Hellraiser is a somewhat frustrating experience as there are some genuinely fantastic narrative ideas on display and unique spins and alterations to the franchise lore.
WRITTEN BY JACK RANSOM / OCTOBER 15, 2022
A reboot of Clive Barker's 1987 horror classic. Hellraiser sees a young woman (Odessa A’zion) struggling with addiction come into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites.
If you can believe it, this is the 11th film in the Hellraiser franchise. A franchise that I have (as of writing) only seen three films of and from what I have gathered, began to quickly run out of steam and led to two allegedly truly awful non-Doug Bradley starring features in the 2010’s. Now, in our year of 2022 we have seen legacy features in abundance (Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, Prey and recently released Halloween Ends).
Hellraiser is a somewhat frustrating experience as there are some genuinely fantastic narrative ideas on display and unique spins and alterations to the franchise lore. However these are hindered by the overlong runtime that clocks in at just over 2 hours and a significantly un-interesting first half that delivers an admirable attempt at family/addiction drama, but is unfortunately bogged down by its slow pacing and cliche ridden traits and tropes that are seen in the genre.
Stylistically the film is very solid and I would have liked to have seen this at the cinema regardless of my opinion on it. It’s effectively grisly (with frequent practical effect work) and there are a smattering of raised devil horn worthy moments of brutality that gave me a big grin. The design alterations made to the Cenobites are interesting. Most notably their actual skin has been reworked into their outfits and the new additions are very welcome. However, I can’t deny that Barker’s feel more real, sleazy and grotesque, as well as capturing a sense of grandiosity and higher power that I personally never really felt here.
A’zion gives an erratic, embittered and inquisitive performance here. She really commits to the role despite Riley not being a particularly empathetic or likeable protagonist. Jamie Clayton gives a reptilian-like portrayal of Pinhead (or The Priest as she is credited as), accompanied with spine-tingling voice modulation. It’s just a shame there could (and should) have been more of her. The rest of the supporting players are fine, but are all largely familiar character archetypes.
Hellraiser is a slightly disappointing return for the Cenobites, however it is certainly not without merit. The suitably splattery, savage and twisted moments of gore are welcome, the production design is strong and Jamie Clayton certainly leaves her mark in the role. However, the generic supporting cast, lack of scares, pacing and the Cenobites unfortunately don’t match up to Barker’s creations.