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Film Review: “Hellraiser” Barely Raises Cinematic Hell

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | October 6th, 2022

Film poster: “Hellraiser”

Hellraiser (David Bruckner, 2022) 1½ out of 4 stars. 

The original Hellraiser, directed in 1987 by Clive Barker, the author of the source text from which he adapted the film, launched a lengthy cinematic horror franchise that continues to this day. Enter David Bruckner (The Night House) with the 2022 Hellraiser, featuring the same title but a very different story. Call it a reboot, a remake, a reimagining, or what have you, the new movie has the virtue of a much more talented cast than the original, but a narrative that quickly devolves into retreads of tired genre tropes. The script rarely raises all that much hell, and boredom ensues.

We begin and end with a box. It’s more of a puzzle, really, and it requires an unsuspecting user to operate it for maximum results. A lawyer named Serena Menaker (Hiam Abbass, Gaza Mon Amour) acquires it for her boss, a mysterious rich guy named Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic, Fatima). At a party at Voight’s mansion in the Massachusetts Berkshires, she lures a pretty boy into a central chamber where the box awaits. Voight appears and urges his guest to work the puzzle. He does, a blade pops out, pierces his hand, and the blood that flows awakens demons. It’s the perfect sacrifice.

A still from HELLRAISER, exclusively on Hulu ©2022 Spyglass Media Group. All Rights Reserved.

Flash forward 6 years in a sudden cut, and we meet recovering drug addict Riley (Odessa A’zion, Mark, Mary & Some Other People), her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey, Embattled), her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn, Looks That Kill), and his boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison, Yes Day), along with others. At first their connection to the tale seems tenuous, if that, but soon that puzzle box reappears, and the hellish game is on once more. Fans of the franchise who eagerly await the Cenobite named Pinhead can expect him soon. Only this time he is a she, or at least an androgynous played by Jamie Clayton (Chain of Death).

Cenobite? Pinhead? Don’t expect much explanation, so if you come in without previous knowledge you might lose the thread. Nevertheless, for a while the performances and production design keep things going. Creatures appear, more blood spills, and our lead characters suffer increasing casualties, And what about Voight and that initial prologue? Those details return, though by then our interest has waned. Given the onscreen mayhem, screams and would-be chills and thrills, it’s remarkable what little emotion hits the audience. Still, everyone gives of their all and the actors all do themselves ample credit. I’d happily watch them in something else.

Jamie Clayton in HELLRAISER, exclusively on Hulu ©2022 Spyglass Media Group. All Rights Reserved.
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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), as well as a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is a former cohost of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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