Profoundly silly but unsettling at times, David Bruckner’s Hellraiser tries to settle in the middle to fans of the 1987 original and new horror films. The result is mostly murky.
Odessa A’zion stars as Riley McKendry, a woman struggling with drug addiction. Living with her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), she is recruited by her fellow addict boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison) to break into an abandoned warehouse owned by missing millionaire Roland Voight (Goran Višnjić). Inside, they find only a puzzle box.
As Riley unlocks the various configurations, she unknowingly summons the Cenobites, a group of deformed humanoids. Led by the Hell Priest (Jamie Clayton), Riley must unlock the secrets of the box and of Voight to escape this hell on Earth.
Fans of Clive Barker’s 1987 original could find mixed emotions. On the one hand, the cenobite designs and violent gore are on full display. At the same time, the baseline of what Barker’s film was all about is completely absent. That film focused on the nature of obsession and hedonism, while this film is hyper-focused on the puzzle box. This remake is almost completely devoid of sex while the original was bathed in it.
Instead of the mind-blowing world of the 1987 original, this one feels lazy. Voight’s house has some nice design choices, but there is nothing to hang your hat on with the design. The cenobites are deftly created, but their abilities are fairly rote. Just when you think they’re going to do something cool, they just use hooked chains.
For the human actors, it’s not like any of them are bad, they’re just unmemorable. A’zion has the most to do as a recovering drug addict and final girl protagonist, but she doesn’t leave any sort of impression or do anything particularly memorable. Starkey is thinly veiled as a scumbag but does exude a bit of charm here and there. More than anything, the script doesn’t give any character a chance to do anything memorable. Višnjić lends some credibility to the cast, but he isn’t in the film much.
The Cenobites are much more interesting. Clayton’s steady ferocity lends “Pinhead” a leadership quality that the original never had. She lets the makeup do most of the work and does more with less. Character actress Selina Lo is also nicely cast as a memorably deformed Cenobite called the Gasp.
It might be an example of expecting too much, but Hellraiser left me cold. In six months, I’ll probably forget I watched it. At least the Cenobites were cool.
Hellraiser is currently streaming on Hulu