Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #657
Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 6, 2005
Country of Origin: United States, Romania
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: Rick Bota
Producer: Rob Schmidt
Screenplay: Carl V. Dupré
Story: Joel Soisson
Based on characters by Clive Barker
Special Effects: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Visual Effects: Jamison Scott Goei
Cinematography: Gabriel Kosuth
Score: Lars Anderson
Editing: Anthony Adler
Studios: Miramax, Dimension Films, Neo Art & Logic
Distributors: Dimension Home Video, Miramax Films
Stars: Lance Henriksen, Katheryn Winnick, Christopher Jacot, Henry Cavill, Khary Payton, Anna Tolputt, Doug Bradley, Désirée Malonga, Glenn Tyson, Stelian Urian, Adam Wallace
♫ Suggested Audio Jukebox
 BossHouse Look Who’s Standing Tall
 Jettared Unsaid
 Sonic Animation I Funk Therefore I Am
 The Latinos The Party’s Over
I always make a conscious effort to find the good in movies as opposed to picking them apart just because I got bullied at school and like the feeling of empowerment that laying the smackdown provides. However, this is easier said than done when the film in question is the eighth entry in a once well-considered franchise and has deviated significantly from the original template. Rick Bota’s Hellraiser: Hellworld is widely regarded as a dud and it’s not easy to fight its corner as it takes any remaining slither of credibility and does away with it pretty conclusively. In truth, the decline had been gradual, and the series had been in free fall ever since British literary genius Clive Barker washed his hands of it. However, while the previous two installments did little to reassure the long-suffering droves that their beloved Hellraiser was in sound health, they did at least stick to a basic theme and attempt to figure into a universe that was well-established by this point.
Bota actually directed both Hellseeker and Deader, and wasn’t done yet as his next effort was shot and released pretty much back-to-back with the latter and released months apart (direct to video of course). Based on Joel Soisson’s short story Dark Can’t Breathe, it had nothing whatsoever to do with The Lament Configuration or its grotesque gatekeepers and Dimension Films decided to plug Pinhead in for effect and to ensure that their property wasn’t forgotten. That much is clear from the offset as the goalposts here have been moved considerably and I can fully understand the grievances of embittered fans on account of it pissing on the ashes of its origins from a great height. Since Scott Derrickson’s Inferno, the focus has been tormented protagonists wrestling with their demons and steadily spiralling into eternal purgatory. Here it’s all about those high school kids and their grand designs on living fast and dying young. That’s right, it took eight moves to transform one of the most prominent modern-day horror sequences into…wait for it…a teen slasher. Something tells me I’m going to have my work cut out here.
When in doubt, take the meta route, and if you’re provident, you can pass the whole sorry mess off as biting satire. You know, the old violent computer games debate; the relentless advance of technology and the negative influence this has on society. Or alternatively you can just throw one big Hellraiser-themed soirée, fill a plush mansion to capacity with raging hormones, ply us with alcohol, and hope that we pass out before the cenobites show. Fret not as they’re dreadfully tardy nowadays and likely won’t show until the punch bowl has been licked clean. Better yet, why not toss a flimsy MMOG sub-plot into the mixer just to keep things edgy and current. I distinctly recall the words “we have such sights to show you” being uttered at commencement and what I didn’t realise was that eighteen years later, I’d be asked for my fucking log-in details to play. And let’s be frank here – it’s no World of Warcraft.
So let’s meet our players shall we? Tonight’s disposable teens will be the vaguely conscientious and useful with her dukes Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick); self-confessed man of spunk Mike (Henry Cavill); token black guy Derrick (Khary Payton), whose job it will be to say things like “damn”, “shit” and “that is whack”; and awfully pleasant English carbon copy Allison (Anna Tolputt).
I’m sure I’m missing someone here. Of course, moody middle-of-the-road mope Jake (Christopher Jacot) will also be tagging along “for the lulls” even though the online game in question has already claimed one of the group two years previous. Their mission objective – to attend the 5th Annual Secret Hellraiser Party being thrown over at the old Leviathan House and have sex with strangers. And who said videogames couldn’t be interactive? Where does one insert their coin?
Our chain-smoking master of ceremonies for the evening’s debauchery is curiously named The Host (Lance Henriksen) and is only too happy to show them around his swanky stately home considering they’re his guests of honor. Naturally they will have full use of the amenities and be encouraged to explore every inch of this plush palace, copulate with whomever they wish, and if they need anything whatsoever “just scream”. Sounds like hoot and a holler, wouldn’t you say Allison?
Never mind her, she’s just gurning. You see, all this hedonism can get a little overwhelming, and tonight promises to be one helluva killer party if the flyer provides any clue. That said, The Host seems like an agreeable enough chap, when he’s not driving rusty nails into your forearm that is. The group appear genuinely divided as, while Jake doesn’t want a solitary bar of this sacrilegious mumbo jumbo (but secretly does), Mike has already advanced to level two – the cunnilingus conundrum.
Quick tip for you fella – it works better if you remove her skirt first. While Mike is busy learning the art of dry humping with one’s face and bonus negro Derrick is attempting not to look “wack” while sucking on his asthma pump, Allison is doing some harmless snooping around, presumably searching for some herbal tea or buttered scones. Good luck with that Ally and a little tip for you – when a sign boldly states KEEP OUT, it’s ordinarily because there’s a medieval torture instrument behind door number 666.
Clearly something here is far from kosher and I wouldn’t trust The Host any farther than he could flick his fifth cigarette butt in short succession. That said, my hormones wilted many moons back and I no longer know how it feels like to be young, dumb and backed up with cum. Besides, who would have thought that a puff of perfume or innocuous playing card could double up as gateway to hell drugs? If we stick around long enough, the cenobites have promised to pop their contorted heads in and take this shit to crescendo. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t forget to die horribly one-by-one and in an orderly fashion.
Don’t look now but Superman Mike just discovered the blow job lounge and is about to rue the words “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later”. You will travel far, my little Kal-El, or at least, until around the forty-five minute mark. Here’s the upshot though. You see, for all the cringeworthy dialogue, stilted direction, and shameful product placement, chances are you’ll still be at the party come that point. Hellraiser: Hellworld may thoroughly desecrate Barker’s legacy once-and-for-all (with a 20 lb splitting maul no less), but, like sex with strangers, it’s fun until the itching commences. By my estimations, irritation should set in at around the 85 minute mark, by which time Doug Bradley will have finished applying his make-up.
Here’s where I’m torn. The characters may make ill-informed decision after ill-informed decision, spout no end of frumpy dialogue, and be numbered up like slaughterhouse cattle; but they’re also undeniably likeable. Moreover, where the past couple of entries were somewhat skimpy with the grue, Bota lays on quite the deep red spread to distract us from picking holes in what is essentially the cinematic equivalent of Swiss cheese. He’s not off the hook by a long chalk as Hellraiser: Hellworld is shameful on too many levels not to open up that whoop can. But seriously, have you seen anything in the past couple of films to suggest a return to form? The franchise is fucked now anyhoots, at least, until the whole cycle begins over. Flogging a dead horse may not be particularly public-spirited, but that depends if the mare in question has a fetish for the riding crop.
At any rate, when is it not a pleasure watching Henriksen chew the scenery like the grizzled dungeon master he is? Alas, Bradley fares less well, not because he has lost any of his gravitas as the titular rabble rouser, but because of the deeply uninspired words placed in his mouth and the studio’s insistence that he should wind up a second-fiddle Krueger.
Pinhead has always been about affording us the chance to take pleasure from his perpetual pain; but seldom has it been so palpable and no amount of latex or head tacks can disguise that. That said, while Bota’s film may indeed be culpable of crimes too countless to tally, its indignities amount to little more than juvenile delinquency when all is said and done. What can you say? Kids will be kids after all. Isn’t that right Allison?
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 5/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Saving graces come in handy once dignity has been surrendered and Hellraiser: Hellworld can boast a reasonably hefty one with regards to its splatter platter. Heads roll, bodies burn, blades tear through nubile flesh, mobile meat hooks emancipate, wooden stakes infiltrate, and aside from some laughable CGI at the tail-end, it donates quite the party bag. Throw in a smattering of heaving bodies and you’re laughing (as opposed to sobbing like a fishwife as would otherwise have been the case). ☢ OPTICAL SPOILERS INBOUND ☢
Read Hellraiser Appraisal
Read Hellbound: Hellraiser II Appraisal
Read Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth Appraisal
Read Hellraiser: Bloodline Appraisal
Read Hellraiser: Inferno Appraisal
Read Hellraiser: Hellseeker Appraisal
Read Hellraiser: Deader Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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