hellraiser | david bruckner | ben collins | luke piotrowski | odessa a'zion | jamie clayton | adam faison | remake | based on | novella | clive barker | david s. goyer | mystery | thriller | cenobite | united states | serbia | mythology | torture | drew starkey | aoife hinds
Director: David Bruckner
Writers: Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski
Starring: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton and Adam Faison
This is a movie that intrigued me when I heard it was coming out. I’ve read the original novella from Clive Barker as well as seen all the movies in the official series. It is a dark and interesting subject which grabs my attention. This also got quite a bit of buzz due to the casting of the lead cenobite, Pinhead (Jamie Clayton). I will address this shortly.
Synopsis: a take on Barker’s 1987 horror classic where a young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware of its purpose is to summon he Cenobites.
We start in Belgrade, Serbia. Serena Menaker (Hiam Abbass) is there for a business transaction. She has a case full of money and she exchanges it for another one. There is one item inside. There is an interesting conversation here though about how he wishes she didn’t show. Back in the United States, we are now at a party in a mansion. Joey (Kit Clarke) walks through until he meets Serena at the bar. She tells him where to meet Voight (Goran Visnjic). This is his house and party. There something dark happens when Joey plays with the Lament Configuration.
It then shifts six years into the future. Riley (Odessa A’zion) and Trevor (Drew Starkey) are having sex. Things get weird when he says he loves her. They come out to realize that her brother and roommate are now home. Her brother is Matt (Brandon Flynn), his boyfriend is Colin (Adam Faison) and they live with Nora (Aoife Hinds). Things are awkward so Trevor leaves. Matt is concerned with Riley since she is a recovering addict. The guy she is seeing she met in the program. He wants what is best for her, but it is straining their relationship.
Things take a turn here when Trevor wants Riley to join him in robbing a warehouse that belongs to a rich guy. They get inside to find a shipping container. Inside of that is a safe. It takes them time to open it and inside is the Lament Configuration. This intrigues Riley and Trevor allows her to take it. When she gets home, Matt is irate. She has been drinking and he kicks her out. Riley leaves that night and discovers she has leftover pills in her car. She takes them and plays with the box. Matt wakes up and knows something is wrong. He finds her in the park and he is stabbed by the box while trying to help her. It becomes a nightmare when he disappears. She searches for answers about the box that will lead her down a dark path of discovery, as well as another dimension of boundless pleasure and pain.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction of the characters. Where I want to start is that I’m assuming most everyone who is reading this is a horror movie fan. You’ve most likely seen the first few Hellraiser films. If not, I’d recommend at least the original two. Now, I did enjoy what this one is doing. We are getting a bit different take on this story. What I will say here is that this is mean-spirited. I do enjoy movies that go that route as they tend to be heavier. That is a good way to describe this.
Now to start delving deeper. I want to begin with our lead, Riley. As I’ve laid out, she’s a recovering addict. She’s sober for a year or close to it. What I like though is that she leads a rough lifestyle and Matt is scared she will relapse at any time. Therefore, he doesn’t like her hanging out with Trevor. This a real fear. I know a couple of people like this. I’m proud of who they are, but there is this fear they’ll relapse that is always in the back of your mind. I wouldn’t be shocked if they feel it themselves.
Having a recovering addict be the main here also makes sense. Hellraiser and its source material The Hellbound Heart are grounded in addiction. It tends to be more where whomever opens the box is seeking the next level of pleasure that Earthly things no longer fulfill. It also always borders on BDSM. This uses addiction, but not necessarily as much of the latter. Going back to this being mean-spirited, you don’t need to be the one to open the box to be taken. This one brings in new lore that you can be marked and taken that way. There is also another aspect of to get what you want; you need to supply sacrifices.
I’m going to shift away for a second from sacrifices and want to move more into the lore. I love that they’re almost combining elements of the original with a bit of the first sequel here. Levithan is the ultimate god of the cenobites. Pinhead is back to the original name in the credits of The Priest here. I love that they’re using the lore. Now for this one, there are multiple configurations of the puzzle box. Whomever has given enough sacrifices can receive a blessing from Levithan. Each configuration will give a different gift. That was a cool thing to use here. There is also the dark side of not fully understanding and to be careful of what you wish for. I did have a slight issue here with the sacrifices though. It felt like a cheat to help keep characters alive that I didn’t like.
There is another negative that I want to bring up. This is too long. I think that we have a good story on the surface. I like Riley getting mixed up in this and trying to undo. There is good mythology and lore that they’re playing with here. My problem though is that after the set up and getting out to Voight’s estate, the movie gets a bit stagnant for me. I think there’s a good 15+ minutes that could be trimmed here. It is a shame since the things I like are good. If the pacing was a bit better, I think this could have been as near perfect as the first one.
Before moving away from the story, I wanted to bring up something I alluded to previously. There was pushback about not getting Doug Bradley to return as Pinhead and the other was casting Clayton in that role. We also have transphobic people with issues since she is a trans-person who is an actor. First, I’ll bring up something that Mr. Parka has been saying to this. In the novella, when you become a cenobite, you become androgynous. Having Pinhead played by a woman is then fine in my opinion. I thought she did great here. The role seems sexless if you ask me which also helps.
That should be enough of issues there so I’ll go over to the acting. I like A’zion as our lead. She has that grungy recovering addict feel, but I did want her to survive. She is a bit misguiding and that works for the story we get, especially since there is an innocence with what she is dealing with and the box takes that. If you survive, it almost scars you regardless. Clayton is great as our new Pinhead as I said. I thought that Faison, Starkey, Flynn and Hinds are fine. They aren’t great, but I also don’t have major issues there. I thought all the cenobites are wonderful. The make-up and look are a bit different, but I commend the movie for doing its own thing. I’d say that overall, this aspect was solid across the board.
Lastly, I’ll go to the filmmaking. I wanted to give credit to the cinematography. Knowing that David Bruckner was the director, we would get good shots. He just has an eye for taking things that seem grounded and showing them to us differently. A cool thing he incorporated was something we got in the Night House. The world of ‘hell’ and the cenobites is just on the other side of ours. When the door is open, our world shifts and it is creepy. I loved this idea. The effects here do go practical and use CGI. I’d say that I didn’t have issues with either. The look of the cenobites are different while still looking great. I also thought that the soundtrack was good. It incorporates that iconic theme from the original while also building the mood and atmosphere this needed.
In conclusion, this is a worthy enough remake to a classic. It isn’t to say that it doesn’t come with its own issues. I love that they incorporate lore and mythology while still doing their own twist on it. The acting is good across the board. I like the grounded story that is built with Riley and then having it turned upside down. This is a well-made movie outside of the fact that it runs too long and it makes the pacing feel off to me. I just lose interest for a stretch which is a shame. This is still worth a viewing in my opinion.
My Rating: 8 out of 10