Dir. Rick Bota (2005)
The players of an online game based on the Hellraiser movies come together for a huge rave, but they are unaware that the party is being thrown by a man who wants to show them the truth about the Cenobites.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Nothing says direct-to-video horror sequel quite like being about ten years behind trend, and Hellraiser: Hellworld is the film series' first attempt at going meta! The Hellraiser films have grown a legion of fans, many of whom have joined a large multiplayer online game based around the Hellworld and a select few, those who were able to open the digital version of Lemarchand's box, are invited to a party at the Leviathan mansion, the ancesteral home of Lemarchand. There, the party's host, played by the delightful Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Pumpkinhead), is eager to show his guests the real meaning of the box and its dwellers. For the first time in the series, the cast includes people who will become legitimate stars (save a small part in Bloodline for Adam Scott): Katheryn Winnick (Amazon's Vikings) and Henry Cavill (The Witcher and Man of Steel) star, and both do a fairly decent job at portraying the campy victims of the eighth film in a horror franchise.
It's also the first film in the franchise to be entirely a teen horror flick, if you couldn't already tell from the picture above. There's no noirish detective, no marital drama, no period piece with a pseudo Marquis de Sade. Just some "teens" who are clearly in their 20's being hunted through a big haunted house by some demons. And what's not to love about that? This is Hellraiser for fans of 13 Ghosts rather than people who are seeking to re-explore the erotic fantasy of the original two films. There's also copious nudity, by far the most of any film in the franchise. The party the teens are invited to is ostensibly a key party, in which visitors wear masks and are given a cellphone (in a patently obvious product placement for the Nokia brick phones of yesteryear). They dial the number written on the mask of someone they want to have sex with and off they go. Hellraiser mixed with Swingers, I suppose.
Unlike in the most recent entries in the franchise, there's very little doubt in a lot of the film as to what's going on. Henriksen's Host character is the Jigsaw of the film, clearly inspired by the much more successful film that came out just a year before. It also plays around with the psychological torment from the previous films while upping the gnarly-factor by utilizing some brutal trap-like killings as well. It's the first film that didn't immediately require hooks and torture devices directly emanating from the Cenobites themselves. Maybe that's part of the meta-redesign as well, a stereotypical "man is the real villain" running parallel to the vicious hellbeasts that are the mainstay of the series. That being said, even when Pinhead is involved directly with the killings, this one takes on the stylings of a prototypical slasher film rather than the supernaturally ethereality from the rest of the series.
There's still mystery, of course. Not everything is as straightforward as it seems. We're not sure until pretty far into the film what exactly the mystery is, however, which causes it to lose a lot of its impact on the rest of the film. Hell, we don't even know that there's a mystery at all until there's only about 20 minutes left in the film. The movie's teenage focus is extremely obvious throughout, as characters deliver one-liners (often even when they're about to be killed) that would make Freddy Krueger blush. Pinhead is a little less menacing in this one, which is unfortunate because it's Doug Bradley's last turn in the heavy makeup. Thankfully, the film does avoid some of the worst potential sins: while a digital version of Hellraiser may have been cool to watch unfold, those sorts of horror movies are extremely rarely done well, and Hellworld avoids having any of its runtime devoted to the metaphysical Hell behind a computer screen that I really expected to be the showcase after reading about the film.
It's far from the worst teen horror out there. In fact, it's far better than a lot of the later sequels from some of your favorite franchises. It's also hardly a Hellraiser movie. The transition into a slasher movie is jarring to say the least, and it's not at all fitting with the rest of the series. That doesn't necessarily make it a bad film, depending, I suppose, on what you're looking for when you check out the film. As a huge fan of slashers (and of Pinhead), I actually didn't mind the idea of mixing the two together, even though the style of a slasher movie wouldn't normally be particularly fitting for a Hellraiser film. For what it is, Hellworld is at least entertaining and has enough going on to hold your attention for a couple of hours.
I do have to add one note. The ending of the film is absolutely absurd. Winnick's character is, by all accounts, just a regular young adult, and one who used to be addicted to an online video game no less. Near the end of the film, when she is confronting the Host, she spouts a one-liner and roundhouse kicks him off of a circular staircase. Why? Who the fuck knows! Thankfully for the finale, Henriksen has no problem sitting up like he's Jason Voorhees after he takes his tumble, quickly recovering in time for all of the characters to have an expository revelation that turns the whole thing into a fucking cartoon. It's a terrible ending to an otherwise decent film, pretty much ruining the fun from the rest of the film. Ah well. The typical teen slasher was fun while it lasted.
Who this movie is for: Teen horror lovers, Slasher fans, 90's horror fans who can forget that this was made in 2005
Bottom line: Each of the Hellraiser movies have been a little different than each other, but this one by far takes the cake. It's a harsh departure from the rest of the series, as Hellworld takes the series directly into slasher territory. It's not a half-bad film... it's just not what you'd expect to see from a film filled with Pinhead. All that said, it's an interesting plot with some badass kills, and if you can separate the film from the rest of the franchise, it may well be worth a watch. If you hate the teen horror films from the late 90's/early 2000's, though, this one should pass right by you.