“A take on Clive Barker’s 1987 horror classic where a young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites.”

Director: David Bruckner
Writers: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, David S. Goyer
Staring: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Aoife Hings, Goran Visnjic
Rated: R
Release Date: October 7, 2022

Hellraiser (2022) is a reboot of Clive Barker’s 1987 gory horror classic with a modern twist and societal tie-in. Following the puppet strings that Jordan Peele’s laid out regarding horror, and the well-appreciated sequel/reboot of Candyman (2021), Hellraisier attempts the elevate the gruesome evil afflicting those being tortured.

The movie starts off with a poor schmuck being suckered into a very tough predicament. Teased by an attractive older women, a young man is lured into a lavish party and ends up in the presence of Voight (Goran Visnjic). All of a sudden there are chains whipping around and this young man is being raised above the ground and unceremoniously disemboweled.

Fast forward in time and we meet our main character Riley (Odessa A’Zion) and her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey). Riley is a recovering drug addict living with her brother. She is trying to get on her own feet and establish a steadier life for herself. In an effort to get more money, she agrees to go on this job with Trevor. The pair break into a storage area, then break into a safe, and find something.

They find a cube.

Riley and Trevor look devastated in the result of their theft, but the can’t leave empty handed. They take the cube.

Riley returns home, gets in a fight with her brother, and escapes to a local park. She relapses and starts playing with the puzzle box. Miraculously, Riley avoids a jutting blade. However, despite avoiding bloodshed, Riley sees these ghastly things appearing in front of her, demanding that she choose a different sacrifice. Yes, you guessed it, these are the Cenobites.

Matt finds Riley passed out in the park. His brotherly instincts are to help her. Gather her belongings and make sure that she is safe. While he is trying to keep Riley safe and take her home, he pricks himself on this newfound puzzle box. Big mistake.

Matt disappears. Riley is concerned, and her stress is exacerbated with visages of the Cenobites appearing in front of her. In the search for answers, Riley discovers different connections between this box and the now presumed dead millionaire, Voight. Riley and her group of friends venture towards Voight’s mansion, the same one that we saw in the opening scene of the movie. The house is large, surrounded by a cage and filled with trapdoors and other mysteries.

The final act of Hellraiser all takes place in this enigma of a house. The mystique grows murkier as the body count rises, the gallons of blood become overflowing, and the twisted pleasures of the Cenobites become starkly clearer. Riley is poised with decisions that will affect both her and her friends, and opposing forces begin inserting themselves to make matters even worse for our scared dames and damsels.

Survival, at least in the traditional sense, does not seem likely.

Odessa A’zion as Riley

Whether or not you like Hellraiser the movie, anyone can appreciate the horrific looks of the cenobites. No more black leather for these demons. These cursed beings are wearing their skin. They are having their body contorted in ways that are horrific and endlessly painful. It is the price you pay for power. We see the creation of a cenobite at the end of the movie, and it does not seem pleasant at all. Your skin is peeled off. Your nerve endings are severed. Your tendons are tested. That is what happens when you are strapped in facing The Leviathan and begging for salvation.

Before you can teach anyone about the treasures you will eventually sought about, you must agree to go through the same trials that get you to your final spiritual oasis. Maybe oasis is the wrong word…but it is the evolutionary state that those who complete the cube are egotistically striving for.

Does Hellraiser work consistently throughout its two hour run time? No. There are peaks and valleys, and those dips tend to happen in the final act of the movie. This is not a spoiler because it is beyond predictable; the return of Voight is basically tattooed from the get-go. It works out fine, and there is a second beat drop that keeps things interesting. There are dueling points of interests that gnaw at each other in the final 20 minutes, and that cannibalization leaves meat on the bone for the audience.

Goran Visnjic as Voight

Hellraiser is directed by David Bruckner, a man who is on the rise within the horror genre. He contributed short stories to V/H/S (2012) and Southbound (2015) before directing the Netflix original The Ritual (2017) (which was one of the first movies that I ever wrote about). He followed The Ritual up with The Night House (2020), and Hellraiser is his first explosion into existing IP and lofty expectations.

Adapting Clive Barker’s original and twisting it into a new vision is not a quest many would embark on. Barker had lived in the the small original story realm, so this marked a massive change of pace. Staring the risk in the face, Bruckner does a more than adequate job of stitching together the screenplay of a different type of story. This version of Hellraiser is nothing similar to the haunted house story of 1987. The story changes settings, involves more characters (to kill off) and expands upon the lore that was illuminated in the sequels of the original.

The three writers on Hellraiser span the gamut. David S. Goyer is attached and he is a very seasoned writer and has worked on numerous big projects before. Luke Piotrowski is relatively new but he has worked with Bruckner before, and Ben Collins is making his splash into the major motion pictures.

The story within Hellraiser may falter a smidge toward the end, but the trio of writers still deliver a ton of bone-chilling lines.

Menaker: [as the Cenobites approach] I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry for what I’ve done. Have mercy.

The Gasp: [as she inserts a pin into Menaker’s tongue] Save your breath for screaming.

We are have past horror season, but if you need something to make you feel alive when the winter weather is making you feel dead inside, then check out Hellraiser. It is not for anyone for who is squeamish of blood or doesn’t enjoy monstrous looking things, but fans of the genre will find pleasure in it. The societal references to addiction don’t land as hard as gentrification in Candyman, but there are still an immense amount of sights that this movie can show you…

STANKO RATING: B- (3.0)


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