For a series which has made a virtue of not using its central character, this could be the least Pinhead-y Hellraiser yet. His appearance as a “real” character is maybe a minute, and then another minute or two more in a dream sequence – despite this being the first proper written-for-the-series script since part 4, one could remove our Cenobite friends from this with no problems.
What’s so annoying about this is that it could have been good, as it has a decent central idea. There’s a computer game called “Hellworld” which is based on the Hellraiser series! Although the previous movies are never mentioned, Pinhead is a pop-culture phenomenon and the game is apparently in-depth enough to get a group of college students absolutely obsessed with it. One of the gang, Adam, gets too deep into things and ends up dying, and the movie starts at his funeral.
For those of you with long memories, or who discovered it recently and laughed heartily at its stupidity, this whole concept may remind you of “Mazes and Monsters”, the early 80s Tom Hanks-starring pile of crap which attempted to tell the youth of America that playing Dungeons & Dragons was a direct line to Satan. And it gets worse! Two years after the funeral, our friends are still friends, and one of them has carried on playing “Hellworld”, to the extent he’s unlocked the box (yes, that box) on the last level and has won an invite to a special Hellworld party, conveniently within driving distance of wherever they are. The game has lines from the previous movies in it, delivered in a bored computer game monotone by Doug Bradley, which is sort of a nice touch. So the rest of them do it too, and off they are to a party at Leviathan House (part 2 reference!).
This is a classic “Meet The Meat” section, with Chelsea, the Final Girl with the gender-neutral name, and all this is a thing “Hellraiser” never bothered with before now. Has it decided to turn into a slasher movie? Well, sort of.
I guess SPOILERS will be coming now. It’s sort of difficult to go on past them arriving at the house without getting into the endgame, and so much of whether you like this or not will be down to how much you can tolerate of the twist. So let’s journey together, dear reader.
The first section of the movie is slightly clever, as there aren’t tons of sequels that treat the previous instalments as fiction in their fictional world. “The Blair Witch Project 2” springs to mind, “New Nightmare”, “Human Centipede 2” as well (I’m sure there are others, and I’m not referring to some sneaky joke line like “this is just like the last movie!”). As well as Chelsea, and a couple who are basically cannon fodder, there’s an early appearance from future Superman Henry Cavill as the sleazy womanising member of the group, and TV regular Christopher Jacot as outsider Jake, who’s gone to the party to meet his online girlfriend. They mock the “gratuitous boob shot” of horror movies, and drink in the faux-decadent trappings of the party before meeting “The Host”, one Lance Henriksen (who was approached to play the part of Uncle Frank way back in part 1, but turned it down).
Henriksen has drugged them all and the entire party is a dream. There you go. From about the half-hour mark, all five of them are buried in the back garden of the house with pipes to give them air, and The Host is apparently some godlike super-genius with hallucinogens because he’s able to get them to have an identical hallucination, interact with each other and then get tracked down by Pinhead and brutally murdered, slasher-style. Why has he done this? Because he’s Adam’s father and blames them for his son’s death, despite being an absentee parent who never gave a damn before.
So let’s break down what “The Host” had to do in order to make this revenge plot happen. It’s a little difficult to parse what’s “real” and what’s just part of the hallucination, but I think we can manage a decent list. First, he needs to hack the game in order to provide the invites to those five, and only those five. He also needs to rely on them turning up and not just going “nah, mate, I’d rather do literally anything else”. Then, he needs to rent the mansion, kit it out with hundreds of props and (at least) dozens of background partiers. Then he needs to find a hallucinogen that acts in a way completely unknown to science, and figure out a way to give it to those five people. Then he needs to bury them in his back garden, and hope that no-one else sees what’s going on.
At the “party”, they’re all provided with phones and masks with numbers on, and told if they want to hook up with anyone, they can just call the number on the mask. But right from the beginning, the phones display real names on them, and Jake just grabs a phone at random and never takes a mask. The two items aren’t linked. Now, this can be explained away by The Host putting a phone in each coffin, so this is the real world showing through the hallucination, but why didn’t the cast notice this? At one point, Chelsea calls the police and they turn up, Chelsea can see them but they can’t see her (hallucination!), but…if this is a dream, how is the Host not controlling this aspect of it? Why doesn’t he just block them from making 911 calls? If they’re stuck in a coffin, how are they making calls anyway? And how do they know what the police officers look like?
The Host’s plan goes perfectly, and he gets away scot-free. The people who die inside the hallucination are dead for real, with the only two people who survive – Jake and Chelsea – falling in love; it seems the ghost of Adam called the police and warned them where they were buried? In a twist on top of the twist, Adam built a fully working Lament Configuration and The Host opens it at the end, allowing Pinhead and his crew to come through, shred him to pieces and then be on their way. Hurrah for morally simplistic endings!
Everything in “Hellworld” is a lie, and that’s just irritating to the viewer. It’s full of plot holes which I’m sure weren’t deliberate, just people with no interest in good movie-making churning yet another horror sequel out; but if confronted with it, everyone involved would just go “it’s a hallucination!” Take, for instance, Leviathan House, apparently built by the original LeMarchand from part 4. “His second greatest creation”, says The Host, his first being the box of course. But…LeMarchand was a toymaker and died very soon after building that box, and lived in France. The Host might be thinking of the second Mr Marchand, from 1996, but he didn’t design the box, and no-one would be terribly impressed by a ten-year-old mansion. No-one seems sure if Hellraiser is literally real or just a computer game, either.
Pinhead gets a mini-speech at the end, as per usual, but his last line is a Slasher-iffic “how’s that for a wake-up call?” I imagine Doug Bradley must have been thoroughly disgusted at having to deliver such nonsense, and is one of the reasons he turned down part 9 and refused the upcoming part 10 (he asked to see the script beforehand, and refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Woody Allen can get his stars to sign them, but not whoever’s making Hellraiser 10).
It feels like it was written by old men who’d never played computer games, or seen any previous Hellraisers. They were given a list of Hellraiser factoids and told “computer games are bad, okay?” In every other installment, the majority of Pinhead’s victims did something to end up in his grasp – either be evil scumbags, or push too far outside the realms of human morality. The people who die in this did nothing – Adame’s death wasn’t their fault. Their only failing was not detecting the latent mental illness in their friend; they all seem to be extremely sad he died and absolutely don’t deserve their fate. It’s a traditional slasher movie plot, where everyone dies but the Final Girl and the non-threatening non-love interest.
It’s dumb, vaguely insulting to fans of the franchise and makes not a lick of sense.
Rating: thumbs down