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  • Rev Horror

Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker

Dir. Rick Bota (2002)

In the 6th installment of the Hellraiser franchise, a married couple gets into a car crash that kills the wife. When the husband wakes, his memory only coming in flashes, he realizes he might not be the angel he thought he was…


CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS


This one is going to be a bit of a joint review with our social media guru Cat-Sith, who had written up a little snippet about this one and, in her own way, inspired this entire project by making me realize I had never bothered to watch any of the Hellraiser flicks outside of the first two. I definitely never made it this far, that's for sure. Before I delve too far into my own thoughts, here's some of hers:


"This movie felt more like a psychological thriller, much like Inception or Shutter Island. Now, before you come for me, I am in no way referring to the quality of the movie or the story itself. I mean it more in that the main character isn’t sure what's real and what's in his mind. Now, that being said, I think the overall quality and storyline was lacking and under-developed, which could be because it was only an hour and a half long and the aforementioned movies were 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Perhaps because it didn't have the runtime for the plot to be as deep as those films, it wasn't, and couldn't be, given the same dedication. I think in a franchise of 11 movies, things like the storyline tend to fall through the cracks eventually. And I’m saying all this as someone who actually really enjoyed the film. I’m not the biggest horror movie fan and, honestly, I normally hate watching Hellraiser movies with my husband. I won’t review the others because I don’t feel like I could give a fair review. Most people who love Hellraiser, especially the original story by Clive Barker and the first 2 movies, don’t like this one, which is probably why I liked it so much."


So there you have it, straight from the mouth of a non-horror fan. She really liked it, which probably means I'm going to fucking hate this. The movie is starring Dean Winters as Trevor, Kirsty's (a returning Ashley Laurence) husband, who accidentally drives the couple's car off a bridge in the beginning of the film and wakes up in the hospital, unable to remember exactly why he's there and unable to help a policeman who comes and tells him that they've been looking for his missing wife. Did the Cenobites finally come back for their escaped prey, or is Trevor just a really bad husband? Has Kirsty run away, or is there something more nefarious afoot? I mean, I personally would start looking in the underwater car, but maybe that's just me.

We quickly learn that Trevor is not the doting husband that he initially believes himself to be. He's having an affair with at least one woman, his boss Gwen (Sarah-Jane Redmond). But his past transgressions are the least of his worries. He is lacking huge chunks of his memory, and he keeps seeing things that may or may not be there, waking nightmares that get progressively more terrifying, especially once his visions become plagued with the monstrous Cenobites, brought into the world again because good ole' Trev gave his wife the Lament Configuration for their anniversary, a gift that she was not particularly excited to see again.

Hellseeker is the second film in a row that focuses more on the psychological torment that the Cenobites are capable of inflicting, as Trevor is never entirely sure what's real and what isn't. In one moment, he's washing the blood of his lover from his hands after he finds them dead in his living room with no memory of how they got there, the next his hands are clean and the dead body has disappeared, leaving him none the wiser as to just what the hell is going on. The unreliable narrator is a trope that is used more and more frequently in film, and it's a clever way to keep the audience on their toes and in the dark, as long as its not used by the filmmaker as a crutch. There are a few key things within a film that makes the unreliable narrator work, and this one, surprisingly, handles it pretty well.


The first and most important "unreliable narrator criteria" that a film must meet is to have a lead actor who can actually pull it off. As Cat-Sith mentioned earlier, Shutter Island is an amazing movie because Leo DiCaprio is a phenomenal actor: his character is learning things along with the audience, and while this seems like something that should go without saying in an acting performance, any movie fan can assure that it most certainly does not. Lower budget horror movies are notorious for bad acting, and you would think that would likely be the case with the second direct-to-video sequel to a declining Hellraiser franchise. Dean Winters, however, is a pretty talented actor as well (though he's certainly no DiCaprio), and he delivers a pretty even performance in this one that makes it work perhaps far more than it should, an impressive feat considering that this film was just his second starring film role.

The other most important part in making the unreliable narrator work is the actual filmmaking process itself. The scenes have to be edited together coherently, creating order out of chaos in a way that the audience can understand. You can't jump back and forth between fantasy and reality and still make a watchable movie unless the audience is both experiencing things alongside the character and also, to a certain extent, let in on the joke. This is generally either done with a final shock reveal that lends itself to a rewatch (like in Shutter Island) or continually throughout the film, with consistent changes in timelines and events that the actor is capable of carrying through. Believe it or not, this otherwise-B-movie handles it all surprisingly well.


That's the interesting thing about Hellraiser: Hellseeker. It's way better than it has any right to be. Inferno was a drastic departure from the original series because of its focus on the psychological torment rather than the physical. It was a bit too much too fast. Now that the audience is accustomed to this new ability, Hellseeker actually works. It's far from the best Hellraiser movie, don't get me wrong. It doesn't always make sense, and the near-constant insistence of just how unreliable the narrator is can get tiring after a while. But it's watchable, interesting, and well-acted, one of the few films in the series so far with a passable script and a decent cast. The film looks good all the way through, to the point that it's actually surprising that this was a direct-to-video sequel as opposed to one that made its way into the theater. It does fall a bit flat as a sequel to a terrifyingly disturbing original film, but it's a decent movie nonetheless.

The movie has some great twists, including a phenomenal one at the end of the film. Kirsty's story finally comes to a close in a satisfying way, and this one actually could have wrapped up the entire story much better than the ending Bloodline attempted to portray. It works fairly well as a Hellraiser film, though it obviously diverts from the source material a good bit, but the rest of the film is good enough that even the most ardent fans of the series are not likely to mind too much. Of the ones I've seen so far, this is probably the third best. I doubt they're going to get a whole lot better from here.


Who this movie is for: Psychological thriller lovers, Non-horror movie fans, Women scorned


Bottom line: This isn't a movie that's a must-see, but for people who aren't as accustomed to the extremity that some of these films go too, this may be a welcome addition to the series as it's probably the least gory film in the Hellraiser franchise. It's also the twistiest sequel so far, carried surprisingly well by a decent set of actors and some better-than-average writing. It's not a bad movie, and it's similar to Hell on Earth in that you don't particularly need to be a Hellraiser fan to enjoy this one. Check it out, even if you're not interested in seeing all of the others. At the very least you can enjoy a little bit of Mayhem.

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