes – in terms of technical qualities like makeup effects and gore – it’s that it is so far removed from what the other films established and designed. As a modern teen slasher, the story is actually rather clever, but it’s not really even a “Hellraiser” movie, with its distinctly non-canonical approach to the franchise (except, perhaps, for the last couple of minutes, which are fairly amusing).
– Mike Massie