Dir. Victor Garcia (2011)
Two college friends looking to score accidentally unleash the Cenobites.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Wow, I don't... I don't entirely know what to think about this one. A bizarre mixture of slick camerawork and found footage deliver a new entry into the Hellraiser franchise in an attempt to refresh the mythos around the film and bring the series back to the forefront of horror. There are three things that you should know going into this one. First off, this was a cashgrab. No, literally: Dimension's rights were going to expire if they didn't make another feature-length film with the Hellraiser nametag and they threw it onto DVD to earn back some of their spending. That's the only reason that this film was made. Second, this is the first film in the franchise that doesn't star Doug Bradley as the famous Pinhead, and he refused to join because the movie had a barely complete script and the producers weren't willing to give it another pass. Finally, even Clive Barker himself refused to have anything to do with the film, responding to Dimension's attempt to use his name to sell the movie with the amazing line, "If they claim it's from the mind of Clive Barker, it's a lie. It's not even from my butt-hole." That's... high praise there, Mr. Barker, and after watching it with an open mind, I honestly can't disagree more.
Rich teens Steven Craven (Nick Eversman) and Nico Bradley (Jay Gillespie), obviously named for horror icons Wes and Doug and introduced by first and last name within the first thirty seconds of the movie, travel to Mexico in pursuit of pleasure. There, they accidentally murder a hooker (which seems par for the course for a trip to Tijuana), which isn't enough for Nico. He wants more pleasure, and when the two mysteriously meet a vagrant who gives Nico the Lament Configuration, they are thrust into a world of demons and murder that pretty much directly parallels the original film (but in Mexico). One new twist for this film is that all of this is seen in flashbacks: the bulk of the story takes place in the home of Steven's family, where the parents of both kids are gathered for a dinner.
Steven's sister Emma (Tracey Fairaway) finds the duo's video camera, along with the box, in their room, the audience later learning that the teens' belongings were brought to the family by the Mexican police after they went missing. When Steven returns and Emma starts trying to open the box, things, obviously, go from bad to worse.
The film is certainly bizarre, a mishmash of so many different styles and themes that it would be just as easy for the audience to lose their way as it was the filmmakers. It's interesting, however, that there are a quite a few things that the film gets right: it plays with the boundaries of erotic horror and the pain/pleasure principle, dealing with themes like masochism, incest, and the thin line between sex and death. It's a dark film, thrusting itself back into the roots of the series that haven't been present since Hellbound: Hellraiser II. It is, in that regard, a spiritual sequel that has no business coming as close to the impact of the original as it does. It's hamhanded, to be sure, and there's a lot not to like about the film, but for a series that had more than lost its way and had forgotten what made the films so important and impactful in the first place, it's actually a surprisingly effective return to form.
The key problem with the film is the lack of Bradley (the actor, not the shoehorned character surname). How can you make a Hellraiser movie without Doug Bradley? And, if you insist on doing so, how can you not only choose an actor who looks nothing like the legendary character but also change his makeup in a way that removes the beauty of the character that hides behind the ugliness? I've never seen a movie that so clearly understand its source material deviate so totally from it in all of the ways that matter to creating a hit for fans of the original. The film even delves back into the "Frank concept," with Steven's attempt to rebuild his dead friend with the deaths of other people, and you can't get Pinhead right? I don't care what kind of movie I was making, if I had the opportunity to get Doug Bradley to play Pinhead in my movie, I'm rewriting the script as many damn times as necessary to get him to sign on.
Look at him. Look at that motherfucker. He looks like Dwight from The Office dressing up like Pinhead for Halloween. For a series that is predicated on that one particular character and lives or dies based on how effective he is in the film, you simply cannot change actors and do literally nothing to try to maintain the impact by choosing to make your new version as infinitely close as possible.
The great thing about the film, though, is that its parallel, updated take on the original film actually makes it not all that bad. I know, I couldn't believe it either! Revelations is never going to be regarded as highly as the first film, and rightly so. Still, it's an interesting update that, if it weren't for the existence of the first film, would have been a crazy-as-hell new direction for the series that would've been incredibly effective. It's almost a reboot, and perhaps should've been sold as such. As it stands, I just can't help myself: I really liked this movie, way more than I expected and probably way more than I should have given the absence of the most famous actor of the series. It's almost like a cross between Hellraiser and Funny Games, a bizarre mashup of genres that somehow works.
Who this movie is for: Hellraiser fans, Erotic horror lovers, Reboots-that-aren't-actually-reboots connoisseurs
Bottom line: Guys, you need to watch this movie. Try your best to forget everything that came before and give this one a try. If you're a diehard fan of the original film and won't like anything that in any way bastardizes the OG, you're gonna absolutely fucking hate this one. But cashgrab films have no business being as good as this one. It hits the core themes of the original film (and even expands upon them a tad) and has some nasty gore as well. If you can get past Pinhead not being the real Pinhead, this one may actually surprise you.