Dir. Gary J. Tunnicliffe (2018)
Three detectives are on the case of a serial killer who may not be from our world.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Word on the street is that Hellraiser: Judgment was supposed to be a reboot initially before the studio decided to make it a direct sequel. After watching the film, that makes a lot of sense, because it certainly heads in a different direction and introduces more than a few changes to the Cenobite lore, most of which make little to no sense with the stories preceding it, and more grittiness than you can shake a stick at. Three detectives, Sean and David Carter (Damon Carney and Randy Wayne respectively) and Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris), are on the case of a sadistic serial killer who is killing people based on the Ten Commandments. His kills have a Biblical flair, and he constantly sends notes to the police bragging of his accomplishments. If this sounds familiar to you, you've probably seen Se7en, the absolutely brilliant David Fincher joint that betters this film in literally every way. But what would Se7en look like if Pinhead was involved, absolutely no one asked? Well, Judgment is here to answer that ridiculous (and rhetorical) question.
For the first time in the series, Pinhead takes a bit of a backseat to a different villain, The Auditor, a Cenobite whose job it is to lure sinners into the house on Ludovico Street (a reference to the original film), take note of their sins and pass them on to others who will judge the person who committed them. If they are deemed guilty, they are taken to someone called The Surgeon to "reap their reward," which involves them being cut to pieces while topless women kneel below the operating table and bathe in their blood. If you're thinking that this has nothing to do with any of the other films and is actually a bit disrespectful to the lore of Barker's work, you'd be right: the Cenobites were never about sin, and they never judged others.
They were always, and only, about dealing out pleasure as a currency, the concept of course being that pleasure may be very different in other realms than it is in ours. Judgment makes the Cenobites the moral arbiters of the universe, those who will punish sinners simply for sinning rather than as the result of their summoning from the Lament Configuration. Adding in the idea that the Cenobites are some sort of extraterrestrial justice system is absurd and wholly blasphemous to the original intent of the films. The opening scene features Pinhead declaring the Lament Configuration "Obsolete. Irrelevant in an age when desire has become amplified but where lust can be sated electronically. We need something more than just a wooden box." That alone should clue Hellraiser purists into what would be coming next.
The whole thing feels like a Halloween Horror Nights display extremely loosely based on the Hellraiser world, a haunted house that is focused far more on generating fear from the audience and being as disgusting as possible than on any actual story. It's disturbing for sure, with the addition of the Auditor and the Assessor to the story, one who types up your "sins" and the other who eats the paper on which they are written. Both processes are done in as gritty a way as possible, dark and disturbing in a way that is more likely to make the audience retch than be entertained. Judgment is not going for importance or meaning but rather outrageous repugnance. If you were hoping that the next installment of Hellraiser would resemble a Nine Inch Nails video more than a philosophical and introspective tale of the nature of pleasure and pain, you're in luck.
The effects are quite good, though, which makes sense as the movie was helmed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who has been running the effects on these films since the third entry. It's brutal, disgusting, and at times actually really scary. There's just no oomph, no reason for the film to belong in the pantheon of Hellraiser. Pinhead is portrayed as the bored final judge of sinners, barely interested in the people brought before him rather than delighting in their pleasure. Paul T. Taylor is a worse Pinhead than Stephan Smith Collins from Revelations, and the character as it exists in this film is just nonsense, a boring demon who doesn't fit with the narrative that each of the nine previous entries laid out.
Hellraiser: Judgment wants desperately to be Se7en or Saw, flailing in its attempts to capture the magic of either film and never reaching a coalescence with the previous Hellraiser films either. If Pinhead does, indeed, "need something more than just a wooden box," apparently Tunnicliffe never really figured out what that was. The idea that the Cenobites were searching for a new way into the world in the wake of the technological revolution could have made an excellent movie. This ain't it. The ending shit on absolutely everything the entire series is about, a Lifetime-esque finale that makes me weep for whatever was planned next. We did get the hands-down worst post-credits sequence in existence, though, so at least that's something...
Who this movie is for: Torture porn lovers, Gritty reboots-that-aren't-reboots fans, 90's industrial music video aficionados
Bottom line: Easily the worst film of the entire series. It loses everything that Hellraiser is supposed to be in a way that feels disrespectful to the fans. If all you're looking for is a disgusting and disturbing movie that wants to make its audience vomit as much as scream, and you have no loyalty at all to Hellraiser as a franchise, then maybe you'll enjoy this one. If you appreciated the original film at all, this one is more than likely just going to piss you off. There are some great effects and some dark, gritty scenes of carnage, but the lore created in Judgment is out of place and nonsensical. Not a fan of this one, which surprised me with how much I enjoyed Revelations.