If there’s any time to be a horror fan, it's during October when highly anticipated horror movies dominate theaters. This year saw many well-known horror franchises, such as “Halloween” and “Scream,” continue their legacies on the silver screen. Others, such as “Hellraiser” (2022), released Oct. 7 on Hulu, break expectations and carve out their own spaces within franchises.
The film almost completely abandons the characters from the “Hellraiser” franchise and Clive Barker’s two novels “The Hellbound Heart” and film tie-in “The Scarlet Gospels.” The movie centers on recovering addict Riley McKendry (Odessa A’zion) as and her struggle to get her brother back from the forces of hell (the Cenobites).
We follow Riley as she struggles with addiction and fights through her grief while she tries to outwit a greedy sadist’s (Goran Visnjic) plot to regain the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that summons the hellspawn (Cenobites) and ultimately their god, Leviathan, Lord of the Labyrinth, for a boon.
The plots of the “Hellraiser” movies have stayed the same throughout the franchise — a greedy person gets hold of the Lament Configuration, they cause trouble for everyone who happens to be near them and the protagonists have to outwit the Cenobites. This film differs in that the people fighting the Cenobites could be considered good. You want to root for them, and it feels good when they triumph, but it also hurts more when they get torn apart.
I began the movie with hope that the main character would get torn apart because of A’zion’s fantastic portrayal of McKendry’s selfish characteristics. The side characters, though — as well as Jamie Clayton’s portrayal of the Hell Priest/Pinhead — kept me engaged.
Speaking of Pinhead, the Cenobites in this rendition are entirely different, in both good and bad ways. They feel ethereal despite being quite literally of hell.
Part of this is their loss of the black leather costumes from the original franchise. In an interview with “Bloody Disgusting,” director David Bruckner discussed that the 1980s’ depiction of BDSM would no longer feel as shocking as it once did. The Cenobites’ destroyed skin is instead meant to resemble intricate leatherwear.
This new costuming helps to distinguish the Cenobites from the dark atmospheres that dominate most of the movie. On the other side, the human characters are dressed in clothes that convey warmth and a sense of humanity. For me, these new costumes make the Cenobites seem weaker, more human — I could not be scared of them after realizing they were essentially wearing no clothes.
Hellraiser is an ugly movie in the sense of its graphic nature. After all, forces of Hell testing the limits of the human experience in violent ways isn’t for everyone. There’s a beauty, however, in the uncaring curiosity of the Cenobites.
Although this version of “Hellraiser” does well in creating its own vision, there are enough nods back to the original to keep fans like me satisfied.
I went into this movie feeling like no one could ever compare to Doug Bradley’s 1987 version of Pinhead. I’m not ashamed to admit I was wrong. Jamie Clayton creates a Pinhead closer to the depiction found in Barker’s novels, one that is androgynous and does not have to exude any sort of active force to get what they want.
From the moment Pinhead appeared on screen, I waited for some iconic Bradley lines from Clayton. When they came, they did not disappoint. Clayton managed to deliver the lines with an entirely different impact, more eerily playful than Bradley. It’s respectable, when you consider how often those particular lines (like “we have such sights to show you”) are referenced in popular culture.
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If you want a gore fest that manages to tackle some of the nuances of addiction, “Hellraiser” (2022) may be for you. Despite the differences — remember that this is a “Hellraiser” movie. It aims to unsettle.
Marcela Johnson is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @dailylobo