Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood (2003)


Trying desperately to think of something non-mocking to say about the last of the “classic” Leprechaun movies, it’s pretty rare to see a horror movie with an almost entirely (or even substantially) black cast. The only ones that come to mind are more comedies than they are horrors (“Vampire In Brooklyn” and “Scary Movie”) and while there’s no genre of cinema that hasn’t been guilty of whitewashing, horror seems particularly susceptible to it. If there’s more than one black person in a cast, they’re related to each other, and black people only date other black people. It’s garbage and should stop, but while we’re fighting for that better world, we can rather bizarrely give the last two Leprechaun movies some credit.


It turns out this was going to be set on a tropical island for Spring Break, and was only converted to “tha hood” when production company Lion’s Gate insisted. Director Steven Ayromlooi has made several movies with majority black casts since, so even though he looks like the sleaziest guy in the world in his publicity photos, our hats are doffed to him – although, it would’ve been nice if he’d not made such a thoroughly awful instalment.


In what must be a joke, we’re treated to yet another origin story for leprechauns! They were created to guard an ancient king’s gold, but when he died most of them went back into the earth. Only one of them stuck around, causing trouble down the millennia; but before the opening credits, even he breathes his last, with four-leaf-clover-infused holy water and an incantation causing him to get dragged into the ground by a large number of unseen creatures (ending of “Jason Goes To Hell” style). His pot of gold is stuck in the cellar of an abandoned building site – a centre for kids – and don’t worry about the location, because even though you think someone’s going to spend some of that gold to build the place up again and save the community, no-one does. It at least follows on from part 5 with the juiciness of its red herrings.


The plot is about rival groups of drug dealers and the couple of normal women stuck in the middle. Everyone is so painfully bland that I can’t even be bothered to look up their character names – there’s Goofy Stoner, Ex-Boyfriend Dealer, Decent Woman A, Decent Woman B, and Scumbag Drug Gang. Decent Woman A, after being warned by a fortune teller to beware of easy fortune, finds the pot of gold, shares it with her friends, and they all spend it before the leprechaun emerges, dragging himself from hell because it’s a film and that’s what needs to happen for yet another sequel. There’s a huge section just following them spending their money, lots of encounters with Bad Drug Gang, and an almost excruciating last half hour where they beat up the Leprechaun, he looks dead, then he gets up and beats them up, repeat ad nauseam. There’s some slapstick where Lep re-discovers how much he likes weed, should that be your cup of tea.


What’s moderately surprising about this movie is that Leprechaun decided, on its last instalment, to become a slasher movie. The beats are exactly the same – legend of the killer, meet the meat, fun and games, death death death, Final Girl, end. Leprechaun doesn’t seem all that bothered about getting his gold back, or indeed anything other than killing – what stands out is how few lines Warwick Davis as ol’ Lep has. Did they only hire him at the last minute so he didn’t have time to learn all that rhyming wordplay? Or did the writer just not care? He speaks as much as the average slasher villain but not as much as the average wordy Irish forest spirit, is what I’m saying.


It’s so thoroughly “nothing” that I can barely summon up the energy to have any reaction to it at all. The laziness shows through in two important police-related scenes. First up, Goofy Stoner is arrested about halfway through the movie and the others say they’ll do everything they can to get him out. Then, a couple of minutes later, he just pulls up in a car like he’s been on holiday, and it’s never mentioned again. Then…one of the other characters (no spoilers) is arrested near the end, but the cops die, then a bunch of other people die. But because he survived a horror movie (okay, slight spoiler) legal problems just disappear and all is well. And why do characters in horror movies never learn that if you empty a rifle into someone and they get up, that second rifle full of bullets probably isn’t going to work?


We’ve got one more to go – 2014’s “Leprechaun: Origins”, produced by WWE Films and starring wrestler Hornswoggle (who, along with a gimmick called “The World’s Sexiest Midget”, was also a wrestling leprechaun for a while), and then hopefully that will be that, because he violated the WWE’s “wellness policy” (by failing to provide a urine sample in timescale) and was fired earlier this year. What a terrible bloody series this has been, and urine is a fine point to end on.


Rating: thumbs down



Leprechaun: In The Hood (2000)


At about the one hour point of part 4, I cheered with the realisation that I was closer to the end of the series than the beginning, and that thought – that it would all be over soon – was one of the few happy moments during part 5. Even though it’s got a fun-sounding premise – the leprechaun is trapped by a lucky human, who uses his power to become a rap mogul; 25 years later, a hungry young group of rappers accidentally frees the creature and all hell breaks loose – it’s not, to be polite, got great execution.


Rhyming is back! As was sort of inevitable in a movie about rap music, with…Ice-T as the second billed actor! This must have been in the wilderness years when his music career had ended but his TV career hadn’t quite started; I think he contributes a couple of songs to the soundtrack, too. I’d love to have been at that creative session, with one of the most famous “gangster” rappers of all time trying to think of words that rhymed with “leprechaun”.


The amulet from part 3 returns, representing the only bit of continuity in any of this series so far (he actually gets locked in a safe again, like part 2, but this time it does him no harm whatsoever). We start some time in the 70s, and a be-afro’d Ice T is raiding an abandoned cellar with a friend, based on a treasure map someone sold them (ah, why not?) They find a leprechaun “statue” and Ice-T takes the only thing he’s looking for – a small gold flute. While his buddy is packing up the rest of the gold, he takes the medallion off, Lep comes back to life, fight fight fight, friend dies and then the medallion manages to find its way back round Lep’s neck. A brief aside – when Lep comes back to life for the first time, he does a version of Martin Luther King’s “free at last” speech, to a couple of black men. I can’t tell if this is the worst attempt at a joke I’ve ever heard or just staggeringly insensitive, either way I really think they could have chosen a different line for him.


In the modern day, our “heroes” are Postmaster P, Stray Bullet and Butch, a rap trio with a conscious, positive message they want to get across.  Thanks to Butch being a bit of a klutz, they wreck their equipment, but a chance meeting with rap supremo Mac Daddy O’Nassas (Ice-T) leads them almost to a record deal right away, only problem being Ice-T wants them to change their sound to talking about “traditional” gangster rap things, like hoes and shooting people in the face and so on. They decide, instead, to rob him and use the money to buy some new equipment, but guess what medallion they steal along with the magic flute and bags of cash? Oh, and Postmaster P thinks he’s killed Ice-T at this moment too, but that’s not all that important.


It’s sort of stupid to try and write sensibly about a movie that clearly cares so little about making sense. I mean, as soon as Lep is re-animated, he starts quipping about mid 90s current events, as if he hadn’t just spent the last thirty years as a statue…did no-one think of popping in a line like “for thirty years, I saw and heard all / now it’s time for you to give Satan a call”? I am available for scriptwriting duties for any future Leprechaun movie, ladies and gentlemen. Lep sees Ice-T smoking a joint at one point, tries it himself and then becomes a blunt-puffing OG for the rest of the movie; and Coolio pops up for one scene for absolutely no reason (I admit, I wasn’t paying the closest attention, so it could well have been someone watching a Coolio video on a TV, or a lifesize cardboard cutout).


Much like so many of the movies we cover here, by the hour mark it’s shot its bolt and spends the last half-hour just running round in pointless chases and fight scenes. The people we’re supposed to be cheering on, the remaining members of the rap group, are murdering thieves, Ice T is a piece of garbage too…basically, Lep is the hero of the movie. All he wants is his money back, but no-one ever listens! Okay, he does create an army of zombie prostitutes near the end, but no-one’s perfect. I wish B-movies would figure out something better to do with their third acts. Warwick Davis tries his best, and some of his line readings are pretty funny, but it’s a complete mess.


The one question I’m sure popped into your head (if you bothered to think about it at all) when you heard about a Leprechaun movie “in the hood” was “oh no, he’s going to rap, isn’t he?” to which the answer is “of course he is”. After a complete bummer of an ending where the person who “wins” becomes even worse, Lep (who we saw get turned back into stone an instant ago) hops on the stage and drops a fresh rhyme on all us suckers. Is this spoiling the ending? If you care, I hate you.


Once again, it’s not so much that it’s terrible – although it is – but that I genuinely can’t fathom why it exists. It feels like an internet meme brought to life, haha a leprechaun, right, but he’s evil, and he’s got a magic flute, and he runs into some rappers! They’re clearly aiming for that trash B-movie comedy aesthetic, but everything’s so laboured and the jokes are almost without exception terrible. We ought to demand better from our entertainment!


Rating: thumbs down

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996)


I have to admire a movie that cares so little about establishing its own premise. And the title, too! “In Space”, as if that’s all the information you deserve or should care about. You know the routine, so let’s have some fun with the setting, right? So, with zero explanation as to why the series has leapt forward a few hundred years or why the leprechaun decided to go to space, here we are.


It’s quite surprising how many horror franchises have gone to space, although it’s a trend which died off hard, around the millenium. If you count “Critters” as a horror franchise, it went to and from space from the very beginning, but we’ve got “Hellraiser 4: Bloodline”, then this in the same year, then “Jason X”, not just the best of the space-set horror movies, but right at (or near) the very top of all horror franchise instalments.  Lord knows why they did it, but I’d be happy if they carried the tradition on. “Paranormal (And Extraterrestrial) Activity”! “Cabin (On A Spaceship) Fever”!


Fans of super-cheap CGI will have a field day with this one, as right at the beginning a bunch of ships and planets pass by our…heroes? That’s a pretty strong word for them. They’re marines who are working for a mining company, I think, and are trying to track down some alien that’s been disrupting their mining operations. Of course, the “alien” is the leprechaun (never referred to as such throughout the movie, tedious information fans) and as we meet him he’s romancing the Princess of a local planet. He wants power, she wants gold, and they both plan to kill the other after the wedding ceremony so it’s a match made in heaven.


The marines turn up, blow the leprechaun to pieces and wound the Princess. The marine unit has a tradition of urinating on the corpses of their victims, but few of those victims are immortal Irish spirits, so the leprechaun’s life-essence travels up the urine stream and a few minutes later he busts out of the hapless marine’s crotch (“Alien” style). There’s Dr Mittenhand, who might be the boss of the mining company, but is definitely a mad scientist (looking like a cross between Davros and Dr Strangelove) and he wants to use the unconscious Princess’s DNA to regenerate his own horribly crippled body. You know, normal stuff. And so the movie grinds on.


It seems that the makers of “Leprechaun 4: In Space” decided that originality was overrated and just decided to rip off lots of famous sci-fi movies and TV shows. There’s “Alien” and “Aliens”, of course (marines sent to kill alien on other planet); “Doctor Who” (the look of Mittenhand); “Star Wars” (the leprechaun inexplicably uses a lightsabre in one scene); and even “Red Dwarf” (large mining ship, plus the way Mittenhand communicates with the crew in the first act). I guess when you’ve ceased caring to this extent, you might as well double down on the laziness.


To accompany the miserable script and cheap effects, we’ve got some rotten acting too. The only two people who understand what sort of ludicrous movie they’re in and act accordingly are Guy Siner (“Allo Allo”) as Mittenhand and Rebecca Carlton (“Baywatch”) as Princess Zarina; the Marine Sergeant, referred to in the credits as “Metal Head” – due to half his skull having been replaced with a metal plate, so fair enough – is sort of okay but everyone else is just boring, complete wastes of space who think they’re in “Aliens”.


I’m firmly of the opinion that a wacky concept doesn’t excuse you from not making any sense. Look at “Crank”, one of the most OTT movies ever, but it’s a completely logical premise. Here, the leprechaun seems obsessed with his pot of gold…despite being on a planet apparently largely made of the stuff. It feels like the scriptwriter just went “ah, screw it” and wrote down the first thing that came into his head; and director Brian Trenchard-Smith, returning from part 3, seems to have given up too (which makes part 3’s relative quality all the more surprising).

Leprechaun 3 In Space

I just don’t understand why it exists. Well, I think it’s to throw stuff at the screen and try and get a camp so-bad-it’s-good hit – for instance, “Metal Head” is brainwashed into doing a drag act, and from then to the end of the movie, keeps alternating between a non-hilarious “gay voice” and their normal gruffness. Mittenhand gets transformed, thanks to a spider and scorpion being dropped in his DNA soup, into a monstrous creature. The Leprechaun gets turned giant. The easiest way of spotting no-one had any idea what they were doing – it’d be relatively simple (and quite good) to put the Leprechaun and “Mittenspider” together as the big fight at the end…but they don’t. The one plus is the leprechaun doesn’t rhyme all his dialogue, even though it’s still terrible. But the leprechaun being, y’know, a leprechaun, barely factors into the movie at all.


It feels like a smart 13-year-old trying to shock his parents – quite fun in places, but ultimately pointless and tiring.


Rating: thumbs down

Leprechaun 3 (1995)


In what may be the lowest bar to clear in movie history, this is the best Leprechaun movie so far. It has a couple of sections I quite liked, a few decent performances and some funny lines. Now, this is a very long way from saying it was good, but at least we’ve got something to work with this time and I don’t just want to cry myself to sleep.


The leprechaun is what I can only assume is yet another different character played by the same actor, as he was blown up at the end of the last one. Or melted, I honestly don’t remember. Anyway, when we meet him, he’s been turned to stone by a magic medallion and sold to a pawn shop in Las Vegas, and of course the pawn shop owner removes the medallion and hijinks ensue. Luckily, the Indian pawn shop owner has a CD-rom about “Legends And Folklore”, so via the wonders of mid-90s flash animation we’re treated to yet another entirely different backstory for our Irish friends – this time, it’s destroying their gold that will kill them, not four-leaf clovers or wrought iron. Ho hum.


The main couple don’t so much have a meet-cute as a meet-stupid. He’s a hayseed who’s driving through Vegas on his way to college in California, and she’s a magician’s assistant whose car broke down at the side of the road. He offers her a ride and asks her to sneak him into the casino where she works – he’s apparently under 21, although looks 30. They’re both shockingly bad actors – John Gatins is “Scott McCoy” and Lee Armstrong is “Tammy Larsen”, and the nowhere their careers went would bear this out (Armstrong wouldn’t work again after 1995, and Gatins has hung around the bottom rung of Hollywood – he does have a good self-awareness of how terrible he is, though).


So, he loses his college tuition money, and then goes to pawn his watch across the road, and discovers the near-dead pawn shop owner, the pot of gold and the leprechaun, who tears his arm open and…maybe?…infects him with “leprechaun-ism”? I’m really not sure, that scene was weirdly edited. So, the action switches from the shop to the casino, with a decent cast of supporting characters – the owner of the casino, who owes a couple of gangsters some money; and the crappy stage magician; the middle-aged croupier who wishes her boobs were more pert. The gangsters in particular are very well-judged comic relief, and the magic, when we see it, is also funny in its badness.


What director Brian Trenchard-Smith (last seen by us in “Drive Hard”, but most famous as director of “Turkey Shoot” and “Dead-End Drive In”) has done is made Las Vegas look like the most miserable place on Earth. No-one seems to like being there, and everyone treats everyone else like scum (with the exception of our central couple). Much like “Jason Takes Manhattan”, the actual amount of footage filmed in Vegas itself is tiny, a few scenes of the Leprechaun cackling and running around the streets, and most of it is indoors, in a grimy casino or a pawn shop. By the way, I reckon a Las Vegas pawn shop would be probably the most depressing place ever to work. So the characters run between these locations, trying to find the missing coin that grants wishes (although, it seems each character only gets about half an hour to enjoy their wish before they get brutally murdered – I can’t help but think if that was part of the legend, no-one would dare touch one of his coins).


What it does have is lots and lots of really bad rhyming puns, same as the previous two films; but there are some good moments astonishingly. The Leprechaun takes over a TV at one point and broadcasts fake adverts starring himself, and when confronting Scott near the end, he says “come over to the green side”. The scene where he does the chainsaw “trick” with the magician is funny too…it felt rather peculiar to laugh at, not with, a “Leprechaun” movie.


Just so we don’t do anything stupid like give this a thumbs-up, there are some very odd moments. The obsession with potatoes has its origin with jokes about the Irish potato famine and certainly could be seen as offensive to Irish people (as is the modern depiction of the leprechaun, if we’re being honest). And the two main actors really drag every scene they’re in down, with Armstrong particularly looking and acting like a very poor man’s Elizabeth Shue. It’s a film of two halves – when the leprechaun’s not on screen, everything is great.


If literally the only movies you have access to are the first three in this series, pick this one. Otherwise, just avoid.
Rating: thumbs in the middle


Leprechaun (1993)


What the heck did I just watch? And there’s six more of the damn things! Were it not for “Witchcraft” reigning supreme as the most miserable of all the horror franchises, this would be right down there, but “well, it’s a bit better than Witchcraft” is almost the definition of damning with faint praise.


It feels a lot like “Critters”, if we’re comparing it to movies we’ve already covered, only “Critters” without any of the fun or scares. And, y’know, it was made 7 years after that, and horror/comedy really ought to have progressed by then. This feels like a garbage mid 80s movie and spending the time to write about it is starting to annoy me a bit so I’d better get on. But seriously, it’s awful and a complete misfire.


We get the legend of the leprechaun thanks to a guy called O’Grady, as Irish a stereotype as you’ll ever see, who in the early 80s goes back to Ireland and manages to capture one of the fellas, who’s then obliged by ancient rules to tell him where his pot of gold is. So O’Grady manages to get a huge bag of gold and a magic creature in a box through customs (pre 9/11, things were easier, I guess) only to suffer a stroke before he can burn our leprechaun friend. I think his wife dies at this point, but mercifully my brain has started rejecting information from this movie already. The leprechaun is trapped in a box with a four-leaf clover put on top, so all is well and will remain well forever, clearly.


Fast forward ten years, and a new family have moved in to the old O’Grady house.  The Dad is window-dressing, and the only person modern audiences will be interested in is a young Jennifer Aniston, very obviously head and shoulders above the rest of the cast and 100% ready for the stardom that would come her way very soon on “Friends”. She’s the daughter, and is a snooty city girl, wanting to leave this rural hellhole…until she meets hunky painter Nathan (Ken Olandt, “April Fools Day”) and his two co-workers, smart child Alex and dumb adult Ozzie – Ozzie is almost offensively stupid, with an unspecified disability that, were this film better, would be offensive to every disabled group. So she decides to stay, but Alex and Ozzie both find the bag of gold and accidentally free the leprechaun, and all hell breaks loose.


If, that is, by “all hell”, you mean a guy who can’t do an Irish accident (Warwick Davis as the titular character) running around and cackling and demanding his gold back approximately every 30 seconds throughout the entire rest of the movie. The people “trapped” in the house try and call the police, but because Ozzie has complained about UFOs and all sorts in the past (because he’s disabled hahaha) they don’t believe them and just don’t bother turning up. So eventually they give him his money back but one of the coins is missing so he just carried on terrorising them.


God, I hated this movie. There’s no tension or sense of danger at any point, and the comedy which was injected into the movie at Davis’ insistence is painfully bad. Aniston is great, Olandt is okay, but the kid is terrible and given he sort of started the whole thing, it would’ve been nice to see him get his comeuppance (spoiler: he doesn’t, because he’s a kid in a mainstream movie). All that really happens is a bunch of supporting characters die in moderately gruesome ways while our stars are all fine. The eyeball replacement scene is pretty decent gore, I suppose.


On the technical side, this is the directing debut for one Mark Jones, who’s best known as a jobbing TV writer – “The A Team”, other 80s classics – who still occasionally directs (his next job after this was “Rumpelstiltskin”, which feels similar enough that some executive probably gave him the job because of this experience).


I’m seriously considering not doing the rest of the series, although…part 4 is set in space, and parts 5 and 6 are both “in tha hood”, which will no doubt be extremely sensitive portrayals of the trials and tribulations of modern black America. With a leprechaun in it! So maybe I’ll stick with it. But seriously, don’t watch this under any circumstances.


Rating: thumbs down


Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)

91yLmrhdEdL._SY445_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).

pinhead jr - take your son to work day

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

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)


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

Hellraiser: Deader (2005)


I keep expecting the “Hellraiser” series to get properly rubbish, but it never does. I know we’ve got rough times ahead with part 9, made on the cheap to keep the rights to the name, but the surprising thing is despite numerous flaws and obvious twists, the first seven movies have easily been the best of all the long-running horror franchises.


Why is this, I wonder? I think the best option I can think of is the main character and the story opportunities he provides. Looking at the other ones – “A Nightmare On Elm Street” (child murderer); “Halloween” (mute all-round psychopath); “Friday The 13th (same); and “Children Of The Corn” (er…some corn? Never seen them). Even the lesser franchises, with their killer puppets, killer dolls, killer Santas, killer fun-averse summer camp counsellors, and killer builders of very elaborate traps, have no central character anything like as interesting as Pinhead. He’s not evil, particularly, he just has a morality that exists outside our own (when he’s being written smart, that is), only comes when he’s called, and offers pleasure as well as pain. Okay, he tried to take over the Earth that one time, and takes more souls than is strictly necessary, but Doug Bradley has helped make the character a fascinating one. He represents something (our desire to “transgress”, to push our boundaries further) in a way that none of the others really do.


They’ve also been pretty good with their casting, mostly, and part 7 is no exception. Starring is Kari Wuhrer, best known to me as the later-seasons star of TV gem “Sliders” but a superstar in this low-budget world (at least until having three kids kept her busy, she does mostly voice work now). She’s too-cool-for-school newspaper reporter Amy Klein, working for “The London Underground” doing exposes like “how to be a crack whore”. One day, her editor brings her in and shows her a tape, of a woman shooting herself in the head and then being brought back to life by a chanting group and a stereotypical “libertine” guy – longish hair, billowy shirt, pale skin; the group call themselves the Deaders, and this took place in Romania, so she’s off there to find Marla, the person who sent her the tape in the first place.


While she’s watching the tape, I kept getting distracted by the edits and multiple angles on display, like it was a professional documentary and not some grungy snuff film. Also, who used VHS tape in 2005? Also, what newspapers still do old-fashioned exposes nowadays? Apparently, the movie sat on a shelf for a few years, but that doesn’t really account for it. Talking of editing, after watching the video, Amy and her editor have a conversation about going to Romania, and it’s done as a total ripoff of the famous scene from “Don’t Look Now”,  where you see the thing that’s happening intercut with the thing that happens after it – for absolutely no reason other than presumably someone hoped no gorehounds would notice the lift. Anyway, off she pops, and bribing her way into Marla’s apartment, finds her dead on the toilet, having committed suicide, and takes another videotape…and a box, which the dead woman is clutching in her hand.


Yay! The Lament Configuration shows up at 20 minutes, so we at least know we weren’t tricked by the opening credits and are in a “Hellraiser” movie. She takes the box, and…well, it’s certainly getting easier to open these days. She presses a button and it starts playing music (the box must have gotten an upgrade?) then pops open on its own. It’s at this point you may well wonder if it’s going to have the same overarching idea as parts 5 and 6, but I can inform you now that it doesn’t. Amy meets Joey (Brit TV great Marc Warren), the leader of a non-stop party on a subway train – I wasn’t sure of the logistics of running your own train down there either – who warns her away from the Deaders and Winter, their mysterious leader, but this is a movie and people don’t take sensible advice in movies. The train scene is hilariously stupid, like someone lined up every stereotype of cool edginess and shoved it all into one room, and is therefore a perfect metaphor for a trashy Hellraiser sequel.


After the box is opened, we get a few seconds of Pinhead and then reality starts bending the same way it did in 5 and 6 (not surprising, as 6, 7 and 8 share a director, Rick Bota). It even manages to up the ante in the final act, as Amy becomes a “Deader” herself, stabbed through the heart but still walking and talking – the scene where she tries to remove the knife from her back is pretty great. Marla comes back to lead her through the maze of the plot – something to do with the LeMarchand family from part 4, but I won’t spoil it any further, and then she’s got a final confrontation with Winter to go.


Again, I’ve not mentioned Pinhead very much in this, and it’s for the same reason as the last two movies. Dimension Films had a bunch of horror scripts they’d bought over the years, and decided to use three of them to extend the “Hellraiser” series. The third act was completely rewritten and works surprisingly well, as Amy has to confront the mysterious flashbacks to her childhood, Winter, and Pinhead. He’s really good in this, the best part he’s had for a couple of movies (not difficult, admittedly), with motivations that seem entirely believable based on what we know about him.


The cast is great (the ones who aren’t just Eastern European extras hired for nudity, that is), especially Georgina Rylance as Marla, a fantastic performance. Wuhrer is always fun to watch too, but the one issue I have with her is – people refer to her “fucked-up, self-destructive” streak, but it’s more that if they repeat it, we’ll believe it, despite no actual evidence. Okay, she feels compelled to take on the dirtiest, most messed-up stories and definitely has a dark past, but she’s a completely likeable, strong woman who just seems a little over-confident. But she’s great, and the part where she tries to cover up her rapidly leaking chest wound is an oddly light scene, and she pulls it off. They also mention how nice her ass is like three times, which feels like it was a clause her agent got put in her contract – I mean, I wasn’t paying attention to it, as she wears mostly baggy trousers, which is why it felt weird bringing it up.


It’s certainly not perfect. No-one bothers to explain how Winter figured out he could bring people back from the dead, and the randomness of who can and can’t open the box is a bit irritating. It’s also part of a spree of filming in Romania from Dimension Films, to the point where I’m not sure if everyone realised what movie they were in – they shot Dracula 2 and 3, Prophecy 4 and 5, and Hellraiser 7 and 8, all at pretty much the same time, sharing lots of crew and some cast. It also features what I think is the first ever jump scare in “Hellraiser” history, which is a bit of a disappointment, and the whole thing of Amy being some sort of Lament Configuration chosen one feels a bit underwritten, too.


Now I’ve come to terms with Pinhead being an ancillary character in his own movies, I really rather enjoyed “Deader”. Unlike “Halloween”, which tried to become an anthology series and failed, “Hellraiser” is perfect for it – characters going through their own “hell”, drop the box in to their story, and away you go. Given that killing Pinhead seems close to impossible, the story of the Cenobites finished after part 4, and if there’s money to be made they’ll never stop churning them out, I’d rather we had something like this than Indestructible Killer X vs. yet another group of dumb teens.


Rating: thumbs up