The word of a new Hellraiser movie probably elicited equal measures pleasure and discomfort. Such is the way of the Cenobites, the otherworldly species of people who prey upon desire and don't discern a difference between pain and pleasure. But I know I only experienced happiness when watching Hellraiser (2022).
After 10 whole feature films, Hellraiser — like many a movie series that kept getting sequels — became a little too cumbersome and filled with lore. It needed what I'll refer to as the Halloween '18 treatment. That's because David Gordon Green's 2018 Halloween movie was the perfect way to revive the Michael Myers franchise, cutting out all the canon it had to, resulting in a clean slate for mayhem.
Now, Hellraiser (2022) brings the Cenobites, led by a new Pinhead (Jamie Clayton), and their mysterious and malicious puzzle box (known as Lemarchand's Box), to our present day. Here, new humans will be manipulated, as the Cenobites toy with our desires.
Should you watch the new Hellraiser? Will OG Hellraiser fans be disappointed by this reinvention or find it cause for celebration? Keep reading this Hellraiser (2022) review to find out.
This is a spoiler-free review, so don't beware!
- Hellraiser (2022) is on Hulu, which starts at $6.99 per month (opens in new tab)
Hellraiser (2022) review: What works
The best part of Hellraiser (2022) will be its most hotly-contested characteristic. By throwing out sequels worth of confusion and presenting a much simpler story than the original, this new Hellraiser feels all the more coherent. The puzzle box, with all of its hidden weapons, is still a tempting and deceitful device, and the humans trying to toy with each other to use it, are as devious as ever.
Odessa A'zion is pretty much instantly compelling as Riley, a Final Girl who's already been fighting her battle against substance abuse with pills. The whole premise and situation with the Cenobites and Lemarchand's Box is so weird that the movie benefits from her confusion about it all.
Similarly, A'zion is working with a good supporting cast, or at least a group that all plays their roles well. Colin (Adam Faison) is the helpful friend, the one who knows when to be humane but also when a situation necessitates a big scream.
Nora (Aoife Hinds) doesn't have a whole lot to do, but Hinds' natural delivery in pretty supernatural moments is commendable. Riley's boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey), who she met during rehabilitation, delivers frantic "we gotta leave" lines well enough. too
And while the lead Cenobite — whom we know as Pinhead (Jamie Clayton) — is thankfully not over-exposed in the film, Clayton makes the most of her moments, with her subdued and creepy performance. You almost might think she and her people aren't pure evil. Her character, I should note, is called The Priest in the credits, so the film eschews the Pinhead name used in Hellraiser II and goes for something similar to The Hell Priest name from Barker's The Scarlet Gospels book.
Hellraiser (2022) review: What doesn't work
Watch Hellraiser (2022) directly after watching the original, as I did, and you will clearly see that the team behind it had a goal: take a great, wild and sadistic idea, and put it in a movie format that's less campy than the original. Depending on your point of view, this is likely either a great thing or a bad move.
I'm somewhere in between those polar reactions. My gut says that Hellraiser (2022) accomplishes what it needed to do, but at the loss of some of the its uniqueness. I don't have a strong affinity for the original, but I could see how its fans might think this new model is diluted.
This reboot has nothing like Clare Higgins' intense performance as Julia Cotton, who was driven by lust for her estranged husband's brother Frank (who just so happens to be a demonic fraction of his old self). Those moments where Frank's body was re-assembled? Gone from this version, along the weird lust of that original movie.
Outlook: Should you watch Hellraiser (2022)?
Fans of the original Hellraiser will probably have an itching need to see how their classic has been updated. If they want something utterly peculiar and not just diabolical, I'm not sure their desires will be sated. And I hope nobody hands them a puzzle box with the promise of "the Hellraiser reboot of their desires."
Those who aren't tightly bound to the ways of the original — or jump straight to this reboot — will likely have an easier time with with Hellraiser. As I've noted in this Hellraiser (2022) review, it's a fun and violent horror movie that will keep you entertained.