MARCH 17, 2011
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
My good friend Ryan Rotten is more of a texter, so when I saw him calling this morning, I knew it was something relatively important. As it turns out, he had gotten wind of a screening of Hellraiser: Revelations occurring tonight at a Los Angeles theater, and wanted to know if I knew anything about it. Which I guess means he doesn’t know me very well, because I am a HUGE fan of seeing DTV movies in the theater. I am proud to say I’ve seen BOTH Rest Stop films theatrically, as well as The Descent 2 and one of the American Pie DTV sequels at test screenings (also, not DTV, but I saw the TNT miniseries of Salem’s Lot in a theater too). Thus, if I had known about this, I’d be tweeting about it nonstop trying to pack that theater. There’s something I just find quite appealing about seeing a movie in a movie theater when it was never meant to be seen on anything but a television screen.
Of course, I knew that the film probably wouldn’t be very good. From what I understand, the film was made on the cheap ($300,000 – less than the original cost even without having to factor in inflation) and quickly, because the rights to the franchise were about to expire unless Dimension made a Hellraiser movie by a certain date. So it was hardly going to live up to the original, but I also figured that it’s not like the previous four DTV sequels set a particularly high bar, so maybe, all things considered, it might be at least a reasonably decent entry.
Well, no. In fact, it might just be the worst one yet. There’s a kernel of a good concept, and I can meet them halfway on certain things (from assuming that the time/budget crunch prevented them from exploring the story in a more thorough way), but the acting is terrible across the board, the script is painfully obnoxious, and most damning of all, they couldn’t even get Pinhead right. Doug Bradley opted not to return for the first time ever (which should have been a hint right from the start that this one wouldn’t measure up – he did Hellseeker for Christ’s sake, but drew the line here), and as a result we get a guy that looks something like a kid at a Fangoria con who dresses up as Pinhead and makes you go “Hey, he put some effort into that!” - but at least that kid would be quoting lines from the original movies instead of saying the shit he says here. There is some amusing irony in the fact that they made this movie specifically to hold onto the Pinhead character and couldn’t even get that much right, but the movie is too bad to enjoy it.
The biggest problem, once again, is focusing on snotty teens. Yes, Kirsty was the heroine of the first film, but the meat of the story was about Frank and Julia, not her. So instead of an interesting/flawed adult protagonist, we have two kids who are bored with life for reasons that are never explained, and decide to drive to Mexico (“Tee-KWA-na”, as one of them reminds us about 900 times), leaving their “nowhere town” (seen to be Los Angeles – OK?) behind. For reasons too boring (and confusing) to explain, they get a hold of the box (how it got to Mexico is, you guessed it, unexplained), unleash “Pinhead”, and disappear.
We learn most of this via video footage that the police found and sent to the parents. The parents of both teens (and the sister of one, who was dating the other) have come together for a really awkward dinner party where they talk to each other (read: the audience) about what little they know, and generally just sort of get pissy at each other. Then one of the boys returns out of nowhere (his sister announces "He's back!" as if he had just been a bit late coming home from basketball practice), and things start to pick up as they try to understand what happened to him and where the other kid went. It’s actually not a bad concept, but director Victor Garcia and his editor can’t ever seem to decide on a perspective to fill in the back story, so the “found footage” type scenes are blended with regular movie footage, and after awhile they abandon the video concept entirely. So instead of using it to slowly unfold a mystery, it comes across more as padding (or pandering, considering how many goddamn found footage movies there are nowadays). The flashbacks come and go with little rhyme or reason, and are oft-repeated; the scene where they first encounter Pinhead is played THREE times in the movie, which prompted me to joke “Maybe it should be called Hellraiser: Rashomon?”, since the “Revelations” subtitle, much like Children of the Corn’s*, didn’t really make any sense in the movie. We already know everything about Pinhead (né Elliott Spencer), and nothing else concerning the mythology is revealed here.
Oh, except the definition of the word “cenobite”. In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most mocked scenes in modern horror history (assuming anyone ever actually sees this thing), a scene begins with our Kirsty stand-in, Emma, walking into the room reading from a thick red book. “A member of a religious order living in a convent or community”, she tells us. It’s already pretty silly – this is essentially Hellraiser 9, so no one needs to know what a cenobite is at this point – but it gets more inane. Her dad asks her what she’s talking about, and then she ACTUALLY EXPLAINS WHAT WE JUST SAW. “He said cenobite, and I never heard that word before, so I looked it up in the dictionary.” Perhaps Gary Tunnicliffe, who wrote the script, is unfamiliar with certain basic concepts behind screenwriting because he’s usually a (quite good) FX man, but film is a visual medium, and folks that watch films, even bad ones like this, do possess a modicum of intelligence and the ability to process the images we are seeing. Thus, when someone is reading from what is obviously a dictionary, and even providing a basic definition of a word, we don’t need the dialogue to explain that she is indeed looking up a word in a dictionary after that. We got it.
Speaking of Tunnicliffe’s FX, they are quite good and pretty much the only reason to watch the movie – I never tire of seeing people get their skin torn off in these movies. However, it’s a shame that they couldn’t come up with some decent new cenobites to accompany “Pinhead”. We only get two others; a female version of Chatterer, and, I shit you not, a “Sub-Pinhead” of sorts that I swear is just there to make the “real” Pinhead look better by comparison. It’s like “Well I know he’s no Doug Bradley, and we didn’t do a very good job with the design, but look how bad it COULD have been! Now our main Pinhead doesn’t look so bad anymore, right?” Luckily, they keep him to a minimum (if you remove his repeated scenes I’m guessing he’d have 5 minutes of screen-time tops), but that just means spending more time with our awful protagonists, so it’s not exactly a good tradeoff.
Now, there is a somewhat decent twist in the movie, but it’s also botched (spoilers ahead!). I don’t know if this movie was meant to be webisodes or something, but it’s like a 24 twist in that it renders earlier behavior by the character completely senseless. It’s also something that can only work on paper, because what it boils down to is someone impersonating another by wearing their skin, but we can plainly see that he couldn’t have possibly done that. There are no rips in the skin (since they are ripping off the end of the first movie, they could have at least followed their lead and had visible tear marks around his face the way Andy Robinson (as Frank) did), and of course his eyes, voice, height, etc are somehow a perfect match as well. In a book, this could be cool, but when you’re watching it, all you can see is how silly it is. Plus, when he first arrived back at the house, he was in some sort of trance, as if he had escaped from hell or was shell-shocked by what he had seen. Why was he acting like that? It’s the type of thing you might have forgotten about if you were watching it in 5-10 minute chunks over a 6 month period, but not in what’s a very short (75-80 minutes MAX) movie.
Back to ripping off the first movie; the plot of the two kids sort of mirrors Julia and Frank’s from that film, albeit without the love affair (considering Clive Barker often explores homosexuality in his work, I’m surprised they never went there in any of the films). One is skinless and needs the other to bring women back to their place in order to “feast” and become whole again, and since they are in “Tee-KWA-na” this just means a lot of hookers. But since this is an ignorant Dimension production, the hookers are all Asian for some reason, and our lead characters frequently refer to how in Mexico its practically a given that hookers will turn up dead and no one will care because life is so cheap there (Hellraiser: Racism?). Nice.
Oh, and Pinhead is apparently a car thief (Hellraiser: Repossession?). The asshole kids find that their car is stolen early on (whether this is before or after they obtain the box is unclear), and then later, both sets of parents’ cars just vanish shortly after the one kid returns. No one really seems confused by this; one father just announces that the cars have been taken and that’s the end of it. Normally, this would be the part of the review where I wondered if there was a deleted scene to explain it, but I can say with some certainty that there isn’t. Why? Because after the credits, we were inexplicably “treated” to six deleted scenes from the movie! All just character bits, largely without context (and presented out of order, making it even harder to tell where they’d fit in the movie); most were likely cut because they weren’t doing the actors any favors (the two actresses playing the mothers in particular are just awful).
I could go on and on, but the review is already long enough, and what’s the point? No one involved seemed to really give a shit, and why should they? The film exists to extend their ownership of the property while they work out all the kinks in getting the remake together. But even on that level, I still found it insulting; it takes just as long to hire good actors as it does to hire bad ones, and considering Hellworld was produced in 2002, there should have been a decent script to use floating around somewhere, since they’ve never announced plans to actually STOP making Hellraiser sequels. I can forgive the film’s insular and cheap feel – the original is still the best and that wasn’t exactly a globe trotting adventure with big budget spectacle – but I can’t forgive such cynical laziness. Christ, even the end credits managed to look cheap (I also spotted some mistakes). If they had to make a movie to hold onto the rights, fine – make one, show it to a lawyer, and then burn the negative. But as far as I’m concerned, they don’t DESERVE to hold on to the rights if they are making this sort of trash and asking people to pay for it as if it was a legitimate entry. Hellraiser: Reprehensible?
There it is.
What say you?
*Even stranger, before this screening was a showing of Children Of The Corn: Genesis, a film that’s listed under the subtitle “The Dweller” on IMDb as of this writing (and is inexplicably not included with the others under “movie connections’). I had planned to go, but my new car’s security system malfunctioned and left me unable to get it started (really advanced security – even keeps its owner from “stealing” it!), so I missed out on what I’m sure was a terrific entry to that franchise. I wonder how often this happens? The screenings were not advertised in any way, and the theater employees seemed confused as to how to even let someone buy a ticket for them. Very weird, but when it comes to Dimension, nothing surprises me. Still, if you ever hear of them showing Pulse 4 or Mimic: Revelation (or whatever else they got coming our way) in a theater, you make sure to let me know!