A current fashion in film is to take franchises which have been churning out under-the-radar sequels for decades and give them do-overs which a) use the original title, as if this were a remake rather than a Part Umpteen, and b) bring in more ambitious writing-directing-acting talent. This new take on Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) is directed by David Bruckner, fresh from the excellent The Night House, and scripted by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (Siren, Super Dark Times) from a story devised with David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Sandman).
Hellraiser runs long and stately at two hours, especially since it boasts a tiny cast and a cramped storyline not dissimilar from those of the last eight or so little-noticed Hellraiser films. Rich sicko Voight (Goran Visnjic) obtains the familiar puzzle box (which is given some new tricks), before other characters get trapped in his lair, which is also built like a giant puzzle box (it’d only take a few tweaks to retool the script for the Escape Room franchise). Inevitably, horrible things happen.
It’s an issue that our viewpoint character – played by Odessa A’Zion, an interesting presence – is intended as a pawn, and only becomes interesting when she makes a tough choice late in the day. The casting coup is Jamie Clayton as ‘the Priest’, a revamp of the character nicknamed Pinhead (bonce now bristling with pearl-tipped hatpins rather than flathead nails). The elaborate new Cenobite designs owe as much to Guillermo del Toro’s bioclockwork as Barker’s S&M body mods, but yet again the emissaries of Hell stand around being philosophically evil rather than doing much of anything.