“What is it you pray for?”
In what TikTok user Nirupam calls the “White People Can’t Leave Shit Alone” subgenre of horror, the new reboot of Hellraiser does a phenomenal job at showcasing why people should leave mysterious objects alone!
To preface this review, I am definitely not the target audience for this film. Hellraiser has had plenty of sequels, and I have not even watched the original – nor do I plan on ever watching it. The tone of this movie reminds me why I enjoy campy elements of horror a lot more than the genre’s bleak and dreary counterparts. However, while the upcoming Hellraiser has its flaws and is definitely not my cup of tea, I can guarantee that some will fall in love with the film’s immersive atmosphere and seductively grotesque kill scenes.
The world this film creates is as glamorous as it is gory, with a large number of scenes taking place in one of the most intricate and well-designed horror mansions I’ve ever seen. The mansion feels expansive yet compact, resembling the iconic Hellraiser box in many ways. The cenobites, otherwise known as a group of mutilated, demonic beings from an extra-dimensional realm, are given a great landscape to play on for feeding their desire to torture humans. Each room feels unsafe and tainted, yet the architecture feels quite lush. In many ways, the Hellraiser mansion feels a lot like a building one would see in The Hunger Games’ Capitol of Panem.
On top of the mansion, Hellraiser is seeping with gorgeous visuals and cinematography. The gruesome, bloodcurdling scenes are simultaneously met with a grand, enticing atmosphere that keeps one entranced. There is a slow, methodical way in which the cinematography works with the gory horror elements to create a thrill ride for the sensations. Without its fantastic camera work and glossy imagery, the film wouldn’t feel nearly as visceral or brutal.
The main reason why I wanted to watch Hellraiser? Jamie Clayton. And she definitely delivers. Clayton was a standout in Netflix’s Sense8, and I have been waiting for her to get a breakout role ever since. She steals the show as Pinhead, captivating attention spans with her incredible character design, stoic nature, and love for deliciously violent pleasures. Her voice work in this film is impeccable, and I can see why she’s able to lure victims into the world of the cenobites with ease. This rendition of The Priest was made for Clayton, and I cannot wait to see what amazing role she’s given next in her blossoming career. The only downside to Pinhead is how long it takes for the character to appear. At the 50-minute mark, I was still left wondering when Clayton would show up; even when she did, the movie had already lost a lot of its steam in setting up character beats and lengthy explanations of Hellraiser lore.
When it comes to the cenobites, Selina Lo and Yinka Olorunnife also make memorable impressions as The Gasp and The Weeper. Their character designs are next level, and they brought such a horrifyingly fun energy whenever their characters were on screen. Outside of Pinhead, though, Adam Faison and Brandon Flynn are the other real standouts from the cast. They were the easiest to root for throughout the film, and it was nice to see a healthy gay relationship in a horror movie (regardless of how long that relationship might be around for). In particular, Faison’s character, Colin, largely feels like the heart of the film and the person audiences are supposed to root for to survive. Faison does some superb acting in Hellraiser, particularly when his character is dealing with a lot of pain and anxiety!
Unfortunately, most of the other characters come across as unlikable or forgettable. It doesn’t help that the plot is structured in a very formulaic way, where the order in which each character dies feels predictable and unexciting. There’s no emotional attachment to most of the dead characters either, which created less of an emotional impact whenever they “disappeared” from the real world. Aside from the legendary Pinhead, one will probably forget almost every character’s name by the end of the film.
By the end, Hellraiser just felt… not fun. To me, at least. It wallows in the harrowing, upsetting moments without any real levity. Before the third act, which is arguably the best part of the film, I lost any real interest in continuing the story. The kills and overall structure of the plot’s grand finale felt quite predictable, and I was disinterested in finding out how the story ends. Part of this also stems from the first third being very slow in its pacing.
If one is in dire need of witnessing an iconic villain and some bloodthirsty kills, then one can probably look past the film’s unnecessarily long runtime and gain a strong appreciation for what the movie has to offer.
Hellraiser will be available to stream on Hulu starting this Friday, October 7.