“Unbearable, isn't it? The suffering of strangers, the agony of friends. There is a secret song at the center of the world, Joey, and its sound is like razors through flesh. “
Pinhead has never been more correct. Well, in my case, there’s a secret song at the center of Netflix, Joey, but it’s sound is definitely like razors through flesh. It is a siren song that one would understand you succumbing to; it once was something beautiful that stuck in your mind and you loved tirelessly, but over time it turned sour and began to grow fetid and rotten.
We first met Frank Cotton picking away at the Lament Configuration, knowing that opening the box and plumbing its depths would end in pain beyond imagining. I too recently found myself picking up the Netflix Instant Watch Configuration, picking away at its many twists and turns, knowing that cracking the code could ultimately spell my doom. Like Frank, curiosity tends to govern my idle time. An unignorable urge to tread in unknown waters to see what I can find, in hopes of finding something that would titillate and entertain like never before! Then, with one fell click and the swipe of a mouse cursor, the box begins to shift and take on a shape of its own and unleashing the terror that waits within.
In less colorful terms, I have poor impulse control with my idle time and oh hey, I never saw all of these “Hellraiser” sequels, we should check these out!
In the beginning, it sounded like a good idea. I won’t lie; I had heard that the many “Hellraiser” sequels were poor quality at best. But regardless, much like the characters of the first two films that I dearly loved, I’m a bit of a masochist. After all, when I first started blogging about horror films, my battle cry was “I watch crap so you don’t have to!” If I had a time machine, or even a masochistic puzzle box that had been passed down through my family, I’d find a way to send a message to my former self telling me to re-think that credo.
But then, we wouldn’t be having any fun.
In my time, I have seen the first three films of the franchise many, many times. They were a dark delicacy that were racy and different, so they felt alien and special. They hooked me instantly. (See what I did there?) As I was browsing Netflix Instant Watch, that has the entire franchise on tap mind you, I figured I didn’t really need to go through the first three films once more. I’d seen them so many times, I remember them quite well, The first two at least; the third film I’ve seen a number of times, but it doesn’t age so well.
So it was decided that I would start my journey with movie number four; “Hellraiser Bloodline”.
There’s lot of promise here in “Hellraiser IV”. We have cenobites in space! It worked so well with Jason, this had to be good! But it wasn’t meant to be. You see, the entire film doesn’t reside in space. We get to take various jumps in time to look in on the bloodline of Lemarchand, the toy maker that created the Lament Configuration, and how it was turned into a doorway to hell.
Again, I’ll be honest here; there are portions of this story that are actually pretty solid! In much the same way that history can be entertaining, it was nice to get the back story on the box and the demons from hell that come with it. It didn’t all make sense, but for the most part it didn’t matter. It was cool to see different variations on the Lament Configuration, in both skyscraper and space station flavors. Unfortunately, they just stretched themselves too thin to make it all worthy of the groundwork that came before.
With the first film under my belt on this walk through a troubled franchise, I assumed I had gotten off pretty light. There was plenty to enjoy in “Bloodline”, though I didn’t really want to watch it again. I was naive and assumed that maybe this project wouldn’t be so bad. After ten years of blogging about this stuff, you’d think I had learned.
There are many who say that “Hellraiser V” is their favorite amongst the direct to videos sequels. I’m not one of them. I myself found the movie tedious and slow and trying to hard to setup an obvious twist, with next to nothing to sympathise with or root for. It’s a tough film to get through, to be quite honest.
It was a nice surprise when I realized that our lead, Craig Sheffer, was in fact “That dude from Nightbreed”. That was a great flick and he was good in it; unfortunately the novelty only carried so far. Sheffer himself was fine, but his character was so vile that it was hard to care what happened. When you don’t care, you’re suddenly just along for the ride and the pace of this flick makes it a long one.
The other big problem here is that in this stage of the film, the Cenobites are beginning to change. We’re starting to get less and less of them, with Pinhead being the main focus. This and itself is fine; Pinhead is great! Unfortunately as they try and tweak his meaning and drive, his menace begins to wear thin and he no longer feels quite as unique.
At the time of viewing, this change in the presentation of Cenobites was a bit troubling. Too bad I didn’t know at the time that this was the point in the franchise where our beloved Cenobites were starting to drift away from shore.
I have a glaring problem with “Hellraiser: Hellseeker”, right out of the gate. In this movie, our main character Trevor survives a car crash. His wife however, doesn’t survive and is missing. This on it’s own doesn’t sound so bad. However, Trevor is played by Dean Winters. I know, you’re scratching your head because you don’t recognize that name. When you sit down to watch this however, you’ll realize that Dean Winters is ‘Mayhem’ in those Allstate Commercials. You know, the guy that talks about making sure you have coverage as he falls through the roof of your garage, or cause a car accident? Yes, this same guy has a car accident to start off “Hellraiser VI” and now I just want to go and check my rates.
Not really, but that was honestly the most excitement I could muster for this entry in the franchise; seeing that guy from that one commercial, in a movie!
For this movie, I honestly didn’t hate the story at play here. Their twist dujour for the film was nothing entirely new, so it was pretty easy to see where we were going to end up. There were some small details on the journey that happened to give the story a small life of its own, despite ending in the usual fare. The problems arise in this film when the basic ideas of a “Hellraiser” film and the Cenobites themselves begin to change from their original meaning. A change that we will find later was permanent. This makes for a watchable film, that is different in tone and in hindsight, is the beginning of the end for the “Hellraiser” we all know.
With the introduction of “Hellraiser: Deader”, our franchise is truly and completely off the rails. We are now trying to angle for a story that is filled with shock with a deep and mystical meaning, but winds up being painfully dull and hard to follow. This time around we’re following our intrepid reporter Kari Wuhrer as she tries to infiltrate a death cult.
I...I just don’t know. I had such a hard time finishing this movie, I find it near impossible to break down. There are some nice scenes to be found, a few moments of disturbing visuals that might make your skin crawl. The pacing though, is ungodly slow. The story moves at a snails pace, shepherded by Kari Wuhrer. I’ve seen Ms. Wuhrer put out some quality supporting roles, but for the lead of a franchise known for slow burns and dark terror, she simply doesn’t have a strong enough personality for the role.
By this time in franchise history, the cenobites have been relegated to a secondary role. At best they’re an after thought, shoe horned in simply to keep the franchise name. Let’s be truthful here; if I’m watching “Hellraiser”, I require Pinhead and gore. This time around, my brain was so addled by my viewing habits, along with having to power through this in four separate sessions, all they managed to conjure is snores.
As we come to the eighth film in “Hellraiser” lore, we come upon a fundamental problem, a problem that runs all the way to the movie’s core. It’s not a “Hellraiser” movie. Instead, Pinhead and friends have been turned into run of the mill slashers, and nothing more. Mind you, I love a good slasher, but only in a slasher film. “Hellraiser: Hellworld” and slasher fare or akin to pickles and chocolate; two great tastes, that do not go great together!
It’s a sad outcome too. “Hellraiser: Hellworld” was simply trying to modernize the “Hellraiser” lore. Coming out in 2005, they were trying to play to a younger audience, what with their video games, raves and parties. These aesthetics did not age well at all though. Instead, we get a few hackneyed shots of a very bad video game (even for 2005 standards) and some forced hip and cool idea of a party for these exclusive folks who managed to beat the game. You know, so exclusive that they managed to have 500 people at this private party. And why just single out our group of five or six main characters for the antics of Pinhead and Lance Henriksen? Sure, we find out later, but don’t you think Pinhead would take to a party full of teens that solved his virtual puzzle box with his black hooks of doom like a fat kid given his own personal cake? I’d sure like to think so.
But alas; no.
Finally, my train of pain begins the final approach to the station as we stumble bleary eyed and mush brained into “Hellraiser: Revelations”. I knew it was going to be bad. I may not have been thinking clearly at this point, but I knew.
This movie has a storied history of failed attempts, various scripts and more. Plus, even Doug Bradley decided that it was a lost cause and vacated the role he had owned for eight sub par movies! It seemed doom from the get go. Oh, and let’s not forget, our filmmakers decided to call this a reboot, so they wanted to put their own spin on it. I hope you enjoy first person shaky came, because that’s on tap here too.
Now, some folks will call me crazy here; but I didn’t find the story for “Hellraiser: Revelations” all that bad. It certainly wasn’t great, but you could clearly see where they tried to included parts of the original while making the movie their own. There were flashes of classic “Hellraiser” and a base story that followed the original framework. However, they continued to try and modernize things and make the movie more tween friendly, with forced affairs and other nonsense that did nothing but dilute the only good things the film had. Mix the moments with piss poor performances and the movie becomes a serious chore. Pinhead is now a man in a rubbery looking and what’s worse, he cries.
Yes, Pinhead sheds a tear.
As the old saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat”. If my viewing habits continue on their current course, we may have to update that phrase to “Netflix Killed the Blogger”. Yet, you can rest assured that I”ll be back for more. I can’t help myself. Plus on Netflix, there’s always one more.