Where to Stream It? Hulu
Starring: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Aoife Hinds, Jason Liles, Yinka Olorunnife, Selina Lo, Zachary Hing, Kit Clarke, Goran Visnjic, Hiam Abbass
Directed By: David Bruckner
This review contains mild spoilers.
I have a confession to make. Despite being an avid horror fan, I hadn’t seen the original Hellraiser until last week. Like many people, I could name the movie and its famous Hell Priest, often referred to as Pinhead. But I couldn’t tell you what the movie, or its various sequels, were about.
So in preparation for this review, I finally watched it. While its shocking level of gore made me question if I should have eaten directly before pressing play, I could appreciate its macabre mixture of gross-out thrills and complex mythology.
Then once I went into my streaming session of 2022’s Hellraiser reboot, I had a certain set of expectations. That it would be gory (it was). It would feature a Pinhead character and their demonic Rubik’s cube (it did).
But ultimately I had a much different experience watching 1987’s Hellraiser than I did its newer counterpart. While I feel the modern update is likely to welcome in more fans and even relaunch a successful franchise, I suspect it may be different enough to isolate some of its original audience.
Same Source, Different Paths
While 2022’s Hellraiser is derived from the same source material as the original (Clive Barker’s The Hellhound Heart), it features a different story and characters. This film opens with an Eyes Wide Shut-style party at a billionaire’s mansion, where we are introduced to the mansion’s maniacal owner, Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic).
We discover that Voight is using an ancient puzzle box to summon the “Cenobites,” demonic creatures led by the Hell Priest/Pinhead (Jamie Clayton) who demand a series of sacrifices in exchange for powerful gifts.
Fast forward six years later and we discover that these gifts offer a Monkey’s Paw sort of twist to Voight when his story is brought together with a group of 20-somethings.
Riley (Odessa A’zion) is our central character for the rest of the movie. She’s a young adult struggling with addiction who lives with her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), his boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison), and their roommate Nora (Aoife Hinds).
Along with her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey), Riley breaks into a warehouse in order to steal products from a shipping container, as Riley is behind on rent and in need of money. The sole item they find in the shipping container is the puzzle box.
This discovery leads Riley and her roommates on a violent journey that brings them together to Voight’s mansion where they each must confront the Cenobites.
A Puzzle with Layers
There’s a lot of things that worked really well with this film. Odessa A’zion does a phenomenal job in her performance as Riley. She presents a a complex character who is worth rooting for while still acknowledging her deep flaws.
Early on in the movie we see Riley arguing with her brother Matt, and it’s clear that her addiction has hurt those around her. Yet when it comes down to it, she will still risk her life to save the people she's hurt.
The tragedies that occur along the way highlight the real-life complications that can come when someone struggles with addiction. It’s this particular element to the film that stuck with me the most once it was over.
Hellraiser’s main event, the Cenobites, were as freaky and compelling as they needed to be. Jamie Clayton nailed it (or perhaps, pinned it?) as the Hell Priest with her icy presence. A specific focus on the mythology of the puzzle box and its six stages adds a layer of intrigue to the film that helps set up potential sequels.
Some of the supporting cast was a little forgettable, in my opinion. And while this film was unquestionably gory (skin was ripped off, hooks were cut into people’s bodies), there’s something about it that lacked the shock factor of the original.
Hellraiser Review: Final Thoughts
On its own, Hellraiser is sure to win over plenty of new fans. But what works for it isn’t quite the same as what worked for its predecessor.
The original was a shocking, gruesome thrill-ride. The reboot is a formidable franchise starter that’s more sinister than scary. What it offers is a compelling story with memorable characters (especially the Cenobites) that should make for a macabre movie night.
For horror fans that aren’t too queasy when it comes to blood and guts, the new Hellraiser is worth a stream, even if it may leave fans of the original wanting more.