I can’t believe it’s been 35 years since the gates of hell first opened up and we saw the sights they had to show us. To get straight to the point, Hellraiser 2022 is a solid reboot of the franchise and a movie worth watching. It’s atmospheric and effective but ultimately forgettable. Mostly because it wasn’t willing to push the limits when it comes to gore and graphic violence. The character development was off and cliched, to be honest. I didn’t care about any of them. Moreover, the opening thirty minutes are quite irritating and give off a strong C-movie vibe. Just get over them and you’ll be rewarded with a modern take on the Hellraiser franchise.
Once we find ourselves on the playground, taking acid and tripping balls, the quality of the movie just keeps on increasing. Hellraiser 2022 didn’t have to be this commercial and cliched affair. Towards the end of 2008, one of the best young French directors, Pascal Laugier of his Martyrs fame, was set to direct the movie. However, studios wanted a “more commercial film that would appeal to a teen audience”. And this is how we ended up with the movie that is before us today. A movie that deals with addiction, family, relationships, poverty, and all the other “urban issues” but in a very superficial way.
This is definitely not the reboot or remake the fans of the original wanted to see. But it’s a watchable movie and a decent distraction. We will be following Riley, a troubled young woman who stumbles upon a strange puzzle that turns her life into a living nightmare. Just to be clear, this movie is only inspired by Barker’s novel and the original movie. Shot in Belgrade, Serbia, Hellraiser 2022 looks and feels quite good. The special effects are believable, especially toward the end. It hides its goods, opting for the famous Jaws approach and revealing its monsters in the final third of the movie.
Speaking of which, the new Pinhead, or Hell Priest, is quite good and even got a thumbs up from the devil himself, Doug Bradley. The rest of the Cenobites are also okay, something that describes this movie as a whole. It’s okay, especially for one viewing, and definitely not even close to the standards set by the original. More about that later. Believe it or not but this is the eleventh sequel in the Hellraiser franchise. The last movie that came out before this one was Hellraiser: Judgment, back in 2018. In case you’re wondering, the first three parts are all good but after that, quality starts declining fast.
Reading the reviews for Hellraiser 2022 on IMDb, I stumbled upon one remark that rang so fucking true that I can’t get it out of my head. Hellraiser 2022 is basically Thir13en Ghosts! This is exactly what the studios wanted and this is exactly what they got. A budget version of the Thir13en Ghosts with a Hellraiser memorabilia complete with a special house where most of the story takes place. In case you’re wondering why it’s so different from the original, it’s the sense of grandness.
This raw, terrifying glimpse into this whole new world of horrors awaits you. The perverse combination of pain and pleasure pushes the limits of what it means to be human. The desire to transcend what this world has to offer and go somewhere else despite the cost. Hellraiser 2022 hints at these issues, talking about them rarely.
It’s more focused on teen drama and scenes that are a compromise between budgetary restrictions and effectiveness. The music was also toned down. I want that booming epic eighties soundtrack telling me I’m watching something important. Just think of Poltergeist and how the music there increased the tension to the point of uncomfortableness. And how satisfying it was when it ended. This house is fucking clean! We do hear some of it here at times, just to be clear but I wanted more!
Riley is a young girl trying to overcome addiction and some other issues. Her brother Matt is trying to help her but it’s difficult. Her boyfriend Trevor is an especially bad influence and one night he convinces her to break into a storage unit supposedly holding a lot of cash. Instead of cash, they only find a strange puzzle box. A puzzle box that will change their lives forever.
On the positive side, I like how everything was eventually explained and you knew exactly what was going on. And you could see that the crew that worked on this movie knew what they were doing. For example, that scene with Nora in the back of the van slowly vanishing into hell was fucking glorious. And its epilogue was even better, with that “throat-play”. It was creepy and immersive, I felt like I was the one being dragged away by Cenobites. Cenobites now have these metal rods stretching their skin making their appearance quite nasty. I mean, sure, it could’ve been better, but you can say that about almost anything.
Our young did a good job with this relatively mediocre and safe script. I especially liked young Odessa A’zion and Drew Starkey. It was also great to see Hiam Abbass (Succession) and Goran Visnjic (ER). Jamie Clayton was unrecognizable as the new, female Hell Priest. I feel they should’ve given her more powers and movement, to match the sleek new look. Although I think some of the problems stem from the physical constraints of the costume.
Director: David Bruckner
Writers: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, David S. Goyer