When deciding on what to watch for the All Hallow’s Eve “long” weekend, fans of Clive Barker’s works will either hate the new Hellraiser or love it. Usually, it’s best to not reimagine popular horror icons of the past. Two prime examples are Friday the 13th and Evil Dead. Neither fared very well when they lose some detail which made these works and its antagonist iconic. When this tale concerns Riley (Odessa A’zion) finding a puzzle box and whom she meets is played by an actress rather than an actor, my curiousity was piqued.
What we get presented with is a semi-decent update on the original narrative, The Hellbound Heart. I suspect the idea to “reboot” this franchise is to modernise it for a Millennial audience. As for how involved Clive Barker is to this film, I doubt he was on set to provide feedback. Thankfully, he at least got producer credit.
Pinhead was once a male human according to the BOOM! Comics’ lore, but what if the All-Mighty Leviathan doesn’t understand gender? What if all its creations took whatever body part it could find like in Star Trek‘s “The Cage,” and slapped whatever wasn’t damaged into a chimaera? Thankfully, this movie takes the idea by the casting of a transgender into the seminal role. The themes in the original Hellraiser concerned the pleasures of the flesh and desire. Frank wanted to experience new pleasures. He also lusted for a woman he couldn’t have, and it took the daughter of his brother to shut him down.
When an Aleister Crowley like figure, Roland Voight (Goran Višnjić), is the raison d’être for everything happening, all eyes are on him when he decides to bring these otherworldly beings to our reality. Want has his own wants, and as a result, his building is nearly destroyed. I liked him more than Riley, since he’s basically like Frank in Clive Barker’s film that started it all. By the time the narrative shifts to this young lady, her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) and his boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison), and Nora (Aoife Hinds), this character is shoved to the background, and we don’t know why anyone is interested about this mad occultist, other than Trevor (Drew Starkey), who is Riley’s boyfriend. All hell breaks loose when they find the puzzle box and release the spirit within. It demands a sacrifice, and that when the story breaks down.
I can’t really care who is backstabbing whom because not all the characters are firmly established. All I wanted to see is the beautiful model turned actress, Jamie Clayton, as Pinhead. She delivers a quiet and foreboding performance. Even after fondly following Doug Bradley in the role in all the past films–he’s a trooper for staying with the franchise for as long as he did–it’s tough to accept someone different. He delivered a gravitas that I can be scared of. On the other hand, this new version is sexy under all that makeup, and is worth going toe to toe against.
But as fans know, a deal with the devil means something will go wrong in the end. That’s what makes the original as beloved as it is, since it’s a twist on Doctor Faustus, an Elizabethan play by Christopher Marlowe. I’d even argue some cenobite designs put flesh and sinew in place of those frills and ruff collars. It’s not just about BDSM culture. While this aspect dominates much of the mythos, what’s presented here is neither about nor celebrating it. It’s missing a link to tie it all together.
2½ Stars out of 5
Hellraiser 2022 Trailer