Movie Review: ‘Hellraiser’ (2022)

Director: David Bruckner

Cast: Odessa A’Zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Goran Višnjić

Plot: Recovering addict Riley finds a cryptic puzzle box during a break-in, opening the way to encounters with the Cenobites. These demonic entities offer Riley rewards greater than Earth can offer.

Review: By this point it’s more surprising that the Hellraiser franchise hasn’t been rebooted with a decent budget behind it. Despite the increasingly dire efforts of sequels, most of the nine have gone straight to video and been of dubious quality. Franchise mainstay Doug Bradley has retired from the role of Pinhead, leaving the door open for a fresh take on the concept.

Not that we want to get away from some of the series staples. The Lament Configuration is more or less unchanged, even if the new version puts the focus on the ‘rules’ of the puzzle box and the associated lunatics. For those unfamiliar, the iconic BDSM monsters called the Cenobites are ambassadors from a Hell dimension where they explore the extremes of ‘pleasure and pain’. They are summoned to our world through the puzzle box, an artefact sought out by hedonistic explorers. Originally, the box was opened by the depraved Frank, who drew members of his family into his nightmare for his own edification.

That’s one of the weakest aspects of this remake. The original trio of characters were unique, with their own desires driving them to murder and death and their interactions being the backbone of the story. Our new cast feel like the standard gang of young people found in any slasher movie. They’re a bit rougher, being more indulgent in sex and drugs, but they’re very shallow and uninteresting to watch. Their desire to suffer through sacrifice and torture for the promised rewards is convincing.

Bruckner is a highly visual director and this is put to good effect with the characters created by Clive Barker. Any redesign of Pinhead and the Cenobites are going to be deep scrutiny from fans of the series. The new red and white focused designs work well as an alternative look, with modern effects making the flayed bodies look more visceral and convincing. Jamie Clayton is a very good Pinhead, even if they don’t quite have the same presence as Bradley. It’s good to see such an iconic role being treated with a performance that’s had plenty of thought put into it.

When you’re evaluating a remake on an existing work, you have to consider what it can offer you as a different experience. Aside from the design work, this simplified lore doesn’t give us a reason not to go back to the original.

Rating: FOUR out of TEN