FANTASTIC FEST 2022: ‘Hellraiser’ Is One Hell Of A Story

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Hellraiser - But Why Tho

Sequels coming decades after their originals are hard, and when a franchise is already littered with bad ones, well, the task seems insurmountable. But the Hulu Original Hellraiser is up to the bloody challenge. Directed by David Bruckner and written by Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, and David S. Goyer, this original film manages to capture the sex appeal, gore, and moral tale of the original with relative ease. Evil permeates it, human desire fuels it, and the wildly creative and gore-gously beautiful cenobites push it to a height close to the original. The film stars Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Aoife Hinds, Jason Liles, and Yinka Olorunnife.

A reimagining of Clive Barker’s 1987 original, a young woman, Riley (Odessa A’zion), is struggling with addiction when she comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.

Maintaining the sharp body horror edge that the series is known for, Hellraiser also manages to tell an intimate story of family, addiction, and how to live with guilt when the ramifications of the latter shatter the first. There is a beautiful horror that embodies high-paced slashers but when you peel back that flesh, you’ll see a nuanced look at overcoming your desires. But where Hellraiser diverges from the original it will surely be compared to is the exploration of addiction instead of sex as the axis of choice that complicates the story. This allows for a rather nuanced look at pain, not in something we seek to enhance our pleasure, but as something unavoidable that we have to learn to live with instead of run from.

Hellraiser as a franchise has long held an iconic status in horror thanks to the designs of the Cenobites, even those featured in the less-loved sequels. And somehow, in Hellraiser (2022), the cenobites have gotten even better. More bloody, more sexual, and more visceral, the bevy of cenobites we see are gorgeous in the most macabre ways. Each design stretches and cuts skin, exposes musculature, peels back pieces of a human form, or distorts into something otherworldly. Even the most terrifying among them like the Chatterer manages to be designed with a delicate hand. Their leather is their flesh and it’s gloriously worn in a couture fashion. And this is no more present than in Pinhead herself.

Beautiful and commanding, Pinhead is somehow both terrifying and delicate. Gone is the black trenched dress and instead, we see bits of flesh cut away to look like a costume with gold adornments completing a regal look. Pinhead is striking and gorgeous, as are some of the other female Cenobites. But visuals aren’t the only thing that must be praised, Jamie Clayton as Pinhead has to be as well. Her voice and the distortion add even more terror and supernatural to an already uncomfortable appearance. And yes, I am uncomfortable when I see her and her Cenobites on screen. But when she speaks and her eyes pierce you as Bruckner crops in close to her beautiful face, you fall into her. A stunning take on a classic character, Clayton is perfection.

Hellraiser is worlds different from the original Clive Barker story of the same name and the adaptation that came from it. But this Hellraiser is worth every minute of its two-hour run time. Bringing together slasher stalking, supernatural fever dreams, and loads of body horror, it fits the world it’s set in and stands out as Bruckner intended. To call Hellraiser is to do a disservice to the beautiful reinvention we see on screen. Capturing the beauty and terrifying nature of the franchise through a view of a desire other than sex shows reverence to the source material.

It’s an original story at home in its franchise’s universe. Hellraiser is utterly exquisite and exactly how you bring a franchise back.

Hellraiser screened as the second secret screening of Fantastic Fest 2022 and is available now, exclusively on Hulu.


Hellraiser (2022)
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

It’s an original story at home in its franchise’s universe. Hellraiser is utterly exquisite and exactly how you bring a franchise back.

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