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Friday, October 07, 2022

10 Visions of Hell: HELLRAISER Films 1-10

10 Visions of Hell: HELLRAISER Films 1-10

Reaction from Matt Adcock (@cleric20)

As the US gets the new Hellraiser reboot (but we UK types have to wait as the powers of darkness deem us worthy to also receive it) – here is a Darkmatters ranking of the existing films from the original and best – down to some sent from the pits of ‘straight to video’ hell itself…

So Matt’s personal ranking from best to worst is thus:

Hellraiser (1987) Rotten Tomatoes: 70%

Dir. Clive ‘I wrote the book’ Barker  (you might also know him from Nightbreed 1990) 

This is the OG, a sexually deviant tale of life, love and inadvertently opening a portal to hell… Thrill seeker Frank (Sean Chapman) is the human who summons the Cenobites and kicks off a deliciously twisted ‘chain’ of events. The main protagonist is Frank’s sister-in-law / illicit lover Julia (Clare Higgins) and then there’s poor innocent Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), who tries to stand against the tide of evil. Hellraiser changed the game when it was released – not just unleashing one of the most iconic horror icons of all time in Pinhead but also delivering a superbly grotesque (and rather British) film, which hasn’t been matched by any of the 9 sequels.

Will the 2022 Hellraiser meet the challenge – it’ll have to be pretty epic… 

Reason to watch: The sexual charge between Frank and Julia is electric, the lengths of darkness it inspires are horrific!

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) Rotten Tomatoes: 50%

Dir. Tony Randel (you might know him from Dinocroc vs Supergator 2010) 

Following on pretty much immediately from the excellent original, Hellbound sees young Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) now in a mental institution. The Channard institute to be precise and its dodgy director Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who is fascinated by the whole demonic S&M potential of the puzzle box. Kirsty and fellow patient Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) get dragged to hell with a Cenobite Channard and undead Julia all piling in for a chain-snapping hellish battle-royale showdown.

Reason to watch: There is some excellent stop-motion monster work that whilst a little dated is absolutely bonkers to watch.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser Judgement (2018) Rotten Tomatoes: 36%

Dir. Gary J. Tunnicliffe (you might know him from Hansel & Gretel 2002) 

This is a highly controversial placing on the list as opinion on Hellraiser Judgement is very mixed. But there’s not accounting for taste and this one I liked because it actually expands on the Cenobite lore using The Scarlet Gospels and the Hellraiser comics to bring more heavenly / hellish workings of Leviathan and introducing the Auditor who has dominion over the recently deceased. Caught up in this bizarre afterlife bureaucracy are detectives Sean and David Carter plus Christine Egerton who are tracking a grisly serial killer. Things get hellish when the Cenobites get caught up in their affairs.

Reason to watch: At one point an angel and Pinhead have a confrontation.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser: Deader (2005) Rotten Tomatoes: 13%

Dir. Rick Bota (you might know from his much worse 2 other Hellraiser films)

I’m a fan of actress Kari Wuhrer so having her in the lead here as a journalist investigating a nasty cult that can somehow resurrect the dead means this one is very watchable. Deader would have worked as a weird standalone horror (which it was gonna be before it got ‘Hellraisered-up’ to make a vehicle to clunkily include Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his Ceno-pals). It’s grim in a kind of Se7en or The Cell kind of vibe and definitely worth seeking out if a fan of that kind of stuff.  

Reason to watch: The Budapest underground train here has a fetish carriage where you can get drugs, a lap dance and generally hang out with the city’s weirdo element.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) Rotten Tomatoes: 24%

Dirs. Kevin Yagher, Joe Chappelle (you might know him from Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers 1995)

This was the final Hellraiser to get a cinema release (and even then not over here in the UK). It’s an odd mix of Cenobites in 2127 in SPACE, 18th-century French mischief with toymaker Paul L'Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) whose claim to fame is being the creator of the Lemarchand Configuration itself and 1990’s weirdness – remember that building from the end of Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth – yeah that is back with John Merchant (also Bruce Ramsay). Then, centuries later, in SPACE Phillip Merchant (yep Ramsay again) prepares a trap for the Cenobites.

Reason to watch: This one at least has plenty of Cenobite action, and a Cenodog!

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992) Rotten Tomatoes: 40%

Dir. Anthony Hickox (you might know him from Waxwork 1988)

I can vividly remember seeing this on the big screen in ’92 with pals and us all being very disappointed by this effort which radically changes direction from the first two – and makes the Cenobites into almost horror comedy oddball slashers. Having rewatched it for this post, there are some fun bits and Pinhead gets some Freddy Krueger style lines but whoever came up with CD Head and Video Camera Face Cenobites deserves to suffer for their flippancy. Most rankings (including Rotten Tomatoes) put this one higher up the list but I just can’t…

Reason to watch: Possibly one of the most iconic Pinhead scenes see him spout ‘I am the way’ in a church with a stained glass window. It should have been the cover!

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser: Inferno (2006) Rotten Tomatoes: 17%

Dir. Scott Derrickson (you might know him from Doctor Strange)

Here we are in Los Angeles where some detective (Craig Sheffer) might be in hell. Pinhead (Doug Bradley) taunts him as ritual murders pile up. Who is the oddly named Engineer? Does anyone actually care?

Reason to watch: At one point two policemen get their heads morphed together to become a kind of chuckle brothers of the Cenobite world.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002) Rotten Tomatoes: 0%

Dir. Rick Bota (you might know from his much better ‘Hellraiser: Deader’ 2005)

So, there’s this pretty dodgy guy who’s married Kirsty from the first Hellraiser film – they have a car crash almost as soon as the film starts and after that spooky things happen… Trudging along rehashing a ‘is he really an amnesiac or faking it’ plot borrowed from every daytime TV detective show – he sees fairly horrible visions every now and then – sometimes they even have Cenobites in them. 

Reason to watch: The main guy is a wrongun who wouldn’t be out of place in an Irvine Welsh book – and his comeuppance when it finally comes is the best 10 seconds of the film.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) Rotten Tomatoes: 0%

Dir. Rick Bota (you might know him from other Hellraiser films and ‘Damaged’ 2014)

As a huge gamer, fan of both Henry Cavill and Lance Henriksen – hopes were set a bit too high for this sequel. It features the fun notion of there being a Hellraiser online game in which if you win – by virtually opening the lament configuration – you win tickets to an IRL Hellraiser party!? Alas the plot is off-the-peg slasher, the Cenobites are limited to small cameos and it just gets unforgivably dull. I’d still play a PS5 Hellraiser game tho!!

Reason to watch: There are some Hellraiser easter eggs scattered throughout and Henriksen is always great to watch even in a rubbish film.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) Rotten Tomatoes: 0%

Dir. Víctor García (you might know him from ‘The Damned’ 2013)

If you’re still reading – it’s probably either that you’re extremely Hellraiser-curious or you were somebody involved in making this cheap knockoff for Dimension films so they could keep the rights to the franchise.

This is the tale of how two college friends unwittingly release Pinhead’s retarded brother – sorry I’m being told it is supposed to be the actual Pinhead (this time played by Stephan Smith Collins) and a couple of other hell minions. Hookers get murdered, people wear each other’s skin, family violence happens as infidelities are revealed – and Hellraiser fans everywhere weep… Like so many of the sequels – there is something almost watchable in there somewhere but it's fumbled badly.

Reason to watch: Pinhead seems to hit on one of the mothers as he creepily applauds ‘dark sexual desires’ in front of her kids - classy guy.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


That's all folks...

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