“Hellraiser 6” is the second of three scripts that were nothing to do with our friend Pinhead, but were rewritten when the producers decided making money was more fun and significantly more easy than making good films. Although, strangely enough, when they’d picked this one, they got Clive Barker on board in a strictly unofficial capacity to do some rewrites to the third act (saying that, it’s not like Barker had many good ideas left in him by 2002). They even bothered writing and filming a scene to tie in the plot of this movie to the “mythology” of the first two…but then cut it!
It’s a welcome return for Ashley Laurence as Kirsty, who was in the first two and made a cameo via videotape in part 3. Although I never really bought that she was particularly important to the Cenobites, it’s nice to have her back, she’s a ray of classiness in a franchise which has occasionally been less than smart in its casting choices. But, part 6 gives us another excellent casting choice in Dean Winters, as Kirsty’s husband Trevor. He was in the middle of his run on “Oz” when he made this, and has gone on to be a surprisingly brilliant comic actor in “30 Rock” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – he’s really pretty good in this too, so no complaints on that score.
Here’s where we wander into slightly spoiler-y territory, because if you’ve seen the film I’m going to make several references to, you’re going to understand a lot of this movie’s plot. Something happens at the beginning which is a direct lift from one of the great scary movies, a lock for my top 20 movies of all time, an absolute masterpiece in every possible way. That thing is, a car drives off a bridge into a river and only one passenger survives.
“Oh no,” I thought. “They’re going to rip off Carnival Of Souls, aren’t they?” While it’s not exactly the same, the big twist is identical, and there’s a lot of similarities along the way. So, if you’ve seen “Carnival” (and if you haven’t, shame on you, go and watch it immediately because it’s really really good) it’s more a matter of waiting for them to get to the point than it is enjoying the ride. Perhaps this affected my enjoyment?
Trevor wakes up from a nightmare where he crashes his car, escapes from his side, desperately tries to get Kirsty out, but sees her drown. Turns out this actually happened, her body wasn’t found when they dredged the car up, and a couple of cops, who for some reason are never in the same room at the same time, are vaguely suspicious of him and his head-injury induced lack of memory about the incident. In a non-linear sort of trot through Trevor’s life, we discover he’s cheated on Kirsty with at least two women – a girl from down the hall and his boss at work; it seems that he’s either mad or someone is following him, killing those other women, which doesn’t help with the cop thing. Winters, for a guy who’s been given a fairly thankless acting task, is really pretty good throughout.
We also learn, fairly slowly, about how he came to be in the possession of the box, the Lament Configuration. I feel like maybe I missed something as he just finds a card in his pocket, goes to a creepy disused factory, and finds Doug Bradley playing not Pinhead, but a weird salesman who gives him the box, refusing money and therefore indicating that the price to be paid is something different. As I’ve mentioned our friend, I suppose we ought to talk about him a bit – he’s in this even less than he’s in part 5, which renders the blazing arguments surrounding part 4 more pointless in retrospect. His character is less…whatever it was in the first four movies and more sort-of a guy who punishes evil people after they die, a virtually identical role to part 5. It leaves this one with no dramatic tension – at least in part 5 the main character was alive for the first half-hour of the movie, here the guy is dead before the movie starts. Everything about Pinhead and the other Cenobites is just window-dressing now, there’s no conflict between him and the cast at all.
We’re going to have to stray into spoiler territory from here on out, so if you’ve not seen it and want to be surprised, skip right to the bottom (or just go and watch “Carnival Of Souls”). It relates to the box, and possibly represents a badly papered-over crack between the original script and the Pinhead-ed final draft.
Why did Trevor go and buy the box? The justification is virtually non-existent – he finds that card reading simply “All Problems Solved” in his pocket and goes to visit the box-seller, but aside from a bit of mild kink with the boss, there’s no indication he’s as far off the reservation as Uncle Frank in part 1. He then takes the box home and angrily demands that Kirsty opens it – how did he know what it was? How did he know that she knew what it was? Why does she agree to open the box, knowing what would happen?
It turns out, there’s a twist on top of the “he was dead the whole time” twist – Kirsty is immediately taken to Hell and it looks like Pinhead is finally going to get his gal. Only, she says “how about I bring you five souls in exchange for mine?” and Pinhead agrees. Wait, what? Here’s a quote from part 2:
Pinhead: No more deals child, it is your flesh we want to experience, not your skill at bargaining.
Now, my memory is shot to hell, but if I can remember this stuff, then the people who made the damn movies ought to remember it. He said no more deals! Then made a deal with her! As if this wasn’t insulting enough, this deal involves Kirsty first killing the women he’d been sleeping with, then the guy who Trevor was conspiring with to kill Kirsty and steal her inheritance (that crappy old house from the first one, you mean?), and finally Trevor, shooting him as they were driving over a bridge. I’d have maybe picked a better spot to do it, but whatever. Pinhead has never given any indication of simply being a soul collector – and remember the time when he said that people needed to want (on some level) to open the box and join the Cenobites? Because the filmmakers sure don’t!
The ending is a real mess, I think. It’s piled high with stuff that doesn’t work in context of the series, the characters or just straight-up logic. We’re watching the post-death nightmare of a murdered adulterer, but the person who murders him and four other people gets away with it scot-free. Outside the last five minutes or so of the movie, not one scene is “real”, which is a hell of a crappy trick to pull when you think about it.
But…the idea, on its own, is solid. Take a horror classic, give it a little twist, and away you go. I’d have loved to see this cast take on the material before it was rewritten to make it part of “Hellraiser”. The direction is fine, too, for what must have been a low budget. I’d give it a thumbs up for ideas, and a thumbs down for execution.
Rating: thumbs in the middle