A horror franchise that has always hovered in the dark corners of the genre, Hellraiser returns with a fresh reboot of sorts that should more than satiate fans of the sadistic demon creatures that take center stage.
I’m no Hellraiser stan though I appreciate the gratuitous and unique nature of the original (I’m sure I’ve seen a couple of the 10+ sequels, but I couldn’t name any nor differentiate them). This new Hellraiser looks and feels like vintage Clive Barker, but thankfully is no rehashed remake. With a strong cast of new characters headlined by Odessa A’zion, the movie is a gripping submersion into the foul muck of Hell, a bleak but hardly sordid affair. A’zion is a great protagonist, while the likes of Goran Visnjic and Hiam Abbass stand out among the supporting human cast.
As for the cenobites, those wretched, tortuous beings who like to appear to inflict immense suffering on any who cross their paths… well, they are just as wretched and tortuous as ever. Pinhead, played for the first time by a woman (Jamie Clayton), gets all of the attention, but the other monsters are equally fearsome.
Ultimately, director David Bruckner deserves much credit. I can’t speak to the quality of recent entries, but the franchise has largely turned into a direct-to-video one; while this new Hellraiser is going straight to Hulu, it’s deserving of the big screen. The movie is a taut two hours, well written, and gnarly in all the right ways.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.