"Hellraiser" is true to its name as it is a film that takes viewers on a twisty-turny, fiery journey until the very end. It is wrought with exciting fight scenes, exceptional costume design and acting that just about makes up for its belabored third act. Released on Sept. 28, 2022, this modern take marks the eleventh installment in the series, with its beloved original released in 1987. The series explores themes of sacrifice, supernatural power, torture and forbidden items that serve as types of mediums between Hell and Earth.
This time, a woman named Riley (Odessa A'zion) takes center stage as the doomed "chosen one" of the devastatingly powerful alien-like creatures. These creatures intend to make their next victims understand pain in a new way. Riley is a woman struggling with addiction and is burdened by guilt over the toll her pre-sober self took on her loved ones. She struggles to maintain her sobriety and attempts to satisfy her urge for adrenaline through various other outlets. Her vulnerability connects her to powerful forces far beyond her knowledge.
One night, Riley relapses and spends her evening wandering in a local park, holding an odd puzzle gadget that seems to live on its own terms. She begins to observe a powerful, haunting creature attempting to speak to her from the darkness. The creature's head is filled with pins and piercing eyes that dare you to hold their gaze. Unbeknownst to her, Riley's hell has begun, and she will have to work fast to keep everyone around her from catching the flames, too. The film briefly explains the ramification of the cube and all its ramifications. Once this is clear, the film takes a dramatic turn with a series of gruesome challenges that Riley and her friends must overcome if they wish to survive. The plot includes unforeseen betrayal, dazzling fight scenes and small bits of information regarding the tortuous aliens and their motives.
A'zion brings a human depth to the film's penultimate character, Riley, by appearing as caring as she is convincing. This leads viewers to hope that she can overcome the horrible challenges set in front of her and find forgiveness for her character's past. Another standout cast member is Adam Faison, who plays Riley's brother's boyfriend, Colin. Colin is her closest defender as their journey devolves into painful chaos. Truthfully, all cast members serve to further rather than hinder a story that could prove boring for all of its adaptations.
While "Hellraiser" wastes no time getting into the thick of the action, it struggles to keep up the momentum and intensity initially established at the beginning of the film. Torture scenes that were gripping at first begin to lose their hold as the film drags on. Although diehard "Hellraiser" fans may enjoy this ritualistic demise with a feeling of nostalgia, first-time viewers may not be as patient in its redundancy. More creative variations of violent encounters would do this movie good. Concise editing and a shorter third act balance the plot and allow the viewer to remain engaged until the end. Horror moviegoers with a preference for the subgenre of torture porn will likely enjoy the film for these elements I am criticizing. On this note, viewers wary of gore or violence should be issued a strong beware!
If you are not convinced yet, count on this bonus point to draw you in. Unlike many other modern horror films, "Hellraiser" relies on good old-fashioned elbow grease and a talented costume department to create the tantalizing monsters that pluck goosebumps underneath our skin. This distinct opting out of computer-generated images (CGI) to complete the story is a carefully calculated and impressive decision on the part of the "Hellraiser" team.
"Hellraiser" is worth a watch this Halloween season. It is available to stream on Hulu.