‘Hellraiser’ Review: Series Reboot Solves the Puzzle
By Daniel Rester
After gaining praise for The Ritual (2017) and The Night House (2021), horror director David Bruckner returns this week with Hellraiser. An exclusive for Hulu, the film is more of a reboot/reimagining of the series than a direct adaptation of the novella The Hellbound Heart (1986) or a remake of the 1987 Hellraiser film (both from Clive Barker). After many terrible sequels that have disappointed fans, the series has finally gotten a proper revival of sights to show us thanks to Bruckner and his team.
Odessa A’zion stars as addict Riley, who takes the lead character position instead of the novella’s Kirsty Cotton since this film tells its own story. Riley of course comes across the ancient gold puzzle box that summons the Cenobites, otherworldly beings whose views of pain and pleasure blend together. She and her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) try to solve the mysteries behind the box after her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) goes missing.
After an awesome opening, Hellraiser slows down for a bit as Riley’s world is explored. She is a flawed, interesting addict character who reminded me of Mia (Jane Levy) in Evil Dead (2013). As otherworldly things start happening around her, Riley must step up herself because people struggle to believe her claims because of her drug use. Even if she wasn’t on drugs, would you believe someone explaining Pinhead to you?
Speaking of Pinhead, aka The Hell Priest, Jamie Clayton does an excellent job filling the shoes of Doug Bradley. As the leader of the Cenobites, she is calm but terrifying. The makeup effects on her and the other antagonists are top-notch. Instead of wearing black jackets on the outside like in earlier entries, these Cenobites have their skin folded in various ways so it looks like they are wearing clothing made of flesh. Bruckner and screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski perhaps focus on the Cenobites too much in the film, and oddly make them more like typical slashers at times, but for the most part they are well realized.
The settings surrounding the Cenobites and others are mostly cool too. The main location is a slick mansion while the door openings to Hell are smoothly integrated into scenes. One bit involving the back of a van changing into a doorway is especially impressive. Some of the surfaces are more glossy than gothic though and they don’t have the same tangible quality of Barker’s original sets.
Despite the film running too long at two hours and the rules of certain contraptions and choices not always making logical sense, Hellraiser still gets a lot right. Bruckner shoots the film with beautiful wide frames with cinematographer Eli Born while Ben Lovett supplies a rich music score (which of course has nods to Christopher Young’s classic score from the original film). The scenes of carnage should satisfy gorehounds too as Bruckner stages them creatively; one scene involving a needle and a neck stands out.
What really holds this new Hellraiser together though is A’zion. She gives a great performance as Riley and often lets us see the conflict in her eyes. All of the supporting actors are pretty good as well, though Goran Višnjić can be hammy at times as rich and evil businessman Roland Voight.
This 2022 Hellraiser doesn’t even come close to matching the 1987 horror classic. I also think I prefer the second film from 1988 over this new one. However, Bruckner’s reimagining still injects some life – and plenty of blood – back into a series that was in great need of it after years of disappointing entries.
My Grade: 7/10 (letter grade equivalent: B)
Running Time: 2 hours
Hellraiser premiered on Hulu on October 7, 2022.