The Hellraiser Series
Hellraiser (November 23/07)
Though its sequels have been steadily dwindling in quality over the years, Hellraiser remains an entertaining and downright creepy piece of work - with writer/director Clive Barker's stylish visual choices certainly playing a key role in the movie's enduring success. The story follows bickering married couple Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Julia (Clare Higgins) as they move into a creaky old house, where Julia eventually discovers a blood-sucking monster living in the upstairs attic. Said creature is inevitably revealed to be her former lover Frank (Sean Chapman), who - after escaping from Pinhead and his demented band of Cenobites - must now feast on the blood of human sacrifices to regain his human form (Julia reluctantly agrees to provide a series of would-be one-night stands for this very purpose). Barker has infused Hellraiser with an exceedingly deliberate pace that admittedly does take a while to get used to, as the film initially possesses the vibe of a decidedly non-horrific familial drama. There's little doubt that the slow-moving atmosphere proves instrumental in building an atmosphere of dread, however, and it's subsequently impossible to deny the effectiveness of the gruesome (and sporadically frightening) third act. Ashley Laurence - cast as Larry's estranged daughter (and the ultimate hero of the piece) - turns in a surprisingly affecting performance that essentially anchors the film, though it's obviously impossible to overlook Doug Bradley's work as the iconic Pinhead (his delivery of the film's most famous line - "we'll tear your soul apart!" - itself justifies Hellraiser's entire existence).
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Hellraiser III: Hellraiser on Earth
Hellraiser: Deader (July 31/05)
The revelation that Hellraiser: Deader didn't start out as a Hellraiser film doesn't come as much of a surprise, given the almost total lack of screentime for series star Pinhead (he and his fellow Cenobites receive a total of ten minutes worth, at most). Instead, the film tells the unpleasant, interminable story about Amy Klein (played by Kari Wuhrer) - a reporter who goes undercover to investigate the strange happenings within a community of goths. As it turns out, the goths are actually part of a cult and have seemingly found a way to resurrect themselves from the dead (this is where Pinhead comes in). Director Rick Bota imbues Hellraiser: Deader with an exceedingly grungy sense of style, something that becomes more and more distracting as the film progresses (the entire third act seems to transpire in a dank basement). This is compounded by a script that's far more confusing than it needs to be, as screenwriters Neal Marshall Stevens and Tim Day pack the film with an inordinate number of sequences which may or may not just be a figment of Amy's imagination. In the end, it's impossible not to wonder who Hellraiser: Deader is supposed to appeal to; Pinhead's cameo appearance will surely turn off Hellraiser fans, while horror buffs are stuck with a film that isn't even remotely scary. There is, however, one effective sequence that features the return of Pinhead's infamous chains...
Hellraiser: Hellworld (September 7/05)
It hardly seems possible, but Hellraiser: Hellworld just might be worse than the last installment in the series, Deader. The movie doesn't even seem to be set in the same universe as its predecessors, as the story revolves around an online game based on the series. After receiving invitations to attend an exclusive party, Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick) and her friends soon discover that perhaps Pinhead and his fellow Cenobites aren't quite as imaginary as they might've hoped. Hellworld features a heavy emphasis on murky, dank sets (some of which have clearly been recycled from Deader), as director Rick Bota attempts to compensate for the film's low-budget by shrouding the proceedings in darkness. This is exacerbated by Carl Dupre's moronic screenplay, which features sequence after sequence of the various characters wandering the preposterously large mansion while muttering so-called "clever" comments to themselves (it doesn't help that each character seems to have emerged directly from the horror-cliche rulebook, including the sassy, doomed black guy). The gore, presumably the one bright spot to a film like this, is sparse and unimaginative; Pinhead lops a guy's head off with a butcher knife, if that tells you anything.