Hellraiser opens the box to a serviceable reboot
Hulu reboots one of the most iconic horror stories from Clive Barker. Barker's 1987 feature film directing debut, Hellraiser, was inspired by his 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart. A reboot of the franchise, Hellraiser 2022 is the eleventh installment.
David Bruckner is stepping into the director's chair after helming 2020's enjoyable The Night House. Bruckner reunites with his The Night House screenwriting duo Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski from a screen story they wrote with David S. Goyer. Riley (Odessa A'Zion) is a young woman struggling with addiction. Much to the chagrin of her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) and his beau Colin (Adam Faison), Riley is in a relationship with fellow recovering addict Trevor (Drew Starkey).
Through a series of events, Riley comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box that leads to her brother's disappearance. The device's purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings led by Pinhead (Jamie Clayton). While the character looks like Pinhead, she is called Hell Priest.
When I was six, I saw the original Hellraiser in theaters. As the series progressed, I lost interest after Hellraiser: Bloodline, the fourth sequel. Following that film, iconic horror villain Pinhead was a fixture in direct-to-home market sequels. Honestly, every time a new Hellraiser sequel saw release, it seemed like the studio was only churning them out to hold onto the character's rights.
After years of being stuck in development hell, we finally get a reboot. Before meeting our final girl, the film introduces us to art collector Voight (Goran Visnjic), whose lascivious and sadistic behavior recalls Frank Cotton from the original movie. In the introductory scenes, we also meet lawyer Menaker (Hiram Abbass) while attracting a street walker to a room with a puzzle box.
Naturally, the unsuspecting victim solves the and meets a gruesome demise while Voight watches with extreme delight. We then get a sexennial time jump so Riley's arc can start.
Hellraiser 2022 could've easily repeated the first film's formula with modern-day changes. I'm sure there was a pitch where Riley is a sexpot who uses Tinder to lure unsuspecting men to her dorm room to aid her former bad boyfriend in revitalizing his body. Thankfully they don't go this route and try to offer a somewhat fresh story.
Despite some cliches, the film's cast attempts to elevate the material. Goran Visnjic is the MVP of the film, and while he should have had more screen time, his moments are the most fun. Hellraiser is the second horror film I've seen Odessa A'Zion in less than a week. She fares much better here. The big question for horror fans is how does Jamie Clayton fare?
Kudos to the casting department for using a semi-unknown. Originally, Clive Barker intended for the character to be androgynous in appearance. She can tap into this quickly with Clayton's voice being electronically altered. In addition, she has a mesmerizing glare that radiates a sense of sensuality in small flashes.
For the most part, I did enjoy Hellraiser. However, I must admit that the film did not need a two-hour run as it began to drag. Nevertheless, the film does have some impressive gore moments and erases away my bad memories of twenty-plus years of Hellraiser sequels.
Final Grade B-
Hellraiser is available to stream this coming Friday on Hulu.