JANUARY 24, 2011
I have put off watching Hellraiser: Hellworld for a couple years now (I watched the 7th film, Deader, in September of 2008!), because it just sounded awful, and while I was never exactly the world’s biggest Hellraiser fan, I didn’t want to tarnish my opinion of the series any further. But now with two more movies on the way, plus a comic co-scripted by Clive Barker himself, I figured I could finally resign myself to see if they somehow managed to make a decent movie out of a scenario that found a group of teens resurrecting Pinhead via a website.
Well, they didn’t. And that’s kind of a shame, because the first scene suggested there COULD be a decent idea in there. The Hellraiser stories have always focused on obsessions and addictions (usually of the sexual manner), and the film opened with the funeral of a guy who died as the result of his obsession with an online computer game. We’ve probably all heard of dudes who died from one cause or another due to extensive Warcraft or Everquest playing, not to mention ruined their social lives and careers in several cases (if you haven’t seen the documentary Second Skin – please do so now, or at least before you spend your time watching DTV Hellraiser sequels), so the idea of focusing on that sort of obsession, albeit with an idea as corny as a Hellraiser-themed MMORPG, might work, or at least sort of fit into the basic themes of the series.
Alas, the movie has fuck all to do with obsession, or even the game itself (which we barely even see – apparently it’s some sort of cheap 7th Guest like point and click thing). Worse, Pinhead appears a bit more than he did in the previous couple of films, but in his most bastardized form yet, acting like a Jason Voorhees esque slasher more often than not. At one point a kid goes off by himself, stumbles around a while, and then Pinhead actually chops his head off. He also barely speaks beyond the occasional one-liner, many just recalling his more classic lines (“We have such sights to show you...”), which only serve to remind you how far the character/series has fallen.
And once again, the script was actually an original concept re-purposed into a Hellraiser film, because no one learned from the last movie that this wasn’t a good idea. They make some effort to tie it into the mythology – Lance Henriksen’s character is a “collector” of sorts, and thus he owns a bunch of puzzle boxes and chains and even a portrait of L’Merchant. And Chatterer shows up (sort of), so that’s cool. But as the film goes on, it becomes less and less involved with Hellraiser, as if they forgot to finish the process of molding it into a sequel to an unrelated franchise.
As it turns out, the real villain of the film is Lance’s character (well DUH, he’s Lance Henriksen), who is trying to get back at the kids who he believes caused the death of his son. Also (spoiler), most of the movie doesn’t actually happen – it turns out that everything involving Pinhead, the strange party they were invited to via the Hellraiser game, etc, was a hallucination/nightmare. In reality, they were buried alive, and some of them just died for real of more or less natural causes. The only legitimate appearance of Pinhead in the film comes at the very end, when Lance is holed up in a hotel somewhere some time later, and stupidly decides to open the box, which prompts Pinhead to do his thing before the credits roll. Well, whatever, movie.
Again, it’s not the lack of Pinhead I mind – he’s not in the first one much either. It’s that the film has nothing to do with the basic concepts behind the original stories, and worse, it’s simply not that good of a movie period. The kids are the usual generic and largely unlikable lot, the scenario makes almost zero sense, and the villain isn’t threatening. If this was just some random movie called Hellworld, with the Cenobites replaced by anonymous demon types, it would still be a lousy movie - having it be part of a franchise just makes it worse.
Though, to be fair, the twist actually is somewhat interesting, and had the movie been worth a shit prior to that point, it could have been an above average teen slasher (which it often resembles), instead of, almost astonishingly, the weakest Hellraiser movie yet. The idea of a father avenging the death of his child is hardly the worst concept (it worked well for Wilderness), and the production value is above average for these things (if IMDb’s estimates are to be believed, this is actually the most expensive Hellraiser movie of the entire series). But it just doesn’t gel – the hallucinations and dreams within dreams nonsense just make the movie feel padded and needlessly confusing, and I just could never get into it due to the total lack of respect it showed for the series it was supposedly a part of (since when does a Hellraiser movie focus on a bunch of kids?).
On the plus side, Lance seems to be having fun, and Hellworld can boast being the only film in the series to include a pigeon-based jump scare, so there’s something. Gary Tunnicliffe’s FX are, as usual, quite good, and the death scenes, while largely out of place, are well designed – there’s even a “strapped to a chair” mechanism-based kill that I would have accused of being a Saw ripoff if not for the fact that this movie was shot a year before the first film in that series (it was RELEASED shortly before Saw II, however). And with this film Doug Bradley tied Robert Englund’s record for most appearances as a movie killer, so you have to respect his dedication to the role (or at least, the paychecks). There was also a brief appearance of a Chevy Corsica, which longtime readers will know is the make/model of my first car, one I still miss to this day.
As usual, there’s a commentary track by the Neo Art and Logic crew – Tunnicliffe, director Rick Bota, producer/co-writer Joel Soisson, and producer Nick Phillips. And as with the others, it’s a decent track – they’re not above pointing out some flubs or silly moments, and while I hate their mercenary approach to making movies (part of the reason that they molded an unrelated script into a Hellraiser sequel was because they were days from shooting and still didn’t have a script), I can’t deny it’s kind of funny to hear someone say “I stole this shot for Prophecy 5” (especially since I didn’t even know there WAS a Prophecy 5) or point out a prop that they recycled from one of the Mimics. There’s also a making of, but it’s largely worthless –lots of the film’s most annoying character (the one Pinhead beheaded) but no Lance whatsoever, and Doug only appears in candid behind the scenes footage. Skip it. And skip the movie, too, unless you’re some sort of Romanian-American co-production completist.
What say you?