The original Hellraiser is one of the most iconic horror films of all-time – and you know it’s iconic due to how much of it is overshadowed by that of how iconic Pinhead is as an entity alone. David Bruckner’s Hellraiser (these reboots using the same exact title is getting a little tiring) is a film that attempts to explore uncharted territory with the franchise with more modern themes and approaches but stylistically and simply in terms of gore; but it’s also admirable how Bruckner is undeniably a huge fan of the mythos of the franchise. There’s so much love behind every frame of this movie, and so much knowledge and precision behind how it treats the lore and world-building. This Hellraiser is a reboot that genuinely does the best of both worlds, by giving the fans the core of what they come to expect from what a Hellraiser film should be, but also being a film very much in-vein with Bruckner’s previous directorial efforts like The Ritual or The Night House.
From the moment the film begins, you know you’re in good hands as a horror fan. It has an excellent cold opening where we’re introduced to one of the main antagonists of the film Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic), a billionaire who has laid claim to the franchises’ iconic puzzle box. Without spoiling anything, we’re given an absolutely gnarly and unabashedly gory reminder at just how unpleasant of a fate those who wish to try and solve the puzzle receive. The film then jumps ahead months later to our main protagonist Riley (Odessa A’zion), a recovering addict who, in classic Hellraiser fashion, is a text-book unlikeable leading character that the film asks us to follow the story with and maybe even empathise with. Riley and those closest to her get entangled with the puzzle box and are thrown into a world of chaos and blood.
It wouldn’t be a Hellraiser film without the makeup and practical effects being one of the first things you take a note about. All of the deaths and traps in this film are absolutely unnerving to watch – even when they aren’t particularly terrifying, there’s something about the way that Bruckner and the amazingly talented people behind the practical effects visualize is that add so much to every minute of torture. On top of the gore and the kills, the make-up for the Cenobites is absolutely fantastic. Each individual Cenobite is given so much detail to their designs and they look incredible in-action. Jamie Clayton also serves as a genuinely fantastic lead for the Cenobites this time around, stepping in seamlessly as our new Hell Priest.
While I can’t say I’d chalk down Hellraiser as an instant horror classic or even one of the best horror films of the last few years, it’s undeniably a film that was made with a lot of passion for the lore and story. This is a film that was made by people who truly understand the appeal and what genuinely works with this franchise, delivering one of the better entries since the original. Sure, not all the characters are particularly memorable and it could shave off a good ten minutes or so for efficiency sake, but as always, director David Bruckner makes sure it’s atmospheric and gnarly as hell – and for that alone, I highly recommend checking it out.