Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Ominous October - Hellraiser (2022)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Hellraiser (2022)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 2h 1min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, 247Hub, Phantom Four Films, Spyglass Media Group, Hulu
Director: David Bruckner
Writers: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, David S. Goyer, Clive Barker
Actors: Jamie Clayton, Odessa A’zion, Goran Vidnjic, Selina Lo, Hiam Abbass, Brandon Flynn, Drew Starkey, Jason Liles, Aoife Hinds
IMDb Blurb: A take on Clive Barker's 1987 horror classic where a young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites.

Cat’s Point of View:
Where do I even begin? When the original Hellraiser (1987) hit theaters, it was a big deal. The visuals from the trailers and posters promised some good scary fun and horror skirting the edge of taboo. Of course, at that time I still wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies, so I had to wait until much later to actually experience Hellraiser. The image of “Pinhead,” as the ‘lead Cenobite’ has forever been dubbed, and became enmeshed in pop culture so that it was inescapable even without seeing the whole film. You could say I was on pins and needles in anticipation of watching the franchise. (I couldn’t help it.)
It would be fair to say the same was relevant now, as Selina and I both listed this new Hellraiser as our #5 pick on October’s Top 20 list.
While some of the subsequent sequels weren’t necessarily as well-received, Hellraiser left a huge impact on the horror genre. That shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, since the source of the story came from the mind of one of the masters of horror, Clive Barker (The Midnight Meat Train, Candyman, Hellbound Laments). It was his novella, Hellbound Heart, which started it all. I’ve enjoyed his work and was happy to hear that this new incarnation of Hellraiser was returning closer to text than the prior iterations.

How so, you might wonder? It turns out that Barker really hasn’t loved the moniker that audiences have given his precisely-pinned purveyor of taboo and hellish “delights.” Thus, “Pinhead” has been rebranded a bit as the Hell Priest, or simply “The Priest.”
Another change-up came in the form of casting for this central character. I’ve heard mixed reactions to the fact that the new incarnation of the role went to Jamie Clayton (The Snowman, Sense8, Designated Survivor). Let me tell you, though; she did a phenomenal job with the part. In Barker’s original story, the Hell Priest was portrayed as a bit of an androgynous being with a somewhat feminine voice. Clayton nailed it. (Pun intended.) For those up in arms about the choice, just keep in mind that the original actor for Pinhead, Doug Bradley (Book of Blood, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, Dota: Dragon's Blood), went on Twitter to praise Clayton’s performance and show his support.

Finally, the aesthetic of the Cenobites got a bit of an update. Director David Bruckner (The Signal, The Ritual, The Night House) worked with Barker on some of these concepts for the film. They decided that the slick BDSM wear that we’re accustomed to seeing these otherworldly beings wear has become more mainstream these days, so wouldn’t deliver the same horror or shock factor that it did back when this franchise originally launched. Instead, this new Hellraiser gives us a vision of beings that truly take pleasure in pain and suffering.
Bruckner is a prime example of why we continue to relish diving into horror anthologies when they present themselves -- such as ABCs of Death (2012) or V/H/S (2012). Bruckner, in fact, directed the segment titled “The Accident” in the first V/H/S. You never know when a really promising director will pop up. I’m actually excited that he’s reported to be involved with the production of the upcoming V/H/S/85, which was just recently announced to land on Shudder in 2023.  I digress…

I really enjoyed how the story for this new Hellraiser played out. There were twists and turns as the infamous puzzle box of pain wreaked havoc upon the unsuspecting. I couldn’t even begin to list the elements of the production that really had me giddy, as it would be awash with spoilers. Hellraiser continued to pose the question of how far someone would go to get what they wanted, and also the choices made when given the opportunity. If you dig deep, you’d find questions of morality, lessons on being careful about what you wish for, and much more – but that’s not really why we watch these movies, right? It’s the body horror and slasher thrills that tend to draw the box office, but I can’t help but like the intellectual side of it, too.
Odessa A’zion’s (Nashville, Am I OK?, Good Girl Jane) character, Riley, had a compelling story as the primary protagonist. I was invested in her struggle as she fought her own personal demons even before she had to take on literal ones. Her experience with the cursed puzzle box was quite the rollercoaster.
I’m actually excited to see where this franchise goes from here.
You can find Hellraiser streaming on Hulu. Its October release this year was well-timed as a great addition to this spooky season's Halloween watch lists.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 64%
Metascore – 56%
Metacritic User Score – 6.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

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