DISCLAIMER: There are zero spoilers in this review of Hulu’s Hellraiser.
Most movie fans will roll their eyes whenever the words “remake” or “reboot” enter the cinematic conversation. Understandably, they have their reservations. Seldom does the modern iteration live up to its predecessor. Enter this year’s Hellraiser. It’s the 11th film in a franchise spanning 35 years, dating back to the original 1987 flick.
Here’s a synopsis per Hulu Press:
“A reinvention of Clive Barker’s 1987 horror classic from director David Bruckner in which a young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.”
Hellraiser stars Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Aoife Hinds and Goran Visnjic. David Bruckner is at the helm with a script from David S. Goyer, Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski.
“Reinvention” sounds less scary than “remake” and “reboot,” but Hellraiser raises the stakes on all things terrifying. The film relies more on body horror and gore than jumpscares, although you can expect a few. In addition, the deaths are utterly brutal and creative. It’s gory, uncomfortable and downright macabre.
Performance-wise, the whole cast brings their A-game. However, A’zion, Clayton, Faison and Visnjic are the standouts. If Odessa A’zion isn’t a name you already know, you’ll certainly know it after you watch Hellraiser. A’zion brings depth and pathos to Riley, showing us a complex and flawed protagonist who struggles with addiction and quickly learns the consequences of toying with the puzzle box. She’s a brightly burning star, and you cannot look away. A’zion is an onscreen force.
Clayton is the perfect Pinhead. She carries herself like royalty, with a regal, stoic and imposing presence. Clayton commands every scene. She’s cunning and cold. Being spooked by the Cenobites is a guarantee, but Clayton’s menacing, penetrating gaze will keep you up at night.
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The Cenobites themselves are the stuff of nightmares. The intricate costumes, makeup and prosthetics are a sight to behold, adopting an air of realism while immersing you in the narrative. Eli Born’s fluid, seamless camerawork, alongside hauntingly sadistic visuals, serves the story well.
The pacing is slightly disjointed as the film finds its footing at the start. However, it’s go-time when the back half kicks into high gear. I love that Hellraiser doesn’t sacrifice character development. It takes its time, allowing us to get to know these characters over a short period. It would’ve been easy to bypass character work for a bunch of gory deaths and shocking imagery because it looks “cool,” but this movie cares about its characters. Hellraiser doesn’t think of them as dispensable like some horror flicks.
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Regarding themes, you can expect Hellraiser to delve into how actions have consequences (in line with Riley’s recovery and her curiosity about the puzzle box). “Be careful what you wish for” and taking accountability for your actions are prevalent themes the movie deftly explores.
Hellraiser is an enthralling, captivating reset for the franchise. It unflinchingly presents a dark tale of regret, putting its stars through the horror-laden wringer. If you love body horror, unique kills and frightening demons from another dimension, this film has your name all over it. Brace yourself for an unsettling, tense thrill ride.
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Hellraiser streams on Hulu on Friday, October 7, 2022.
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