‘Hellraiser’ (2022) Review: “Cenobites and Chaos Reign”
Hellraiser is a franchise that’s spanned multiple films, with the world of the cenobites remaining engaging to this day. Clive Barker’s original work is highly regarded, so how does David Bruckner’s latest entry in the franchise stack up? Having only seen the original Hellraiser film, I’m not one to discuss the quality of Bruckner’s work compared to the vast number of other Hellraiser films. I will say that this latest entry is an entertaining, terrifying, and intense reboot. Moreover, it looks to carve (pun intended) its own path in the beloved horror franchise.
Hellraiser centers around Riley (Odessa A’zion), a young woman struggling with addiction who comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box that soon becomes responsible for her brother’s disappearance. The film’s plot is straightforward so as not to waste time going straight into the scares. Riley is a great main character, a competent horror protagonist who is mostly believable when the absurd and macabre happen around her.
The supporting cast is also a vital aspect of the film, with Adam Faison, in particular, bringing an excellent performance as a supporting character during Riley’s ordeals. Bruckner provides sharp direction, showing a remarkable ability to humanize characters with real and empathetic flaws. There’s a real sense of camaraderie between the cast when there isn’t grotesque horror on the screen.
On the horror side of things, the group of cenobites featured in the film is nothing short of terrifying. The designs of these creatures are each unique and display a different level of pain that makes you cringe when watching. Moreover, almost all of the horror effects in the film are practical, giving the film an extra level of authenticity. At the head of the cenobites is the hell priest (pinhead), played by Jamie Clayton.
The pinhead featured in this reboot is female, throwing any expectations out the window. There’s no need for comparison between pinheads and deciding which is better. Bruckner and Clayton show us that there’s more than one way to adapt a character. Every scene with the cenobites is terrifying, filled with creative body horror. Combining body horror with practical effects makes scenes cringe-worthy in the best way possible.
While the horror and special effects are great, it’s the story of Hellraiser that’s lacking. The story drags towards the middle and end of the film. Moreover, specific character motivations are lacking. While the actors provide great and empathetic performances, the script is the only part that remains unconvincing. The sensuality and horrors put on display in this Hellraiser are great, but in between, all that is an unconvincing story that feels like it’s there to get us to the next grimy and gory set piece.
Overall, David Bruckner has crafted a solid horror flick in Hellraiser. My unfamiliarity with the franchise may be giving this film some leeway, or I may be too hard on it. That’s for the hardcore Hellraiser fans to decide. Whatever the case, this film will undoubtedly make for an excellent film to rewatch during the spooky Halloween season for its impressive VFX alone. While the writing is lacking and the film overstays its welcome in the third act, this reboot will hopefully give fans of the franchise the cenobite action they’ve been craving. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Hellraiser is Streaming on Hulu on October 7, 2022
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