- Directed by David Bruckner
- September 28, 2022 (Fantastic Fest) / October 7, 2022 (US)
- Second adaptation of the 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
A woman struggling with addiction comes into contact with the Cenobites.
I went into Hellraiser 2022 with extremely low expectations. The final two Hellraiser films released in theaters were “Meh” during a good moment and of the direct to video sequels I have seen one and I cannot tell you a thing about it as it was that forgettable. They had pretty much hit the bottom and had nowhere to go but up in my opinion. In other words they just needed to barely try in order to meet my expectations.
I am pleased to say that this movie is quite possibly one of the better sequels if not the best one since Hellbound: Hellraiser II (which is my favorite). It is much darker and more despondent in its execution. It has an endlessly downbeat atmosphere.
Hellraiser 2022 is a soft reboot and in my opinion because of that appears to be missing some of the elements of the original two such as seeking pleasure when opening the puzzle box. Our first victim Joey (Kit Clarke), a sex worker, is being manipulated by Roland Voight (Goran Višnjić) into opening it. Joey thought it was just a pricey toy. Essentially in this context you could have a bright red mushroom button labeled “Do Not Touch” that summoned the Cenobites and anybody that would be tempted enough to touch it would be a victim. I appreciated that originally desire was needed to summon and experience.
Jamie Clayton takes over as the Priest (Pinhead) though they are less of a leader of the Cenobites and more of the spokesperson. Doug Bradley is some pretty big shoes to fill. It takes real talent to create an icon and Bradley did just that. Clayton does an admirable job in the role and is just as cool and cold and commanding as Doug Bradley was. This Priest/Pinhead doesn’t expound unnecessarily but rather the character’s words are carefully chosen. Mystery and darkness are created with the character once again.
Much like in the original, the screentime of the Cenobites is very brief. The narrative leans more into the human characters understanding what is going on rather than showing these cool demons. When we do see them rather than appear as a collective, they more often seem to pop up individually.
Our central character is Riley McKendry (Odessa A’zion)-a young recovering drug addict who’s trapped by her life choices. And worse her life choices are harming those around her that truly care as is often the case. Strangely the message of this film seems to be though there is no escaping your bad choices or turning your life around. At least that was my takeaway and I find that rather bleak but then again this is not a happy film.
Hellraiser 2022 accomplishes having an otherworldly feel at points that borders on dreamlike. The images can be haunting. The Cenobites got a redesign with their “clothing” appearing as rearranged portions of their flesh rather than leather BDSM garments. They look closer to something from the Hellboy films or just a dark fairytale. Despite the flesh clothing, the new Priest/Pinhead design is pretty close to the iteration worn by Bradley. You can see the common thread.
The story is rather engaging and performed well by those involved. These are not stock characters and get built up enough that you care what happens. And the story moves at a steady pace building to a finale that answers as much as it leaves up to the interpretation of the viewer. It is engrossing and keeps you guiltily watching. At points you might want to look away but you cannot.
Hellraiser 2022 is an intriguing new vision in the Hellraiser universe. It’s nowhere quite as unique as the original two but as reimaginings/reboots go it is not as disappointing as they so often are. I think there is something in here worthy to be looked at by not only general horror fans but specifically by Hellraiser fans so in the end I recommend this one!