- Hellraiser (2022)
- Directed by: David Bruckner
- Starring: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison
- Horror/Thriller | R | 2 hr 1 min
By Reed Ripley
After 2018’s Halloween unexpectedly stormed the box office, the past few years have seen a slew of new takes on beloved horror franchises, almost all of which try the same bit. They fashion themselves as “direct sequels” to their original namesake (often literally copying the title) and simultaneously work as soft reboots. Hellraiser is the latest to hop on the trend, and while it plays the hits entertainingly enough, its lack of depth and originality result in a forgettable, albeit engaging, film.
Hellraiser follows the same basic premise as its 1987 counterpart: a mysterious puzzle box summons terrifying, mutilated humanoid creators from another dimension (the Cenobites) who have fallen so deeply within the pursuit of carnal pleasure that the line between pleasure and pain has melded. That alone still works as a hook, and the creature design is quite good. Throw in a good performance from a young heroine lead (Odessa A’zion’s Riley) and ample amounts of gore, and you’ve got a solid watch.
However, “solid watch” is essentially Hellraiser’s peak, mostly because it facially tries to build on its predecessor while not actually doing the underlying work. In 1987’s Hellraiser, the scope was very small. Sure, there were the extradimensional torture ghouls, but the film’s focus was on a messed-up family and an evil uncle operating out of an attic, which came across clearly and convincingly. The Cenobites were also fascinating; they described themselves as angels to some and demons to others, leaving the ‘monsters’ in a morally neutral position.
2022’s Hellraiser adds layers onto its characters and setting on paper, but a lot of the choices either backfire or come off half-baked. The pivotal scenes come in a big, cold mansion, which certainly gives the production team fun things to do but doesn’t have the claustrophobic and visceral feel of a cramped house and its attic. The main human antagonist is some evil rich guy, with no discernable connection to our protagonist. The Cenobites and their puzzle box are dripping with lore, but it mostly just makes things confusing. Unsurprisingly, all that extra gunk leads to a runtime of two-plus hours, which is way too long for something like this.
Hellraiser comes just a few months after Hulu released Prey, the Predator series reboot that functionally took the form of a prequel, and it’s interesting to compare the two. Prey tells its own story. Sure, the same hulking alien hunter stalks humans and delivers brutal kills until a big one-on-one showdown, but there’s a ton of new ideas and craft injected that makes the film feel alive in a way Hellraiser simply doesn’t.
These horror reboots are far from over. Halloween Ends, the second recent follow-up since the 2018 revamp after 2021’s dreadful Halloween Kills, comes out this Friday, October 14, and The Exorcist is slated for the same direct-sequel-to-the-original treatment next year. Something like Hellraiser isn’t really a disappointment, especially given how many awful sequels have spanned the franchise’s intervening 35 years. But it’s hard not to wish the time and effort went into an original horror story.
Reed Ripley is a local attorney with a flare for reviewing movies. You can find more of his reviews at Ripleysreviews.com