Today I’m giving over the blog to my friend and fellow author Jeff Carter, who if you’ll recall, has been a guest here in the past, previously rating the Friday the 13th series.
This time around, he took a look at the inimitable Hellraiser, it’s fine sequel, Hellraiser 2….and all those other ones. I actually liked the one with the detective, but we’ll see what he says….he has such sights to show you.
In the meantime, I’m off to my Extra Life 24 hour Dungeons and Dragons session for Children’s Hopsital LA. I’ll see you next week, if I make my Con saves.
I watched the Hellraiser move franchise, so you don’t have to.
Every year I watch a horror movie franchise (my top ten Friday the 13th list is here). I’m working my way through them all. Nightmare on Elm Street. Halloween. Chucky. There were a lot of laughs, a few groans and the occasional scare, but it’s usually a fun time.
There are 9 Hellraiser movies with rumors of a remake in the wind. I was looking forward to rewatching the first few that had terrified and haunted me, and was curious to see what strange places the franchise went in its many sequels.
It was torturous, but like the Cenobites say, you can’t know pleasure without pain. While diving back into the first film, I was struck by how joyless the world of Hellraiser is compared to other horror films. Many slasher films have more victims and grisly torture and dismemberment, but for lack of a better word, they’re fun. You know, for the kids! Hellraiser is a different, darker breed, existing in the hellish space between the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the torture porn of Hostel and Saw.
The more sequels I watched, the better the original looked. The grim atmosphere of the first movie is justified by its artistic ambitions. The sequels are just torturous.
- Hellraiser 9: Revelations
Ye Gods, this film is terrible. It was an ultra low budget movie, written and shot in 3 weeks so that Dimension could keep the rights to the franchise. To quote Clive Barker, the author of the Hellraiser stories and director of the first film, “If they claim it’s from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.”
What should have been a saving grace is that it was at least written as a Hellraiser movie, and centered around some core elements: The Puzzle Box, Pin Head, The Cenobites, the bone demon, The revolving pillars of flesh, the resurrection from a bloody mattress, the hooked chains. Here they feel tired and perfunctory. This is the only film in which Doug Bradley does not portray Pin Head, and it is amazing how sorely he is missed.
- Hellraiser 6 – Hellseeker
This movie commits the most grievous sin of all: it’s boring. The three main sets are an office cubicle, a police station, and a warehouse. Trevor, the mayhem guy from the Allstate commercials, is trying to piece together how his wife came to die in a tragic car crash.
Things go from dull to worse, and then suddenly we’re in continuity city. His wife was Kirsty, the ‘last girl’ from Hellraiser 1 & 2. Trevor tried to kill her with the puzzle box, but she turned the tables by selling him out to Pin Head. It’s way too much too late.
“Switch to Allstate and avoid Mayhem, like me.”
- Hellraiser 7: Deader
Despite starring the always watchable Kari Wuhrer, this film was a typical low budget shot-in-Romania flick. Kari is an underground reporter sent to investigate a cult. Their leader is a necromancer that is raising the dead with his puzzle box in order to find the chosen one that will…help him rule the world? This movie made no sense and featured precious little Pin Head, because it was in the straight to video run that took pre-existing horror scripts and shoe-horned in the Hellraiser Mythos.
- Hellraiser 8: Hellworld
This movie was a grave disappointment. The premise: a diabolical website lures and kills teens. I thought this would be wonderfully ridiculous. It was just ridiculous.
The continuity here is off the charts in the weirdest way. The spoiled thrill seekers that play the Hellraiser on-line game wear Cenobite masks and talk about the ‘Lament Configuration’. While they manipulate a virtual cube on their screens the website plays sound bites of Pin Head’s voice from earlier films. Strangest of all, one of the characters wears a T-Shirt with a photo of Pin Head’s face on it.
“It’s just a crazy internet game!” (Actual dialogue)
It’s really bizarre and a giant cop out. This is the Friday the 13th Part 5 of the series, in that Pin Head is not the killer here.
The website was simply created to lure the spoiled teens to a rave (in eastern Europe, of course) where they could be separated and tortured. Pin Head only appears briefly because this is another story to which the mythos was later added. Not even a young Henry Cavill or an old Lance Henrickson could redeem this one.
“Me am Bizarro.”
- Hellraiser 5 – Inferno
Part 5 was another sequel in name only, about a brilliant but reckless detective on a mind bending case to find the dark crime lord known as ‘The Engineer’.
This is another original script retooled as a Hellraiser story, but the source material and cast elevate this one above the later installments. The mind games, plot twists and themes tie in quite nicely with the Hellraiser series. And hey, it’s got James Remar!
“I’ve found a finger print.”
- Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth
This movie was bold on many levels. What starts as a cruel and greedy club owner’s deadly obsession with the puzzle box ends in a showdown between Pin Head and his own soul. First, a victim is wheeled into an emergency room while being torn apart by the puzzle box. A reporter catches wind of the mystery and becomes a conduit for Pin Head’s soul to lure out and defeat the demonic Cenobite he has become. Pin Head has a different goal: to open the gates of hell.
He very nearly succeeds, slaughtering hundreds of people in a night club and spilling his terror onto the city streets, murdering police officers and blowing up cars. It’s totally bananas. This one is so crazy they made a music video where Lemmy from Motorhead plays poker with Pin Head.
CD the DJ. Raddest Cenobite ever?
- Hellraiser 4: Bloodline
Move over Jason X and Leprechaun, it’s time for Hellraiser to go to space.
I don’t know why the director took his name off this one. It’s clever, it’s interesting and it deepens the mythos. We go back hundreds of years, to the origins of the puzzle box, created by the genius toy maker L’Merchant. A loathsome aristocratic sorcerer (and his apprentice Adam Scott!) uses the cube to open a gate to hell and summon a demon.
In present day, the demon travels to the office building (seen in the last shot of part 3) patterned after the puzzle box. L’Merchant’s descendant, John Merchant, tries to destroy the cenobites and redeem his family legacy.
Finally, in the distant future, Paul Merchant intends to get it right on a giant space station. Pin Head and the demon appear, there’s a robot, there’s lasers…it’s pretty sweet.
It’s a disco inferno.
- Hellraiser 2: Hellbound
This sequel continues right where part 1 left off. Kirsty, the ‘last girl’ from the previous film is understandably committed to an asylum. Unfortunately, the brain surgeon in charge of the facility, Dr. Channard, is a bit of a collector. He has a vast trove of occult objects, including dozens of puzzle boxes and a secret dungeon filled with insane patients.
Using their blood, Channard wants to resurrect Julia. Like her lover before her, Julia died after opening the puzzle box and can now be resurrected with fresh blood. She seduces the doctor and offers him power in the hell dimension.
Things get worse from there. Leviathan, the lord of hell, transforms the doctor into a funky new Cenobite with an overly elaborate, fatally flawed design and the dark power of…claymation?
“At least I’m not based on CDs or cigarettes!”
This movie has a Cenobite fight. Why? I don’t know, but when I was a young horror fan such things were the stuff of dreams. This is also the start of Kirsty’s negotiations with Pin Head, and his journey into remembering who he was before he first opened the puzzle box and became a pawn of hell.
This movie brings back much of the cast from the first film, including the sleazy mover. When Doug Bradley was approached for the first Hellraiser, he was given the choice of playing Pin Head or the Sleazy Mover. Sleazy Mover made it into 2 movies, but I think Doug made the right choice.
This movie holds up. It’s rich, thematic and dark. It’s a creepy psycho-sexual drama with a wildly original premise and some of the most jaw dropping character makeup you will ever see.
This is the story about a man returning to his childhood home with his new wife. We never learn what went so terribly wrong, but the house is filled with shrouded religious objects and unspoken history. His new bride is distant and cold. She secretly yearns for the forbidden passion she shared with Frank, her husband’s dead, degenerate brother.
In a visceral, creepy scene the man gouges his hand open while moving a mattress up the rickety stairs. The blood resurrects Frank in an epic birth sequence and sets the stage for the family’s ruination.
“I don’t know why I even bother wearing white anymore.”
In the Clive Barker story, the leader of the Cenobites was simply called ‘priest’ or ‘The Engineer’. Even though he was simply billed as ‘Lead Cenobite’, the Hellraiser franchise was built with the nails from his pointy head. Doug Bradley is a commanding presence. His creepy one liners are the high lights of the next few installments, and he fills the screen with cruel delight.
This movie is a true original. It is a dark drama, with themes of obsession and transgression, an amour fou taken to the ultimate extreme. It creates a dark universe with hints of diabolical mechanics and secret rules, bound together with pain and desire.
If you are looking to explore the franchise, enjoy the first four and skip the rest. If you try to watch all 9, like I did, “your suffering will be legendary even in hell.”
Jeff C. Carter’s most recent work in print appears in O LITTLE TOWN OF DEATHLEHEM, now available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon. Get more Halloween stuff at his blog Compendium of Monsters and say hey on Facebook and Goodreads.