This gory 1987 chiller has been opulently designed and remixed, offering up some effectively gnarly violence. However, it is indulgently overlong.
There have been whispers about a remake of the gruesome 1987 franchise-starter Hellraiser for 15 years now, which not just goes to show how generally onerous these things can be to get off the ground, but also speaks to a certain tone that feels so out-of-place in today’s horror landscape. The original – based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart – was a nasty little nightmare steeped in hokey lore yet taken with stone-faced seriousness; it was a story about monsters who enjoyed inflicting pain on people’s minds and bodies, using a puzzle box to trap their victims. While the style may be more plentiful and profitable now than it has ever been, it is also deceptive in its limitations; audiences run out to see a small number of bogeymen do a limited number of terrible things.
It’s like something from Hellraiser has been relegated to the outer limits, a niche genre-focused streaming service that puts fandom first and everyone else last. It’s interesting to note that Disney-owned Hulu is remaking the series with a large budget and glossy sheen, and it’s even more intriguing to find that it’s just as gory and zealous in its world-building as the films that came before. It doesn’t always succeed, but when it does, it feels bold and unrestrained, which isn’t how we often feel about horror movies these days.
Many people David Bruckner’s last film, The Night House, which featured Rebecca Hall. In a similar way to the supernatural thriller , it too is caught between two worlds that we live in and one that we don’t ever want to experience. However, like many things in life, it may be more interesting to look at than to listen to. This time around his female protagonist who is going through struggles is Riley (Odessa A’zion). Recently out of rehab, she battles with addictions every day and is fighting for her sobriety. After assisting shady partner Trevor (Drew Starkey) in stealing a mysterious box, she finds herself with an elegantly designed puzzle box that soon draws her and everybody around her into a frightening game.
Even as mainstream as its platform is, Hellraiser will repel a substantial number of its viewers with its preoccupation on exquisite pain, bodies pushed to their limits, skin flayed open and insides forced onto the outside. For the rest of us, it’s all meticulously planned out, an inventively devious provocation that tears and skewers and slices its surprisingly competent young cast with enthusiasm.
The beings who see masochism as bliss, known as the cenobites, are not easy to bring into the present day due to their aesthetic being linked with 80s punk fashion. However, that’s not even the main issue I have with them. Rather, it is how cheaply they were designed- which reminds me of the laughable remake of Thirteen Ghosts from 2001. There are some costumes that take us out of the terror in front of us, as though we were at a low-quality horror film rather than a serious horror movie. Although Pinhead, played by Jamie Clayton, is somewhat more successful than her minions, she never quite reaches Doug Bradley’s admittedly difficult-to-reach OG. What’s stranger about the is-this-the-best-you-can-do creatures is that they’re in a film that’s otherwise beautifully made; atmospheric and well done on a scale and with an imagination we just don’t see very often.
While the protagonist’s dual trauma narrative may be a little predicted in today’s “elevated” horror, Adlon is a skilled actor who portrays it with sincerity and intensity, as if she were starring in a drama about addiction that has just gone horribly wrong. At two hours, Hellraiser is too long and does not have enough excitement or horror to make up for it. However, what Bruckner did do well was create a remake that is different enough from the original to be justifying its existence – which in itself is extremely hard to do. There is enough gore and sadism in the film that will please those looking for a good horror movie this Halloween season. It’s rare nowadays to see a film made with care even though it might not be liked by everyone – as disgusting as it may be, there are some who will appreciate it for what it sets out to achieve.
Now playing on Cinema HD.
Directed by: David Bruckner
Story by: David S. Goyer, Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
Starring: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Brandon Flynn, Goran Višnjić, Drew Starkey, Adam Faison, Aoife Hinds, Selina Lo, Hiam Abbass
Running time: 120 minutes
Country: United States