With dialogue that sounds like what a Hot Topic would say if it could talk, the original “Hellraiser” was how everyone in the 1980s thought BDSM actually worked. At least until the upcoming midterm elections, we are now far more morally and socially liberated. Don’t believe me? One of the top searches on Google today was “Is 2022 Hellraiser reboot streaming on Disney Plus?” Sadly, it is not. But it could be! Because Disney does, indeed, own the movie. FYI: It’s only mildly shocking to see Goofy as a cenobite. “Gawrsh, Mickey, we’ll tear your soul apart!”
Jam-packed with exquisitely done practical and CGI gristle and gore, a billionaire being tortured by deities that crave blood, and one of the most terrifying monster moments in the last two decades, “Hellraiser” is the best franchise reboot since “Mad Max: Fury Road.” I am not kidding. Somehow it manages to be the exact right kind of depraved and disgusting. Like, sure, there’s a scene shot inside someone’s throat as a demon shoves a metal spike through it, but it’s classy, you know? Director David Bruckner and writer Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski serve up a very, very specific flavor of horror that is profoundly satisfying to those with very, very specific palates. I have no idea what it says about me that I sincerely loved every second, but nobody ask Clive Barker.
The new “Hellraiser” opens with the devil’s sodoku, as an evil puzzle box is reintroduced. Riley (Odessa A’zion), a recovering addict, soon comes into contact with the murder-Rubik’s-cube, thanks to her boyfriend Trevor. Trevor is played by Drew Starkey, who gives off the biggest Channing Tatum energy possible. He’s basically Tanning Chatum. Anyway, Trevor and Riley wind up stealing the naughty box, which summons unholy creatures.
Led by The Priest (Jamie Clayton), known by its cuddle buddies as Pinhead, the mutilated undead evil doers begin quite literally pulling people apart. Riley, Trevor, and a few other meat sacks soon find themselves fighting for their lives inside a blood-soaked mansion. Just another night at the Bezos place, right? The plot here hinges so much on a very rich person doing biblically corrupt things, that it feels like a lesson about what may be going on in real life. Are we sure that Elon isn’t trying to court profound cosmic evil? He is buying Twitter.
Everything in “Hellraiser” works. Everything. This includes:
- The weird late 80s vibe of the first half
- A’zion’s fiercely flawed Riley, who is immediately inducted into the horror heroine hall of fame
- Clayton’s mesmerizing, ethereally terrifying Pinhead, whose voice is equal parts hypnotizing and harrowing
- The copious carnage
- The mischievous, misbehaving sense of humor
- The set pieces and deathtraps
- The epic finale and epilogue
No notes, really! Just as I felt when watching “Prey” breathe new life into the gaping alien maw of a Predator, “Hellraiser” is a shockingly vibrant, exciting reintroduction to a world I never wanted to revisit. Whatever nightmares are in store for me later, they’ll be worth it.
Grade = A
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Mary Beth McAndrews at Dread Central says “if you’re looking for a contemporary take on beauty, horror, and the divine, this is what your dreams are made of.”
Jeffrey Lyles at Lyles Movie Files says “It’s got an abundance of creepy moments, but it never escalates to another level to be truly memorable.”
Kate Sánchez at But Why Tho says “Capturing the beauty and terrifying nature of the franchise through a view of a desire other than sex shows reverence to the source material.”