Brutal reintroduction for Cenobites on Hulu [Fright-A-Thon Review]
Let’s take the “professional journalism” hat off a bit. hellraiser kick ass. Longtime fans of the show have been consistently disappointed by studios’ bad decisions (Miramax and Dimension, you suck, Harvey Weinstein, you really suck) and mediocre, half-baked, direct-to-video installments that don’t have almost nothing to do with Clive Barkerthe original story. They usually take an existing script, add Pinhead to it, write something about configuring Lament, and boom, you have yours hellraiser after.
However, with hellraiser, we get something new. Something that isn’t a reboot, remake, requel, or even really a continuation of the original story. There’s no Kirsty Cotton appearance, no Doug Bradley, but there are new Cenobites, a new actor playing Pinhead, and some fresh ideas on display. Director David Bruckner is inspired by Clive Barker’s original horror masterpiece, but never approaches the territory of simply emulating it. Don’t get me wrong, there are always goth styles and angelic sounds to juxtapose with horrific acts of painful pleasure. But it’s its own film through and through. Screenwriters Ben Collins and Luc Piotrowski give us a story that fits something with the hellraiser Last name. It’s simple, and with things like that, going overboard gives you something like Hellraiser: Bloodline.
Audiences haven’t seen Pinhead and the Cenobites in a long time. They need time to gel again before we can get to stories about Hell, Leviathan, and other realms of the hellraiser mythos. Luckily, they found the right people to show us how Cenobites roll.
Cenobites including Pinhead are the best part of hellraiser
If you were worried that someone other than Doug Bradley taking over the torch from Pinhead/The Priest would fall flat on their stomachs, I would like to introduce you Jamie Clayton. The actress may have sparked ‘controversy’ when she was cast as Pinhead (go read the infernal heart and her description of Pinhead and come back to me), but it’s safe to say she absolutely kills as Pinhead in this movie. The de facto leader of the Cenobites doesn’t have to be a slasher villain, they just have to be a nearly unstoppable, yet fair, force of the abnormal. That’s what you get with the cenobites in this movie. They’re not here on Earth to kill everyone, there’s no sister they have to murder, or camp counselors telling them they have to stab in the neck with an arrow.
Cenobites are unbiased arbiters and they are there to provide maximum pleasure, through the most “pleasurable” act imaginable, horrible pain. Luckily for us, not only are the Cenobites absolutely terrifying, they look and sound fantastic. For people who are worried about CGI or other faces, these are mostly practical effects. The costumes are real, they are people in costume.
Our new Cenobites also add a new layer of fear with names like The Masque, The Gasp, and The Asphyx. However, the real star of the movie is Pinhead. Jamie Clayton embodies the character with a reserved glee at the administration of immense amounts of punishment. People’s bodies are vivisected, hooks cling to flesh and painful tools are stuck in bodies, it’s a bloodbath. She revels in it all. If we didn’t see her again in the role, it would be a shame.
The other performances and lows of hellraiser
The humans of hellraiser are equally important to the overall formula. Fortunately, they have a charismatic and vulnerable performance of Odessa A’zion as Riley, a tortured recovering drug addict who finds herself caught up in the Lament setup and her powers. Joining her are Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynnand Aiofe HindsThe “villain” of the film is Goran Visnjicis Voight. However, here is where hellraiser lose some steam. Like I said before Cenobites are supposed to be scary, they’re supposed to be brutal, but they’re not the real villains of hellraiser. Visnjic’s performance as Voight works in the movie, he’s almost sympathetic because of what the Cenobites did to him, but his motivations are almost nil. Why does he want the Lament setup in the first place? Why does he need to get it back again?
His character reminds me a lot of Dr. Channard from Hell: Hellraiser II, but the cenobite obsession and need for validation isn’t there with Voight. These questions all arise when looking hellraiser, and it kind of takes away from the movie that the villain isn’t really there for much of it. His motives behind all of this are unclear at best. Maybe it’s just an excuse to have a vehicle for more cenobite scenes. The movie’s ending sets up a sequel, but it also doesn’t really make sense why it ends the way it does for his character.
The film’s “twist” is also incredibly predictable and not exactly consistent when it happens. It seems pointless and doesn’t really have any emotional weight. However, the way the movie ends and some of the characters meet their end is satisfying and appropriate.
hellraiser Rip, rip and entertain
All of these concerns are secondary, however. hellraiser finally gives us a great movie in the franchise. After years of being crippled one way or another, with live-action movies made in two weeks to retain licenses, sequels that took away cenobite motivations, and others that required far bigger budgets important for telling a story correctly, hellraiser from Hulu brings everything back to basics. You get an instant classic performance from Jamie Clayton as Pinhead, a sympathetic lead with Odessa A’zion, and plenty of gore, blood, flesh, and kills.
Throughout the film, he takes twists and turns, walks through dark hallways, and shows us a side of pain and sadism that the general public doesn’t see. What made the original so special is part of this movie. The most refreshing part of hellraiser is that it takes a lot of lessons from the first hellraiser movie, but don’t try to copy it.
hellraiser drives the series forward and paints a bloody, dark, and exciting future. Watch it on Hulu at October 7.
For more on the horror side, be sure to check out Fright-A-Thon’s full index to 61 Days of Halloween content.