“Hellraiser”, a reboot of the horror film franchise which began with the 1987 film of the same name, does not impress me that much to my little disappointment. Sure, it does try to bring new life and spirit to its familiar sadomasochistic tale of pain and pleasure, but it still feels rather redundant despite some effective creepy moments, though it is much more competent than many of sequels following the 1987 film.
Although I do not like it a lot, the 1987 film, which is based on its director/writer Clive Barker’s novella “Hellbound Heart”, has remained iconic in its field mainly thanks to a number of gruesome moments and the striking presence of hideous supernatural entities called “Cenobites”. Whenever somebody solves a mysterious ancient puzzle box, they immediately come to bring extreme pain and pleasure upon that person in question before eventually taking that person to their realm of darkness, and its leader, who is nicknamed “Pinhead” due to lots of pins stuck on the head, has been known as well as other familiar horror movie characters such as Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers.
The main reason why I am not a big fan of the 1987 film is its glaring deficiency in terms of story and characters, and, unfortunately, the 2022 reboot version also has the same problem. Many of its main characters are mostly sketchy at best, so we do not care that much about whatever will happen to them in the end, and, besides being rather overlong, the movie often trudges especially during its last act, where it is supposed to deliver some big bloody moments for its target audiences.
After the opening sequence involved with a certain substantial supporting character played by Goran Višnjić, the movie moves forward to several years later, and then we are introduced to a young woman named Riley McKendry (Odessa A’zion), whose life has been rather messy due to her serious addiction problem. Although she has been sober for a while, she still does not pull herself well together on the whole, and that certainly makes her conflict a lot with her concerned older brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), who has let her stay at his apartment because she has nowhere else to go at present.
Matt is especially worried about the possible bad influence of Riley’s current boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey), and, of course, he turns out to be right about that. Trevor later suggests to Riley that they should sneak into some abandoned warehouse for stealing whatever is being stored in one big container, and Riley does not hesitate to join her boyfriend at all, though she is baffled to see that container in question does not have anything inside it except one big safe.
It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Riley eventually finds what is inside that safe and take it away without much thought. When she subsequently clashes with her older brother again, she quickly leaves his apartment along with her stuffs, and, what do you know, she comes to play with that object in question a bit not long after falling into the pit of addition again.
Of course, Riley soon comes to experience very spooky things, but the screenplay by Ben Colin and Luke Piotrowski, which is based on the story written by them and co-producer David S. Goyer, changes the rules of the 1987 film a bit. As usual, several Cenobites, led by “The Priest” (Jamie Clayton), appear, but they demand Riley that she should give them several victims in exchange of leaving her alone, and she must find a way to save herself as well as several others around her.
As Cenobites get their victims one by one along the story, Riley becomes all the more cornered just like many other horror movie heroines, but the movie sadly fails to develop her as an engaging character to root for, and it also falters a lot in case of handling several supporting characters around her. They are more or less than mere targets to be tortured and then killed by Cenobites, and I was especially dissatisfied with a certain key scene involved with the supporting character by Hiam Abbass, whom I still fondly remember for her wonderful supporting turn in Tom McCarthy’s “The Visitor” (2007). She is reliable as usual, but, alas, she does not have much to do here except looking weary and scared as required, and it is too bad that the movie does not utilize her considerable presence well.
In case of the Cenobites in the film, they surely look as creepy and grotesque as demanded, but, probably due to wearing lots of digital special effects on them, they are not very impressive compared their seniors in the 1987 film. At least, Jamie Clayton has some fun with her juicy role, and her good work here in this film often steals the show from Odessa A’zion and several other main cast members who are unluckily stuck with playing plain cardboard characters.
On the whole, “Hellraiser” is not as bad as I feared at first, but it does not reach to the distinctive qualities of the 1987 film or the intense terror of Barker’s novella, which remains better than both of two film versions in my humble opinion. Director David Brucker, who previously directed “The Night House” (2020) and his crew members, did a competent job of generating enough creepy vibe to hold my attention during 2 hours, but I only ended up wanting to read Barker’s novella again, and I think you will have a more satisfying time if you read that novella instead. Sure, the fans of the franchise may respond to it more positively than me, but, seriously, is there anything they never beheld before?