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Hellraiser is a series that has struggled for a while now, in fact not since Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth has the series known a high point, and overall has never reached the lofty heights of either Clive Barker’s source material “The Hellbound Heart” or his 1987 original film classic. Even for cenobites, that is a long time to suffer, as the series has dipped to some really astonishingly bad lows (hello there Revelations).
So, it’s rather refreshing to report that the disrespect may be finally over, as David Bruckner‘s new reboot finally gets us there and is undeniably – regardless of your own thoughts on it – the franchises best offering in years. Yes, some will call that faint praise but let’s celebrate the fact anyway.
The film sees recovering drug addict Riley (Odessa A’zion) having her ups and downs in her family life, but when her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) convinces her to help him break into a dormant storage warehouse in an attempt to pilfer some goods and make some quick cash, what they find is a strange puzzle cube, that with each configuration unleashes a hellish force of pain and suffering, a force promising an ultimate “reward” but only at some great costs.
This new Hellraiser has been a longtime coming in development, well, hell, but for many I am sure the wait will have proven worth it. Indeed the film has its faults, as it replays some franchise beats and its story may not burrow far enough into the hardcore material for some, but this reboot has a great respect for what it is adapting. Feeling like a well crafted reset and a renewed moment of excitement for the franchise, the lore and the extra dimensional terrors at the core.
The coenobites themselves are largely practical in their make-up and design, and look fantastic, carrying over that same gory BDSM vibe, while fitting nicely into the film’s blue hued dark cinematography by Eli Born and its many nightmarish – some steampunkish – visions of extreme suffering. Visually, Hellraiser is excellent, and Ben Lovett’s score matches that power too, with some subtle throwbacks and a dark energy.
V/H/S, The Ritual and The Night House filmmaker David Bruckner clearly has fun bringing Hellraiser’s formation shifting machinations to a bigger budget, delivering a film that is not as thematically far reaching as it could be perhaps (though is far from empty), but also does not fear withholding a very mainstream feel good conclusion from its audience. And that really ought to be applauded.
Odessa A’zion is excellent in the lead human role but Jamie Clayton really steals the show as The Priest (aka Pinhead) and does true justice to the character and world Clive Barker created and the part that Doug Bradley made into a horror cinema legend.
Hellraiser is just gruesome fun. Unmistakably in awe of Barker’s original vision but also with its sights set on bringing in a newer audience to this world. Imperfect perhaps but also undeniable. It has taken a while but finally, we have a new pretty great Hellraiser movie to enjoy.
Hellraiser 2022 is a back to basics story, with visual flair that aims to give longtime (and long suffering) fans their long overdue pleasure, while offering such sights to show newbies. Here’s hoping more souls get torn apart sooner rather than later.