We decided to re-watch the Hellraiser movies recently. I'd seen three of them and hadn't realised that the franchise had continued on. And on. And on. But since Netflix had all the movies I decided I'd watch ALL of them. All 9.
If you aren't familiar with Hellraiser, here's a useful link.
I have met Clive Barker (creator of the original book / film) twice. Once briefly at a signing and then a second time at a talk he did in Dublin in the early 90's. He wasn't what I'd expected from a horror writer. He was hugely enthusiastic and positive. He is also super creative, turning his hand to all sorts of projects across many media. I found him to be a very inspiring person. As far as I can tell he was only directly involved with the first installment, and that's probably a big reason for the marked decline in quality as the series progresses.
Doug Bradley (the actor who plays Pinhead in the first 8 films) does a marvelous job and eventually becomes the only thing worth watching. Much like Robert Englund's Freddy Krueger, he manages to create a likable evil character.
Here's my overview, it's not too spoilery as I'm sure you'll immediately want to do your own Hellraiser marathon:
|Pinhead, in happier days.|
Hellraiser: A pretty solid 80's horror film. Original concept with great effects. Clive Barker wrote and directed this one. Skinless people, a puzzle box, a spinning column that looks like a student art project and of course the Cenobites. The revelation that the Cenobites are demons to some and angels to others is a really great idea that doesn't get the attention it deserves in later films.
This sets the standard by which all future Hellraiser films will be judged.
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2: This starts off strong and then loses it toward the end. The relationship between Kirsty and the cenobites is interesting and there's a lot of nice ideas in this one. Julia returns to be fabulous and evil. We also get to see the Cenobites on their home turf and meet Leviathan which is oddly never mentioned again. Like all good franchises, the first two set up some pretty straight forward rules and elements to the Hellraiser mythos, however, subsequent films will choose to ignore a lot of it.
Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth: I remembered this being so much better. Why? It has one of those really annoying plots that needlessly sets rules only to break them. And Joey is stupid, bring back Kirsty! Seriously, Joey, what is with that giant bow on the back of your nightdress? Pinhead has lots of fun in this one, and we get more about his back story too. He seems like a nice man.
Kids watching it today will enjoy the outdated technology cenobites.
|Pinhead meets Adam Scott|
Hellraiser: Bloodline: In Space! In the future! And also the past.
This could've been a great movie, if it had been more about the building featured in the 3rd installment. There are glimpses of great ideas but the whole thing is a mess. When you see Alan Smithee in the credits you know there'll be problems. It was clearly pieced together from a variety of story lines and reassembled to make a nonsensical film needlessly book ended by a piece set in the future on a space station. The most amusing thing in this film is Adam Scott (of Parks and Rec fame) in a truly horrendous early role. This movie also features a Cenobite dog and I would rather have seen a film about its back story.
|Pinhead and his faithful hound, Pickles.|
Hellraiser: Inferno: A terrible straight to DVD movie about a detective that stumbles in to a Slipknot video. This film tries to be really clever but unfortunately neglects a major plot hole right at the start that brings down the whole concept. Pinhead is barely in it and it doesn't fit at all with his much established M.O., so it feels like this was written as a different film and then the Hellraiser elements were tagged on. The story seems very small, unlike the far grander scope of the earlier films, and I think it would've worked better as a comic. Except I think the idea has already been done before in a million other comics.
|I know, right?|
Welcome to the Rick Bota era of the Hellraiser films. Easily identified by their un-Hellraiser related plots and his penchant for filming in Bulgaria. Also, rather than renounce the idiocy that was Hellraiser 4 : Bloodlines (much like the Highlander franchise did with Highlander 2) they decided to embrace the Lemarchand storyline and keep it going. So, stuff from 'Hellraiser in Space' is now canon while elements from the original movie have been forgotten.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker: Starring Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock and Kirsty from the first two films. As with all Bota era Hellraiser movies the Hellraiser elements are so peripheral that you get the sense that there's a better story just out of reach. They're essentially the negative space of a Hellraiser movie. The original actress is in this movie kind of as an aside. C'Mon!
|This movie would have been much better with Dennis Duffy and Liz Lemon.|
Hellraiser: Deader: As the title suggests, this film makes no sense. Very little was done to reformat this story in to a Hellraiser film and it could have been done so easily! There's even a much featured mattress (like in the first two movies) that could easily have become a plot point but instead they decided to go down the far shakier Lemarchand route, yet again.
Hellraiser: Hellworld: This film tries to be many things at once but succeeds only at being terrible. Based around the idea of a Hellraiser game it focuses on supposed Hellraiser uber-fans. So postmodern! So meta! Don't get your hopes up, it fails to explore either of these plot points properly and instead descends into some ridiculous house party thrown by Lance Henriksen. Sorry, I'm making this sound so much better than it is. Also stars the Man of Steel. **Disclaimer: I was mostly disappointed that this movie did not feature an 8-bit Pinhead because for some reason I'd assumed it would**
|Something's not quite right...|
Hellraiser: Revelations: Possibly the most frustrating of all the Hellraiser films. On the surface it seems the franchise is finally back on track with an actual original Hellraiser based story which follows the established rules of the Hellraiser universe. But the script is shoddy, the acting is terrible and everything about the production is just weak and sloppy. Worst of all Pinhead is played by someone else. Like a weird cosplay version. It's all just wrong. I was so upset by the new Pinhead, I wanted to know why this had happened. There are two reasons floating about. The first states that the entire film was shot in a couple of weeks simply to keep up the licence, it didn't even have a proper release. Having watched this film I can easily believe it. The other one states that Doug Bradley turned it down because the script was so bad. Having watched the preceding films I find that hard to believe.
Apparently Clive Barker and Doug Bradley have signed on for a new Hellraiser movie. There's also talk of a tv show. It seems we're due a Hell-renaissance. Best get on board now so you can say you liked it after it was cool and before it was cool again.
If you'd like to watch these and don't have Netflix you can buy them here :