Directed by David Bruckner, Hellraiser is a second adaptation of the 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. It is seen as a reboot and not a continuation of 2018’s Hellraiser: Judgment. It stars Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Brandon Flynn, Goran Višnjić, Drew Starkey, Adam Faison, Aoife Hinds, Selina Lo and Hiam Abbass.
Let’s just say I have been burned by Hellraiser sequels before so went in with my guard up but was made to feel comfortable with the film beginning with a sexy party hosted by millionaire Roland Voight (Višnjić) at his mansion. During the sexy party a sex worker named Joey (Kit Clarke) discovers that box that we all know to stay far away from. Voight insists Joey solves the puzzle box and for his efforts Joey is slashed by a pop-up blade that was hidden within the box. Suddenly a portal opens, and some familiar chains come soaring out of it and pierce poor Joey’s flesh and rips him into tiny pieces! Voight is unshocked by the events and demands an audience with Leviathan!
The film then jumps forward six years where we are introduced to Riley McKendry (A’zion), a recovering drug addict, her boyfriend Trevor (Starkey), her brother Matt (Flynn), his boyfriend Colin (Faison), and their roommate Nora (Hinds).
For some plot significant reason Trevor convinces Riley to break into an abandoned storage warehouse. They find another puzzle box which Riley solves a bit later after getting into an argument with her brother Matt. Unlike poor Joey six years earlier, Riley dodges the hidden blade. This results in some very annoyed Cenobites turning up led by the Hell Priest (Clayton) f.k.a. Pinhead. The Cenobites demand another sacrifice as they did not get Riley. Riley blacks out.
Later Matt finds Riley passed out and thinks she is on drugs again. He picks the box up and cuts himself on the blade. Our friends soon pay him a visit, with Riley hearing him scream out and then vanish! Riley begins to investigate her brothers disappearance and soon links events to Voight and the Cenobites. She then has to deal with them!
So, is it any good? Well, whilst it clearly respects the original novella it just does not go far enough into the characters wants and desires. It needs to be a whole lot darker. What made the original Hellraiser a success was not the Cenobites but the evilness of the humans. Frank lived (and died) for his desires whilst Claire was corrupted by hers and then led her to give into numerous acts of depravity. None of that is here. Instead, we get a need for blood for the box to transform at each level, but no real pure desire driving the characters actions. Even Voight comes across as a “rule the world” type villain rather than a deprived individual driven by his passion and desires. Perhaps pushing the envelope in that direction is too far? It would help bring the Cenobites to life more if they did, especially as they BDSM aspects of their characters seemed to have been played down greatly, with a change in colour scheme to boot. Now the Pinhead argument – Clayton is no Doug Bradley, but she worked well with what material she had, I just felt the Hell Priest was held back as a character and had little to do until somebody pricked their finger!
Verdict: 6/10. A bland retelling that whilst meaning well seemed to stay on the safe side of the line with this reinterpretation of the original novella. It is definitely worth a watch, but it fails to tread the dark path of the original.