After years of development hell and abandoned attempts, the Hellraiser remake has arrived. Well, if you live in America and happen to subscribe to Hulu, Hellraiser has arrived. Everyone else will have to wait. Still for a horror franchise that has languished in straight-to-video hell, the remake represents a step in the right direction. Arguably, there hasn’t been a good Hellraiser movie for 30 years. Afterall, this is one of those series that set a sequel in space. But there’s good talent behind this entry and the critical response has been generally positive.
Riley McKendry, a recovering addict, struggles to repair the relationship with her estranged brother. But her boyfriend Trevor, also a recovering addict, strains those efforts. When Trevor and Riley break into an abandoned warehouse storing a millionaire’s discarded belongings, all they find is an odd puzzle box. Though it seems worthless, once solved, the puzzle box opens a doorway to demonic beings that demand Riley ‘choose’ sacrifices.
Hellraiser Takes Its Time, But Inevitably Delivers On What It Promises
This is the Hellraiser movie horror fans have wanted since Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Maybe it was a good thing the re-imagining of Clive Barker’s work didn’t happen during the remake crazy aughts. Rather than a note-for-note recycling of what we’ve already seen, director David Bruckner (The Ritual, The Night House) and writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (Stephanie, Super Dark Times) truly re-work the concept into an original movie. This remake retains the original’s atmosphere and tone alongside bits of Christopher Young’s classic score. And the basic story beats remain in place. But this is a new take that doesn’t require audiences to have seen the 1987 original.
Nonetheless, Buckner dials things up in the second half and, as a result, Hellraiser immediately becomes compelling.
Most importantly, this Hellraiser keeps the mix of violence and creativity in its carnage. Bruckner treats us to an early introduction of the ‘Hell Priest’s’ deadly hooks without showing too much. For much of the remake’s first hour, Bruckner only offers glimpses of the source material’s more visceral horror. While it’s a wise approach in principle, Hellraiser feels a bit sluggish in parts as it buckles under the weight of its two hour runtime. It’s difficult to maintain a sense of dread over this length and the remake doesn’t always have the same majesty as the original. Nonetheless, Bruckner dials things up in the second half and, as a result, Hellraiser immediately becomes compelling. Specifically, the use of the Cenobites – the special effects and brutality – is what horror fans want from the franchise.
Hellraiser Crafts a Much More Intriguing Mythology From the Original
Perhaps Hellraiser’s best strength is the ways in which Collins and Piotrowski adapt Barker’s mythology. No, the screenwriters haven’t discarded what you already know about the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration. Instead, they expand on what we’ve seen in the franchise in ways that make for an interesting story behind the onscreen carnage. Bits of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, including the concept of Leviathan, are amalgamated into what’s quite frankly a much better version of the mythology. It works as both intriguing background element while also propelling the plot.
Bits of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, including the concept of Leviathan, are amalgamated into what’s quite frankly a much better version of the mythology.
As recovering addict Riley, Odessa A’zion (Let’s Scare Julie) is a compelling lead who carries the remake’s slower moments. And she’s a protagonist one would hope returns in any potential sequels. Her performance absolutely elevates Hellraiser. Of course, franchise fans will be concerned about the design and portrayal of the Cenobites themselves. Just like the original, the creature design and effects are impressive. Hellraiser offers familiar faces and a couple of new Cenobites for the remake. Not surprisingly, Jamie Clayton’s ‘Hell Priest’, or Pinhead to older fans, remains the standout. Both the re-worked design and performance offer an exciting new direction for the character.
Hellraiser Represents a Huge Rebound The Long-Suffering Franchise
Well, it only took about 30 years to get the Hellraiser movie we’ve wanted. But David Bruckner et al. have delivered a remake that respects the source material while taking the story in a new and interesting direction. At two hours in length, Bruckner loses some of his grasp over the atmosphere and the pacing drags somewhat. Nevertheless, the second half stands out as some of the best horror released this year. Jamie Clayton’s ‘Hell Priest’ is a chilling re-imagining of a classic character. And Odessa A’zion makes for a compelling protagonist who could carry a sequel. Maybe this Hellraiser will spawn a new – and better – horror series.