Remakes of beloved films are never a good idea and rarely do they work. Armed with his impressive filmography, director David Bruckner helms this year’s “Hellraiser”, the much-debated remake/continuation of Clive Barker’s 1987 classic.
Bruckner gifted modern Horror cinema three effective treasures, 2015’s “Southbound”, 2017’s “The Ritual, and 2020’s masterful “The Night House”. Each picture is different in style and content and Bruckner showed natural skill in creating relatable characters and palpable frights.
The screenplay by Luke Piotrowski and Ben Collins (co-storied by David S. Goyer) introduces a dull assortment of twentysomethings who become affected by the famous ancient puzzle box that unleashes pain demons from Hell.
Riley (Odessa A’zion) is a young addict trying to stay sober with her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey).
Riley’s brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) doesn’t think it a good idea for his sister to date someone she met in recovery, and it causes serious tension between the two and Matt’s caring boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison).
In need of money, Trevor and Riley to break into a missing billionaire’s warehouse to steal a valuable object. Can you guess what that object may be?
It is the Leviathan Configuration (the original Lament Configuration originated in Barker’s story “The Hellbound Heart”) and Riley takes it home, hoping to sell it for big bucks. During an argument between the siblings, Matt is cut by the box, his blood calling down the Cenobites, some of the most beloved creations in all of genre cinema.
Expanding on Clive Barker’s visual representations from the 1987 version, the creatures are creative in their design.
Jamie Clayton plays the leader of the Cenobites called The Priest (no longer called Pinhead and rightfully so, as the character was given the nickname by fans). Clayton captures the perverse joy that made Doug Bradley’s original portrayal so iconic and when she delivers the original Pinhead’s famous line, “We have such sights to show you”, it hits big. The talented actress makes the character her own. The Priest is dangerous, disturbing, and dementedly sexy in equal measure.
Josh and Sierra Russell and their design team do excellent and inventive practical work. The other Cenobites, The Weeper (Yinka Olorunnife), The Gasp (Selina Lo), and our old friend The Chatterer (Jason Liles) are twisted fun to behold.
The main link in the film’s plot is Voight (Goran Visnjic), the rich art collector who knows the hellish puzzle’s evils all too well.
Six years prior to Riley’s tale, Voight tricks a young man to solve the hellish puzzle, opening the doors to unthinkable horrors. As the original’s lore taught us, one can live if you offer sacrifices to the Cenobites, but never try to double cross them!
While a better film than every one of underwhelming Hellraiser sequels, Bruckner’s film does have issues.
Ben Lovett’s score is okay but fails in its attempt to to pay homage to Christopher Young’s original bold symphonies, while Eli Born’s cinematography is fine but much too dark during many important moments. Scenes become so murky that it is difficult to make out what is happening. Sorely missed is the ominous backlighting that gave the entrances of the Cenobites their powerful aesthetic.
While the screenplay plays on the themes of doomed fate, the biggest problem is how the writers fail to go all in with the exploration of the perverse debauchery of sex and pain. In Barker’s own words, he was using his tale of terror to “explore a person’s sexual limits connected by good and evil.”
Clive Barker crafted his original story (and the 1987 film) around his time in the S&M clubs of the 1970s, places where he witnessed extreme piercings done for sexual gratification. The author/filmmaker was witness to how pain and pleasure walked hand in hand. These memories colored the original “Hellraiser”, the story from which it was born, and many of Barker’s novels.
Barker’s original (and the sequels that followed) understood the depraved kinks and bizarre sexuality tethered to demonic pleasures. Bruckner and his writers inexplicably remove this important plot point, which was the beating heart of the Hellraiser series entire.
Grotesque pleasures do abound in the Hellraiser films. Sadly (while there are certainly scenes of gore within this remake), the filmmakers seem a bit shy about really letting loose.
Issues aside, the cast is solid, the Cenobites are great, and Bruckner assures the film watchable throughout.
2022’s “Hellraiser” is flawed but much better than expected.
Written by Luke Piotrowski and Ben Collins (co-storied by David S. Goyer)
Directed by David Bruckner
Starring Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Goran Visnjic, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn
R, 121 Minutes, 20th Century Studios/Phantom Four Films/247 Hub