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  • Writer's pictureMaxwell J.

Hellraiser (2022) Passes the Hollywood Remake Test

Title: Hellraiser

First Non-Festival Release: Month Day, Year (Theatrical Release, Digital/Streaming Platforms, etc)

Director: David Bruckner

Writer: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, David S. Goyer, Clive Barker

Runtime: 121 Minutes

Starring: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Drew Starkey

Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here

Struggling with addiction, Riley (Odessa A’zion) is approached by her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) with a job breaking into a warehouse filled with the belongings of a dead billionaire. Desperate for money and the chance to prove her competence to her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), she agrees. They manage to retrieve a bizarre puzzle box. She returns late at night and her brother accuses her of using again, so she leaves, opting to sleep in an empty park. She imbibes again and decides to try cracking the puzzle. She solves it but avoids getting cut by the blade that springs forth from it shortly thereafter. Though she missed becoming the box’s latest victim, that won’t stop the Cenobites from demanding an alternative sacrifice.

David Bruckner’s Hellraiser brings the pain and pleasure back to the long-suffering franchise with this slick, entertaining reboot.

Riley’s struggle with addiction parallels her dilemma with the puzzle box. She clings to it the entire film despite knowing the dangers and seeing the terrible results of those who encounter it. Her dedication to making things right with her brother, who is taken while he tries to care for her during a drunken bend, further complicates things when she involves other people, dragging them into her mess. She must make the choice to stop hurting others out of her own self-interest, which makes for a compelling finale, but also serves as a testament to the agency that those struggling with addiction have. Hellraiser isn’t interested in moralizing her actions but instead showing the hellish consequences that she must face and the decisions she must make because of them.

Her character arc is bittersweet, which fits beautifully with the themes of the film. The Cenobites see potential in Riley, which is why they give her choices that others are not. Riley struggles with her impulses and routinely makes poor decisions in her quest of finding answers. The more people she drags into this mess, the more Riley feels like she needs to make amends. When the Cenobites offer her a chance for redemption, she wrestles with the implications and ultimately must make a final choice. Oftentimes the final girl trope forces its protagonist to fit a sickly sweet ideal of American sensibilities and beauty. Riley subverts this. Instead, she lashes out, endangers others, and must live with the horror of her decisions. This is more compelling than relatable which is a nice change of pace from slasher franchise characters.

The cast does an excellent job at keeping the tension at appropriate levels while clearly having fun with the material. The Cenobites, led by a deliciously malevolent Jamie Clayton as the Priest, roam menacingly in and out of the picture like the devious hellions they are. Their ambiance and movements can best be described as a combination of a Lady Gaga music video and a particularly unhinged fashion runway show. The main crew of disposable humans convey the terror of meeting such otherworldly beings appropriately but do not stick out as much.

Dripping in beautiful and terrifying imagery, Hellraiser looks as nightmarish as one could hope for in a sleek and polished reboot. The set design is incredible. As the film progresses to the final showdown, the story grows in scope with its set before settling for a sprawling mansion equipped with a mystical metal cage enveloping its outer walls and inner corridors. Voigt’s manor looks exactly what one would expect an unsatisfying billionaire’s would resemble: little comfort but excess displays of wealth and power.

With all that said, the 2022 Hellraiser still has not brought this reviewer into the fold of the franchise. While it is an incredibly well-made film thanks to its strong director and talented writers, the material does very little for this reviewer. The world building is heavy and, at times, silly. There are many instances of this film sharing unnerving dialogue or provoking with ghastly imagery, but it all gets too drawn out and comical to take seriously, which the film aches to do. Fans of the franchise should find much to enjoy, however, as the film itself is well-produced and leagues above the more reviled entries in the series.

David Bruckner’s Hellraiser is a dark remake that opts for atmospheric scares over the sexiness and grit found in the original franchise. Beautiful to look at but ultimately a slow, plodding affair there is a disconnect between the horrific content explored and the reality seen on screen. Relying on the strong performances from the cast and bold visual choices from the creative team, Hellraiser distracts from the weakness of its central story. It’s a well-made horror film that suffers from a certain kind of fine-ness, which makes it ultimately watchable and enjoyable. For longtime fans of the series, this entry may be the resurrection its franchise needs to come back from Hell.

Overall Score? 6/10

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