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Review Bites Franchise Frenzy: Hellraiser Part Two

In part one, we took a look at the first phase of the Hellraiser series. A series that has based on that timeline was pretty consistent in its quality and production value. After Bloodline the franchise took a big turn for the worst as it was relegated to direct-to-video releases. With Barker’s influence gone and rights shifting around so much and so often, the Hellraiser series went off the rails often becoming the laughing stock of the horror genre. This is mostly because Miramax wanted to retain the rights to the series they so they took a lot of crappy scripts they had mothballed and made them into Hellraiser movies. Unlike the first four films which explored the Cenobite history and mythology, these films make the Cenobites guest-stars in stories about boring humans.

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)

The word from Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley, is that Miramax took a screenplay for another film, added and edited in Hellraiser characters to make it a Hellraiser movie. Bradley’s claims ring true once you watch Inferno which is really nothing more than a bargain basement rip-off of Jacob’s Ladder or Momento or Angel Heart. You take your pick.

The always wooden Craig Sheffer stars as Detective Joseph Thorne, a corrupt cop on the trail of a serial killer with the help of his partner Nicholas Turturro (Detective Tony Nenonen).

If you recall, Sheffer also appeared in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed in 1990 and Turturro has made his mark and living on TV cop shows like NYPD Blue, Third Watch, Blue Bloods and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

What lights a fire under Thorne is that sadistic Engineer is leaving child’s fingers at the scene of every murder as their calling card.

Pinhead and the Cenobites feel as if they have been shoehorned into the story. Their appearances are infrequent and disjointed which is what Inferno is, a clumsy, sloppy, film that is barely a Hellraiser movie in any way at all.

Watch on: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Darkside of the Internet.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

Miramax is so lazy that besides the music and the credits, they didn’t change the opening of the film at all reusing that of Inferno.

Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) returns to the series only to vanish from the face of the Earth after a car accident involving her and her husband.

Trevor Gooden (Dean Winters) survives only to become the prime suspect in Kirsty’s disappearance. The plot cheaps out from there clumsily interjecting the Cenobites into what was probably originally a run-of-the-mill crime, detective script.

The big revelation at the end is character-breaking and lame. The only cool thing is the double-headed Cenobite.

Watch on: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Darkside of the Internet.

Hellraiser: Deader (2005)

Of the Miramax phase of Hellraiser this is one of the only stand-out films. On the whole, it isn’t that bad mostly because of Kari Wuhrer’s captivating portrayal of reporter Amy Klein. As far as Miramax and Hellraiser goes even a broken watch is right twice a day.

Klein is a relentless journalist hot on the trail of an obscure cult calling themselves The Deaders. While stumbling upon a gruesome crime scene Klein finds and snatches up the Lament Configuration for herself hoping it is a clue to tracking down The Deaders.

Klein eventually uncovers the truth about the cult and their leader. Hint: It isn’t Pinhead although he is an important guiding and influential force throughout the story. Unlike the other films his presence doesn’t seem rammed or jammed in.

Watch on: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Darkside of the Internet.

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

Another script that was reworked into a Hellraiser film and it shows in the final product. Sadly (or maybe fortunately) this is Doug Bradley final appearance as Pinhead. Even he has abandoned this sinking ship of a franchise. The casting of Bradley, Alien’s Lance Henriksen and Superman’s Henry Cavill are the only noteworthy reasons to watch this generic horror sludge.

You know this plot was going to happen sooner or later under Miramax’s ownership. The Cenobites, who were pretty discrete about their existence if you discount Hellraiser 3, are apparently public knowledge to the point that a video game has been made about them.

A group of basic stock characters in their twenties are invited to a party celebrating the Hellworld game at a creepy mansion owned by Lance Henriksen. The cardboard cut-outs are thrilled until things go awry with the most feeble, cliche finale epiphany.

This is pretty much…Game Over…for the franchise.

Watch on: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Darkside of the Internet.

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)

Punishments I would rather endure than watch Revelations ever again.

Clean my ears with a power drill.
Slam my head in car door eight times.
Eat a dozen century eggs.
Walk across hot coals, broken glass and Lego bricks.
Feed myself feet-first into a wood chipper.

Miramax rushed what they called an “ashcan film” out in just three weeks just to retain the Hellraiser rights with the budget of whatever spare change they could find in the fountain outside their headquarters.

Revelations is incoherent juvenile sewage about two slackers partying in Mexico, finding the puzzle box while filming everything on their cell phones or whatever.

Hellworld is a phenomenal achievement, a masterpiece, an epic compared to this Dollar Store Hellraiser film.

The less said about this cinematic equivalent of bird droppings the better.

Watch on: Tubi, Darkside of the Internet.

Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

Special make-up effects artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe does the best with what he has after his Hellraiser film was rejected three times and literally left to rot by Dimension Films. Lionsgate eventually picked it up, saw the value in it and released it.

To his credit, Tunnicliffe focuses on hell, the Cenobites, building as story around them and their schemes. Pinhead and hell’s Auditor ponder a way to bring new souls into hell. Hell is presented as David Lynch or David Cronenberg’s playground. It is outlandish, twisted and nightmarish.

Borrowing a lot from Seven and Saw, three detectives are in pursuit of a serial killer named the Preceptor. Their investigation and the plans of hell’s denizens converge with dire consequences for Pinhead.

Tunnicliffe makes a $350,000 film look like a million bucks with his set design, imagination and resourcefulness. He stretches that budget farther than Mr. Fantastic ever could. Of the post-Bloodline films it is the best mostly because its story is a balance between human and Cenobite drama.

Watch on: Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Darkside of the Internet.

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