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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Hellraiser (2022)

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It would be fair to say that the Hellraiser franchise has had a turbulent history.  Adapted from Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart in 1987, the original Hellraiser was a fantastic supernatural horror film.  The sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, was equally good and expanded the mythology of the cenobites.  However, the subsequent films have been mixed at best.

There were high hopes within the horror community when it was announced that Clive Barker was returning and rebooting Hellraiser.  Could we finally see a Hellraiser film that was a more faithful interpretation of Barker’s classic work?

As it turned out, 2022’s Hellraiser is more of a reimagining of the core premise.  Barring Pinhead, also known as ‘Hell Priest’ or lead cenobite, none of the original characters from the film or book return.  Instead, we are presented with Riley, a recovering drug addict, living with her brother and his lover, as well as their housemate and Riley’s boyfriend, who discover a mysterious puzzle box and chaos ensures as they seek to unravel the mystery of its presence before it is too late.

Unfortunately, this is where the problems start.  Odessa A’zion is a fantastic actress and convincingly portrays Riley’s struggles with addiction, but Riley’s poor choices make her a difficult to sympathise with.  The other characters are similarly unlikable due to their constant arguing.  Whilst there is an element of verisimilitude in people making selfish decisions or reacting badly in stressful situations, this can also make them difficult to like.  As such, when the chains come out and the blood starts flying, we do not care as much as we should.

One character that has not changed much is Pinhead, this time played by Jamie Clayton.  Previously played by Doug Bradley, Clayton portrays the gravitas and lordlike qualities that Bradley brought to the role.  The design of Pinhead has also been updated.  There is a fantastic attention to detail in the creature designs and animatronics.

Similarly impressive are the choices in locations – they convincingly portray dense urban environments and contrast them with decaying country homes and mental asylums.

The change in the aesthetics of the cenobites mirrors the shift in themes.  Previously, both the original Hellraiser film and The Hellbound Heart alluded to BDSM and homosexuality.  Instead, the new Hellraiser film is more focussed on addiction and body modification.

The new Hellraiser does not grip as much as it should.  Tension mounts, as the characters investigate what is happening, but we never feel invested in them.  The kills are visceral, but lack an emotive charge.  If the audience do not feel strongly about the characters, they simply do not care whether they live or die.

Ultimately, Hellraiser (2022) feels like a missed opportunity.  There is fantastic cinematography, acting and creature designs, but the writing fails to engage the audience and bind everything together.  Instead, we are presented with a series of gruesome kills, as insipid characters flee from one location to the next.

Ardent horror fans may enjoy the creature designs and incredible effects, but there is insufficient character development or genuine tension for the majority of cinemagoers to enjoy.

Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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It would be fair to say that the Hellraiser franchise has had a turbulent history.  Adapted from Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart in 1987, the original Hellraiser was a fantastic supernatural horror film.  The sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, was equally good and expanded the...Hellraiser (2022)