Greater Delights Await… Hellraiser has been rebooted. And it looks really good!
Hellraiser started out as a hugely original bit of nastiness back in 1987, the brainchild of Clive Barker. It took the idea of the Faustian deal and put it in bondage gear and visceral overdrive. It was a film of iconic imagery and took itself very seriously. The study of sin, torment, and corruption was heady stuff in the age of the franchise horror villains. It was intellectual and visceral at a time when horror was becoming camp.
Hellraiser was a reasonable hit, and like many modestly budgeted horror movies of that era, that ensured that it would become a franchise. It could have developed an interesting world around the cenobites, but after Hellraiser III, the franchise really began to weaken, greatly hampered by minuscule budgets and lousy stories. By the later end of the franchise run, the screenplays were being adapted from scripts that were not originally written as Hellraiser tales. You knew it was getting bad when Hellraiser went to space in Hellraiser Bloodline (1996). That is the horror movie franchise indicator that the shark has been irrevocably jumped. The film was so unfortunate that it was directed by and Alan Smithee (Kevin Yagher), a sure sign that nobody had confidence in the picture. Six more progressively forgettable sequels would follow, but none would get a theatrical release. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
But Hellraiser hope has arrived. Hulu, who recently gave a fantastically imaginative shot of adrenaline for the Predator franchise with the thoughtful and hugely entertaining Prey, has now taken the task to reboot Pinhead and her friends. That’s correct. Pinhead, who had been brought to the screen by the estimable Doug Bradley has been gender-swapped with Jamie Clayton. And I think it works.
Pinhead will never be the active horror villain. The costume alone prevents much wild action (bumping into walls would prove really troublesome). But I think the new producers have nailed the look and the sound. And most encouragingly, it seems like they have the tone and the budget reset to an appropriate level for the legacy of Hellraiser.
The key components are present. Cenobites. The puzzle box(es?). Scheming manipulators (Goran Visnjic has a great line in this trailer, with the simple “I do.”) And the visuals… oh the visuals look terrific! And the trailer sounds terrific as well. The story, as provided by Hulu, is fairly generic:
In this reimagining of Clive Barker’s seminal Hellraiser franchise, a young woman must confront the sadistic, supernatural forces behind an enigmatic puzzlebox responsible for her brother’s disappearance.
Sounds straightforward enough. Perhaps not as much of the sexual investigation that Barker was interested in, but it seems a good place to start for a reimagining. Also, Barker has his hands in production for this iteration, and that stamp of approval is encouraging. The Ritual and The Night House director David Bruckner was hired to direct the new Hellraiser, and he is one of the genre’s best at the moment. He is a talent with real visual storytelling flair, and an ability to bring out truly scary moments. If this turns out to be as good as the trailer would suggest, Hulu should be granted squatters rights on any future horror franchise rehabilitation. They appear to be catching the essence of the source material and they have the means to elevate it.