So, we come to the end of yet another horror franchise – yes, we might be getting either a sequel or a reboot this year, but so far this is as much “Hellraiser” as we have. My friend Dave, sadly no longer with us, loved “Hellraiser”, and once horrified me by telling me about parts 5-8 – like, how could the franchise have kept going but flew so low under the radar of even a horror fan like me? I got to return the favour when I learned about part 9, and his child-like glee at the prospect of yet another instalment is a happy memory.
This movie only exists due to a clause in the original contract, a clause that also gave us the (unreleased) “Fantastic Four” movie in the 1990s and no doubt several other completely unnecessary sequels. If Dimension Films didn’t do something with “Hellraiser” at least every five years, the rights would revert – and they decided, apparently on the spur of the moment, that the cost of making a new one would be less than the potential lost profits from a big-budget reboot somewhere down the road.
From that indifference, we get this! Made for an almost unthinkably small (for a major studio) $300,000, with an entire production time of 3 weeks, including 11 days shooting time. Publicity, such as they could be bothered with, included the line “from the mind of Clive Barker”, to which Barker responded on Twitter:
“Hello, my friends. I want to put on record that the flick out there using the word Hellraiser IS NO FUCKIN’ CHILD OF MINE! I have NOTHING to do with the fuckin’ thing. If they claim it’s from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.”
(which would be a better statement if everything he’d written since the mid 90s hadn’t been utter pish, but there you go). But I suppose we ought to get on to the movie itself – it’s usually a good sign that it’s going to suck when I take this long to mention it at all.
From the very first thing you see – a cheap-looking Times New Roman fonted “Hellraiser: Revelations” – it’s really obvious it’s going to be a bad one. And then…found footage! Damn you! The poison that’s killed off modern horror, found footage movies are popular to make because they’re cheap, and you don’t have to worry about framing or lighting a scene correctly, and can skimp on special effects. Two young men are off to Tijuana for a weekend of partying, and have decided for absolutely no reason to film their exploits – even though they’re both aiming to have sex, and one of them (Nico) has a girlfriend (Emma) who’s the sister of the other partier (Steven).
Luckily, ish, the found footage stops after five minutes or so and we’re introduced to our main set, a large suburban home, some unspecified time after this filming, where the mother of one of the boys is watching the tape. Both sets of parents are getting together for a dinner party, and it turns out that Nico and Steven went missing, the parents hired a private detective, but all they found was a bag of their stuff, including the video camera and…yes, you guessed it, the box we all know and love, the Lament Configuration!
We cut between the parents getting angry with themselves and each other, Emma thinking about opening the box, and the further Mexican adventures of Nico and Steven. Now, it feels almost churlish to bring this up, but there’s one scene where they’re talking to a beautiful young woman in a bar, and we not only see the camcorder footage, but “properly” shot stuff from the reverse angle. They couldn’t have made it any more obvious that it was being employed as a cost-saving measure, but they can’t even be bothered to stick close to their original conceit in the next scene, where Nico is having sex with the girl in a toilet, and Steven walks in on them. We see Steven filming this, but at times when the camcorder is on the floor, Emma reacts as if she’s seeing what the movie is seeing, from a completely different angle. Does this make sense? It’s chuffing terrible, is what I’m saying.
The plot, garbled as it is, sort of rips off the first movie. A tramp gives the boys the box, and tells them about ultimate pleasure and pain, the flesh, all that gubbins, so of course they open it and Pinhead shows up. Nico is taken to the Cenobite dimension, and Steven is left there, and it’s only when he hires a hooker himself and kills her with the cube that the blood soaks into the mattress and Nico pops out of it, demanding more blood so he can get his body back.
We’ve mentioned Pinhead, so I guess we ought to go into that. Doug Bradley didn’t sign on for two reasons – one, the script was a first draft and to his mind was unfinished; and two, his fee would only have been enough to buy a new fridge. The sensible option would’ve been to use a different Cenobite, but that involves having an original thought, and this movie is painfully short on original thoughts. So they hired Stephan Smith Collins, a jobbing actor, gave him a rough approximation of the classic Pinhead makeup, but didn’t bother giving him an imposing or interesting voice. We also see Pinhead creating a new Pinhead out of who we think is Nico (no spoilers!), driving nails into his head and giving him squares of skin from his victims to cover his head up – despite this not being anything like the original Pinhead’s origin, such as we saw of it.
So Stephen shows up after Emma half-opens the box, dazed and covered in blood, and no-one thinks to ask “where the hell have you been for the last six months?” or “why didn’t you call rather than walk here?” There’s twists and turns and the Cenobites pop up again at the end, because of course they do. We learn that all hookers in Mexico are apparently Asian, that movies will feature the off-screen killing of a baby to try and generate some cheap publicity, and that Steven looks and acts like a very poor man’s Jared Padalecki.
It’s truly, thoroughly, miserably rotten. One example – “Steven” shoots his dad in the stomach then proceeds to rant about how rubbish parents are, which makes his dad give him a loving speech about “maybe you’ll understand when you have kids”. He just shot you! Have some self-respect! It feels like a very bad play, with its miniscule number of locations, crappy acting and underbaked script. How the hell did the private investigator recover their camera and the box? What sleazy Mexican motel wouldn’t have sold that camera before their bodies were even cold?
Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s the very bottom of filmmaking, made for one reason only, to retain the rights to the name in the cheapest manner possible. As such, it doesn’t deserve mockery or laughter, just contempt. Every penny spent on this movie is a penny to kill any creativity the movie industry may possess. For real laughs, check out the very end, which is supposed to be setup for a sequel. The look on the below actress is supposed to represent hidden sexuality and longing, not vague boredom, in case you were wondering.
Now we’re done, should you watch any of them? Yes, of course. The first four are all surprisingly good, even if part 3 is definitely an acquired taste. The re-edited part 4 might even be the best of the bunch, and there’s at least something to enjoy about parts 5 to 8 as well. Let us not forget part 9, but remember it whenever a sequel to a once-beloved franchise comes out several years after the last one, to little fanfare.
Rating: all the thumbs ever, down