Hellraiser (2022)
Hellraiser (2022)

Genre: Slasher Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: October 7th, 2022 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Bruckner Actors: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Aoife Hinds, Selina Lo, Goran Visnjic, Hiam Abbass

 


 

I

n Belgrade, Serbia, two people meet clandestinely in a rundown neighborhood at a park bench to exchange money for the contents of a wooden box. Working for an equally mysterious man, lawyer Serena Menaker (Hiam Abbass) purchases the unseen item to bring it back to The Berkshires in Massachusetts, where it’s then housed in a museum-like chamber at the mansion of occult collector Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic). Shortly thereafter, Serena lures young party guest Joseph Coscuna (Kit Clarke) into the room to toy with that very same cryptic, golden device, which opens a portal to a hellish dimension, occupied by some very nasty inhabitants. “I am a penitent of the Leviathan.”

Six years later, Riley McKendry (Odessa A’zion) and her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) – who is looked down upon by Riley’s disapproving brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), his boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison), and another roommate, Nora (Aoife Hinds) – are a bad influence on one another, unable to stay sober when together. But that denunciation by her peers only makes her want to continue seeing him – a poor decision that soon finds the twosome breaking into Voight’s warehouse to steal unknown contents from an isolated safe in a shipping container. Sure enough, the lone item obtained is the gold-plated puzzle box, which Riley solves one night after getting kicked out of her brother’s apartment, once again accessing a gate to the demonic realm of sadomasochistic monsters. “What is happening to me!”

Rebooting the franchise – or, rather, remaking the inaugural film – provides an opportunity to return to the source material, abandoning the increasingly complicated and tangential universe that the prior ten films built up. The best choice made here is to start over with lead fiend Pinhead (or The Priest), now portrayed with an appropriately vague, eerily feminine form – courtesy of statuesque actress Jamie Clayton (who isn’t even revealed until more than an hour into the picture). But the rest of the Clive Barker novella that started it all, “The Hellbound Heart,” is largely ignored; Riley and her plight is familiar, but still a completely new version of the standard, accidental unleashing of soul-trading, physically-mutilated, bondage-gear-enrobed sadists.

Unfortunately, even with the larger budget, sharper cinematography, and nicely macabre set decorations, the protagonists here are uninspired; character designs and dialogue are generic and insipid, partly attributed to the fact that most are foolhardy teenagers (or twenty-somethings). They’re only sympathetic because they’re tormented by minions of pure evil. This musters a striking contrast to the iniquitous Cenobite persecutors, who are horrifyingly and elaborately decorated with piercings, needles, scars (and scarifications), and ripped flesh. Of course, that disparity also makes these baddies far more memorable, which is surely part of the intent; as with most of the other “Hellraiser” entries, the villains tend to be the true stars (indeed, Clayton receives second billing). “Accept the pain you have wrought.”

Also problematic is the typical recklessness and bravery exhibited by the panicking, screaming teens; everyone is so careless with the puzzle box – even those who know exactly what it does and who it summons. Of comparable silliness is the act of venturing down dark corridors alone, or tripping while running away (“I don’t have the box! I dropped it when I fell!”), or continually getting stabbed by the device (which designates subsequent victims through blood collection). At least there are plenty of jump scares (paired with unnerving visions and nightmares), gruesome torture (as gorehounds will demand), the reimagining of some of the popular Cenobite subordinates (along with a few moderately interesting new disciples), and a deluge of bloodletting. CG hooks and chains aren’t particularly appealing, but the practical makeup effects are generally convincing. Still, the creativity is surprisingly limited; even with greater resources, advanced moviemaking magic, and fewer restrictions concerning visual censorship, the writers couldn’t come up with something more absorbing and less plodding. This is, for the umpteenth time, for preexisting fans only.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10


The Hellraiser Franchise


Hellraiser (1987)

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Hellraiser III: Hell on Heart (1992)

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

Hellraiser: Deader (2005)

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)

Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

Hellraiser (2022)