“Hellraiser” fails to reboot the long-running cult franchise

Steve Watts, Managing Editor

It’s incredibly difficult to review a film that you can’t see. I would estimate “Hellraiser” (2022) is about 70% shadows and black screens.

David Bruckner’s “Hellraiser” reboot reinvents the lore behind the first film. In Clive Barker’s original story, demons called Cenobites could be summoned by solving a simple puzzle box called the Lament Configuration. 

The new interpretation requires the holder of the box to solve the puzzle five times, sacrificing five lives, to earn an audience with a god. This god will allow you to choose life, knowledge, love, sensation, resurrection or power as a reward for solving the Lament Configuration.

The main character of Bruckner’s film, Riley, steals the puzzle box with her boyfriend Trevor in hopes that they can sell it for a small fortune. After Riley accidentally opens the box, she’s thrust into a life of demons, sacrifices and betrayal. 

The makeup and costumes in the film were definitely a highlight. I was glad to learn that the grotesque, eerie look of the Cenobites was achieved practically rather than through the use of special effects. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see those makeup and costumes much due to Bruckner’s obsession with low exposure and near-pitch-black shots.

Clive Barker’s original film boasted dramatic themes of pain mixing with pleasure and doing the right thing in the face of fear. Those themes are a recipe for success in today’s elevated horror climate. If this film was better, I think the “Hellraiser” franchise would have a great chance for continued success in the future. 

The reboot defaults to acting as a straightforward allegory for recovering from drug addiction and dealing with the repercussions of those that you’ve hurt during your darkest times.

Bruckner’s other works reflect similar themes. “The Ritual” (2017) deals with being able to forgive yourself after a life changing mistake and “The Night House” (2020) discusses grief and regret after the loss of a loved one. 

The use of horror to portray drug addiction is tired at best. “Evil Dead” (2013) tried to use the same trope and failed in similar ways. “Hellraiser,” though, really spells out that message throughout the entire film.

This movie is also incredibly long with a runtime of 120 minutes. Bruckner falls into the trap of trying to develop too many characters in this film. As a result, we’re left with eight underdeveloped characters who aren’t compelling enough to care about.

My biggest problem with the movie is the reimagination of Pinhead. Pinhead is the most iconic character in the “Hellraiser” franchise and was truly terrifying in Barker’s original film.

If you’ve seen the 1987 film, you’ll undoubtedly recognize some of his iconic lines. “We’ll tear your soul apart,” and “Oh, no tears please. It’s a waste of good suffering” sent shivers down my spine.

Bruckner’s reimagination of Pinhead, now named The Priest, seems more like a missionary than a demon. When one of her victims tells Pinhead that she prays for salvation, Pinhead responds “And what would it feel like? A joyful note? Without change, without end? Heaven? There’s no music in that.”

In the original film, Pinhead was a  rage-filled fiend who was determined to make everyone he encounters suffer. The Priest is more focused on encouraging others to live in the same way as the Cenobites, experiencing as much pain and pleasure as possible.

I do want to give credit to Jamie Clayton, who I thought gave a great performance as The Priest, the strongest of anyone in the film. Her stoic portrayal of the lead Cenobite was a highlight.

I would not recommend “Hellraiser” (2022) to anyone. David Bruckner’s reimagination of the 1987 classic is bland and derivative of other attempted reboots that have failed in recent years.

 

1/5 Stars