Hulu Streaming: Enough is a Myth: Hellraiser (2022) - Reviewed


The Hellraiser franchise encompasses both pleasure and pain on and off the screen, with a few excellent entries early on in the franchise followed by a hellish parade of uninspired and downright terrible sequels. The last film was Hellraiser: Judgement in 2018 and it was received very poorly. That is why when news of a reboot started swirling around it was met with some trepidation. The controversy intensified when it was announced that actress Jamie Clayton would be taking over the role of Pinhead, becoming the first woman to inhabit the role outside of the comic adaption.

This new iteration follows Riley (Odessa A'zion) a recovering addict who is staying with her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) while she is trying to stay sober. She galivants around with her aimless boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) but when she continuously comes up short on her share of the rent Matt kicks her out. Luckily Trevor takes her in and gets her involved in a little light robbery to make some quick cash. They happen upon a safe and lo-and-behold it contains the infamous puzzle box. An accident involving someone cutting themselves with it summons Pinhead and the cenobites and Riley has to figure out a way to escape them and save someone she loves from their clutches.

Unfortunately, the weakest aspect of this newest film is the story, which is generic and poorly paced. The first act drags quite a bit, and there is little done to enrich the characters beyond standard horror film archetypes. At the beginning it seems like Riley will have an arc that addresses her previous addictions and perhaps will weave it into the subtext of the narrative--the cenobites are in the business of satisfying desires and doling out "pleasures", after all, but that side plot is essentially dropped halfway through the film. 

What is left for three-fourths of the runtime is a run-of-the-mill slasher with the cenobites chasing after people who have encountered the puzzle box and taking them out. Hellraiser doesn't feel like its truly inhabiting the spirit of the franchise until the last act, it's like the movie shifts into neutral every time the cenobites and Pinhead aren't on the screen. The reason the first two films work so well is that the human stories were just as compelling as the creatures, so it didn't feel disappointing when it shifted back and forth between the two.

Aesthetically, the films fares much better and the redesigns of Pinhead and her demonic entourage looks fantastic. They have shed the S&M leather outfits and instead flayed intricate designs into their flesh, their bloody underlayers contrasting nicely with their alabaster white skin. Jamie Clayton's Pinhead is ice cold and haunting, and her slightly deep and velvety voice slithers over the dialog like a mist rolling over a graveyard. She is by far the best part of the production and absolutely can carry on the mantle of Pinhead in future films. The cinematography is alright, but the lighting is excellent, the way they illuminate Pinhead's face in shimmering shafts of light gives her an ethereal look that fits her demeanor perfectly--truly an angel of death.

The most baffling choice is the almost complete excision of the sexual trappings and general horniness that the previous films have luxuriated in. I have always loved the fetishized “pleasure and pain are indistinguishable from each other at a certain level” concept and its absence is felt intensely. It was the extra spice and flavor that set Hellraiser apart from all the other horror franchises, and at its core is the entire point of the story. Man by nature is a curious animal and that curiosity is often intermingled with base desires. Without that sensuality the puzzle box is just a stabby Rubik's Cube. It feels like this new version was afraid to push any boundaries, something Pinhead would definitely scoff at. The gore is untouched, however, and there is a copious amount of it with excellent practical effects. Fans of body horror will find a lot to love and there are a few creative sequences that will satisfy any gore hound.

While this new version of Hellraiser is definitely one of the better entries on a purely technical level, it is missing some of the grimy and perverted soul that makes the series resonate with so many horror aficionados. The ingredients are there, but they haven't got the recipe quite right. Hopefully, they keep Jamie Clayton on as Pinhead and make a sequel because there is a lot of potential for great horror cinema. They have such great sights to show us.

--Michelle Kisner