Directed by: David Bruckner
Premise: A recovering addict discovers a puzzle box and after opening it people around her begin disappearing. She is haunted by the Cenobites and must find a solution before all of her friends are killed.
What Works: 2022’s Hellraiser is an ambitious reboot of this series. It is not a remake of the 1987 picture. Instead, the filmmakers return to the core concept of Hellraiser, also using elements from Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and apply it to a story about addiction. Odessa A’zion plays Riley, a woman putting her life back together while in recovery, and she inadvertently causes the deaths of people around her when she discovers the Lament Configuration. The premise is an apt metaphor of addiction. It dramatizes the way addiction hurts and destroys not only the addict but also the people in their orbit and the different stages of the box parallel the need for greater stimulation and the way addiction can promise false transcendence. The Cenobites take on the role of enablers, urging Riley on with the promise of a resolution while really serving their own ends. Odessa A’zion is terrific in the lead role. She possesses a gait of chaos as a woman who isn’t fully in control of her life and A’zion makes her character vulnerable and empathetic. Also impressive is Jamie Clayton taking over the role of Pinhead, now credited as The Priest. Like Doug Bradley, Clayton is restrained and lets the makeup do the work but this is a distinctly different character and Clayton is a worthy heir to the role. 2022’s Hellraiser looks great. The makeup designs possess grotesque beauty and gory ingenuity. The rest of the film shares that quality. Hellraiser is handsomely produced with a polish we haven’t really seen in this series combined with an unrelenting violence that makes for an interesting tension. The music by Ben Lovett is also very effective. Lovett includes elements of Christopher Young’s scores to the first two Hellraiser films but doesn’t overdo it. The composer is precise in the way he uses these themes while introducing new material; the score is an excellent representation of the way this film connects to its predecessors while forging its own path.
What Doesn’t: One of the core elements of 1987’s Hellraiser was its sadomasochism, which by definition is finding pleasure in pain. The better entries in the Hellraiser series explored the limits of sensation with characters chasing forbidden knowledge. The body horror of 2022’s Hellraiser has a lot of pain but not in a way that conveys its pleasurable aspects. The deaths come across less focused on the extraction of pain and more about dispatching the victims. In that respect, 2022’s Hellraiser has less in common with the 1987 picture and is more aligned with the torture films of the 2000s such as Hostel.
Disc extras: On Hulu.
Bottom Line: 2022’s Hellraiser aggressively reimagines this series. It suffers a bit from being too sexless. But it is beautifully produced and as a reboot Hellraiser succeeds in reimaging the material and creating a new version that has an identity and integrity of its own.
Episode: #924 (October 30, 2022)