Hellraiser (2022) is a reboot of the titular franchise that succeeds thematically and visually while simultaneously failing to live up to its greater potential.
This is Director David Bruckner’s reimagining of the saga of the same name created originally by Clive Barker. The first story began in 1986 with the release of Barker’s novella, The Hellbound Heart. In 1987, the novella was adapted into the original film written and directed by Clive Barker. The original Hellraiser was the brutal, uncompromising project that launched this horror franchise into the stratosphere.
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The first film altered some of the details of The Hellbound Heart, such as Pinhead’s perceived gender, Kirsty Cotton’s heritage, etc., but all in all, it was a relatively faithful adaptation. The 2022 reimagining has been promoted as a new adaptation of The Hellbound Heart, as opposed to a sequel or reboot to the 10-film franchise launched by the 1987 film. Shortly into my watch of the new Hellraiser, it quickly became obvious that this new chapter in hell is a new original story inspired by the films, and the novella to a lesser extent.
THIS HELLRAISER IS UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE IN THE FRANCHISE
This iteration is far removed from the storylines of any Hellraiser story to come before it. One can only assume that Hulu’s deceitful promotion of the film as a new adaptation of The Hellbound Heart was a plot orchestrated in order to bring in fans of Clive Barker’s original Pinhead story. In fact, one of the only ways that Hellraiser (2022) strongly mirrors The Hellbound Heart is in the characterization and appearance of Pinhead.
Pinhead is the franchise’s iconic killer, though they are not the only monster to antagonize and torture the main characters. Doug Bradley portrayed Hellraiser/Elliot Bradley in the first eight films. Jamie Clayton plays Pinhead in the new film, and her character is feminine, with a voice that resonates with haunting beauty, just as Pinhead appears in The Hellbound Heart. Though may not win horror movie of the year, or even best Hellraiser movie, it stands out largely because of Jamie Clayton’s surreal and moving performance as Pinhead, the Hell-Priest.
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Pinhead has the best-written lines in the script, the most captivating costume design, and the most intriguing characterization. She is a blood-soaked mystery who steals the show every time she is on screen. She is featured heavily throughout, but I would argue that Hellraiser (2022) would have been stronger had it given viewers even more of Jamie Clayton’s masterful performance.
Elliot Spencer, Kirsty Cotton, and Harry D’Amour are three characters from the Hellraiser mythos who have become the Hell-Priest, and each version has been uniquely captivating and ghoulish. I’m proud to say that Jamie Clayton’s version of the character more than earns her spot alongside these icons through Hellraiser (2022).
Long live Pinhead.
HELLRAISER (2022): PINHEAD IS THE TRUE STAR OF THE SHOW
The musical composition by Ben Lovett was another highlight of this Hulu original nightmare. Inspired by the intense, over-the-top stylings of the original movies of the late 80s, the sound design is unmistakably powerful in this chapter. It complements the campy, throwback visuals which call back to the gruesome look of Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Though the Cotton family is nowhere to be found and the story is brand-new, the creative team behind this reboot captured the nostalgic feelings of longtime fans of Hellraiser. Bruckner stylishly updates 1980s hack & slash madness with modern SFX, creating a nightmare that feels modern and classic simultaneously.
Storywise, this is a tale of addiction, less focused on the sadomasochistic concepts of the earliest Hellraiser mythos. Odessa A’zion plays Riley, the main character, and she does an admirable job. Her arc is rife with suffering, betrayal, and all of the heartbreak that comes with playing the final girl. I doubt that longtime fans will see Riley as equal to Kirsty Cotton (and the comparison is inevitable), but her journey is tragic and compelling in its own right.
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Drew Starkey plays Trevor, Riley’s sleazy boyfriend who pulls her out of sobriety and into the realm of hell itself. Trevor is instrumental in bringing the Cenobite’s puzzle box (the iconic Hellraiser MacGuffin that summons Pinhead and her legion) into play, but revealing how or why that happens is not the goal of this review. Starkey has twisted chemistry with his costars that fits nicely in the grimdark Hellraiser world.
HELLRAISER: PREPARE YOURSELF FOR BLOOD-SOAKED INSANITY
Adam Faison plays Colin, and Brandon Flynns plays Matt, Colin’s partner and Riley’s older brother. By the time the credits rolled, Colin and Matt became my two favorite human supporting characters, for entirely different, spoiler-filled reasons. I promised Disney I wouldn’t spill the beans, so allow me to cryptically quote Pinhead instead of offering a clear explanation.
“There is no retreat once a threshold has been crossed, all you can do is search for greater thresholds.”
Goran Visnjic plays a mysterious character named Voight, who has a dark, sickening history with Hell & the Cenobium. As I stated before, the exploration of addiction is the name of the game. When it comes to yearning for more, always remember that “A gift cannot be ungiven, only exchanges can be made”.
Hellraiser (2022) telegraphs some of the twists and major deaths, and that’s not the only part of the script in need of tightening. The movie’s opening sequence feels out of place, and it gives away more than it probably should. Some of the supporting cast is underwritten and forgettable, a classic trope of the genre yes, but a problematic and dissatisfying element nonetheless. Sometimes logic takes a backseat, and while that can be forgivable in sci-fi to a certain extent, the suspension of disbelief is stretched quite tightly in this reboot.
We are officially in the spookiest season of the year, and Hellraiser is a great way to open the first week of October ’22. This is a good jumping-on point for potential new fans, and it is an exciting chapter that will generally satisfy seasoned Hellraiser veterans. The story beats are not all executed perfectly, but the bones of this reboot are still strong.
Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Child’s Play have all been rebooted for newer generations with a big-budget, high-profile release. While Hellraiser was previously continued with comic books, novels, and direct-to-home-video films, the franchise has stayed out of the pop culture spotlight lately. With Hellraiser (2022), that all changes. Pinhead is finally back in action, and hopefully this time she’s here to stay.
Hellraiser (2022) will be released exclusively on Hulu on October 7, 2022.
Are you excited about the reboot? What are your thoughts on the new Pinhead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media. If you like what you read, follow us for more content like this, we’re always watching.
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