Thursday, August 28, 2014


So in the last chapter I was expressing my undying love of the first two Hellraiser films and a strong like of part 4. I wasn't shy about how much I hated part 3 and wasn't planning on revisiting it, but my wife wanted to rewatch it, since neither of us had watched it since we were in high school. So what the hell? After 5-8 we played 3 and...I have to apologize for all the negative hyperbole. I actually really
liked 3 this time around. There are still problems, but its no where near as bad as I remembered. It was just a strange experience; I remembered most everything, but I saw it in a new light and the film played better than I recalled. My take on 3 was that it was too commercial, not an artistic triumph like the first two, probably just a cash in, and finally, I wanted a Hellraiser film not a Nightmare On Elm Street knock off. I suppose I had unreasonably high expectations and possibly influenced by other fans of the series taking a dump on it. I treated Hell On Earth like it was the Star Wars Christmas Special and I retract that statement. It's at least as good as 4.
Right, deep breath, moving on. I plan to be vague in talking about these next four movies to avoid spoilers, except where absolutely necessary.
Hellraiser 5; Inferno was directed by Scott Derrickson, who also directed The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, Sinister, and will be directing the upcoming Dr Strange(!!!!!!!!!) film. It stars Craig Sheffer (he played Boone in the great Nightbreed) as a corrupt homicide detective who comes in contact with the puzzle box...and wackiness ensues! In a way, it's Bad Lieutenant vs. Pinhead (actually The Engineer, but I'll say no more). It's a strong film, despite a few flaws. Compared to the first four films it's quite a
departure in tone and focus, but the role of the Cenobites seems more in line with the fist film, than with Pinhead's world domination aspirations in 3 and 4. Inferno is a smaller, more personal film and sets the tone for the rest of the series. It's not very gory, but has some good scares and Derrickson does an admirable job of bringing a new take to the series instead of just a retread of the previous entries.
Rick Bota (House On Haunted Hill remake, Tales From The Crypt) directed the next three installments; Hellseeker, Deader, and Hellworld. If anything, Bota shows how a Hellraiser tv series could be a strong show and a lot of fun. My overall complaint about Bota's three films is that I wish they were hour long episodes of a series. While I enjoyed each (and I'll get into details in a moment) I feel like they each went on just a bit too long. Hellworld in particular could have used about ten minutes shaved off.
Hellseeker brought us Ashley Laurence's return to the franchise as Kirsty Cotton, but geez, blink and you'll miss her! Same with Pinhead. Like Inferno, Hellseeker is a hallucinogenic mystery about a man (Dean Winters) who's lost part of his memory after the death of his wife in a car accident. While it's a
fine film, I'm confused by which story Bota chose to focus on. When Heather Langenkamp returned to the Nightmare On Elm Street series in Dream Warriors and New Nightmare, she was all over those films. Ashley Laurence is at least as important to Hellraiser as Langenkamp is to NOES, but she takes a backseat to Winters. When the credits rolled I was left as dismayed by her lack of screen time as I was entertained by the film overall. Hellseeker could have used a bit more streamlining or maybe I'm just not a huge fan of how Bota shoots his films, because I have the same complaint about the next two films.
Bota followed up with Deader, starring Kari Wuhrer (Swamp Thing the series, Remote Control, childhood crush) as an investigative journalist who travels to Romania to report on a death cult. Deader is a stronger film than Hellseeker, more focused with a few better scares. Though the ending seems
tossed off, like everyone shrugged their shoulders and said "I don't know...chains?" "Sure, whatever." Considering Hellworld came out the same year as Deader, I get the impression these films were rushed on the cheap just to get product on the market.
Hellworld is the one I shake my fist at. Though it features Lance Hendrickson (Aliens, Pumpkinhead) it  doesn't have much else going for it, except a good idea that doesn't get utilized. The idea is that Hellworld is an online role playing game based on the Hellraiser franchise. Players have a tendency to become obsessed with the game and the friend of the main characters commits suicide at the beginning of the movie. Having Hellrasier as a film within a film is interesting, but the logic leaps and annoying cast tank the overall product. Not even young Superman, Henry Cavill adds any interest. But Hellworld does boast some cool set pieces, some good scares, and some decent gore. Hendrickson is fun to watch, and of course when the Cenobites finally show up it's sweet, but woefully short.
Inferno is by far the strongest of the second half of the Hellraiser series. I get the strong sense that
Bota's three films would have been much better had he been given a better budget and more time to develop the scripts. Which is not to say 6-8 aren't worth watching, they certainly are, just adjust your expectations accordingly.      

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