Hellraiser (2022) Movie Review - Spoiler Free
The second adaptation of Clive Barker’s horror novella & reboot of the film series, Bruckner’s directorial style is compelling & chillingly frightening!
Genre: Horror / Mystery / Thriller
Director: David Bruckner
Cast: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Drew Starkey, Adam Faison, Aoife Hinds, Jason Liles, Selina Lo, Brandon Flynn & Goran Visnjic.
Run Time: 121 min.
US Release: 07 October 2022 (Hulu)
UK Release: 31 October 2022 (Amazon Prime)
German Release: N/A
First things first, I have never seen Barker’s original from 1987, just like I haven’t read the novella, on which both of these flicks are based. I was never really enthralled to watch it, possibly due to its sadomasochistic nature and an image I saw once, left burning in my inner eye, of one of the character’s skin strapped on hooks. I have no problem with horror, in fact, it is my favourite genre! However, I always felt like that would be too much for me. Then this year, the promotional art plus posters were released, and I found myself intrigued. So hook on to my review for the newest Hellraiser…
Riley is a young woman struggling with addiction. Living at her brother’s expense, she comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension, called the Cenobites.
Even though I never read Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart” or saw his adaptation, I was told about the basic plot. So knowing what the original one is about, I can confidently say, although it is a reboot of the film series, it doesn’t rehash the narrative, being a fully original tale. Trying to include some aspects of character drama, for a deeper, richer story, it succeeds at it mostly. It also sets up the mythology of the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration bit-by-bit, winding up suspense slowly, while never misleading with its jump scares.
That said, after a refreshingly macabre introductory segment, the first act screeches to a near halt. While a good character-build-up is very much appreciated, it could have sped things up a little, instead of drawing them out. This leads me to the second issue, with a runtime of two hours it simply feels around 20 minutes too long.
All in all, the narrative is decently composed, not watering down any horror elements, sticking to the franchise’s hard R rating it is so well known for. Yet, I feel that it also leaves much more to the imagination of viewers, not always portraying graphically the torments of torture. Sadly, I cannot confirm that one, since I never saw any Hellraiser flick before today.
The dialogue is intriguing enough, containing grounded family drama between a brother and his sister until it switches to a more mysterious context. However, Riley’s inability to express what she is feeling or going through emotionally starts gratin on one’s nerves!
There are few characters the audience can sympathise with, as most are up-tight or simply contemning. Apart from two or three, all the rest have little depth, simply existing to be bait, for the Cenobites to have something to snatch up. I was okay with that, nonetheless.
Odessa A’zion gave a grand performance as Riley, a recovering addict plus the main persona in this tale. On paper, Riley is a very unlikeable character; ungrateful, deceiving, at times even despicable. A’zion managed to lend her a broken despair, while never redeeming the character for who she is. This made her sufficiently vulnerable that the audience can feel for her.
Drew Starkey plays Trevor, Riley’s boyfriend she met in Narcotics Anonymous. He seems to care deeply for Riley, though gets into trouble easy. Along the third act, revelations are made about him that seem very out-of-character, from what viewers saw of him before. Starkey gives a good enough rendition, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Jamie Clayton as the Priest, also commonly known as “Pinhead” in fandom, gives the best performance in this horror picture! Her take on the infamous leader of the Cenobites was blood-chillingly creepy, giving the creature that a-sexual vibe described in the books
The camera work is good, using specific trickery while shooting, such as the mounted equipment on the moving merry-go-round, to create foreboding and unease. Once the Cenobites come into play, the lighting is successfully drenched out of the screen, leaving cold, blue-tinted darkness behind. The colour design is also modernised, focusing much on whites and reds contrasting each other, such as the new design of the creatures.
The effects, on the other hand, are simply brilliant! As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the design of the Cenobite has been modernised, and while I never saw the original movie, I know the costume design of Doug Bradley as “Pinhead”! It is a cult look in the horror genre! The new designs don’t take anything away from the classic ones, they are just as effectively shocking, yet different in terms of showing more flailed skin.
Bruckner makes good use of a mixed-effects bag. Nearly all of the gore, as well as the costume and make-up design of the Cenobites, is of a practical matter. While the blending of dimensions was produced by amazingly designed CGI.
The music composed by Ben Lovett contains eerie orchestral sounds, with big electronic oomphs, mixed at times with beautiful melancholic violin melodies. The sound design itself is fantastically creepy.
Verdict: It is fair to say that Hellraiser would have probably benefited more from a theatrical release, just as Prey and Fresh. Nevertheless, who am I to question the big suits at Disney!?! The screenplay is a fresh, original take on the franchise, with fleshed-out characters that are broken. In parallel, the plot keeps on building up the mythology of the Cenobites. However, it takes longer than needed to reach a point of full carnage, with the first act consisting of uneven pacing. Most of the characters are simply included to give the extradimensional creatures something to rip apart. The main character, while interesting due to her weaknesses, makes it hard to root for her, thanks to her unsympathetic behaviour. That said, the great cinematography with its dark gloomy lighting, plus the magnificent effects, make up for a couple of script problems. Paired with a scary epic score, this makes for an entertaining horror night. Bruckner’s Hellraiser gets a 7.0 out of 10.
What did you think of this reboot? Do you prefer the original? Let me know and as always, thank you very much for reading! - Wish you all a spooky October season!