Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on Fire!
I’m always a little leery of remakes. Oh, sure, there are some really good ones, but you probably already know the obvious examples that I would cite here. It always feels like there are too many remakes, though, as if studios are much more comfortable going with a story they already know (or a property they already know) rather than doing something really new. So it is that we come to the 2022 Hellraiser, which is honestly less of a remake and more of a completely new story with the same name attached to it. I think the idea here might be to take a step away from the original series, since the original Hellraiser franchise went hard off the rails in the third movie.
It's honestly hard to say if this is the start of a new franchise or the continuation of the old one. We have a new Pinhead, though, so it does feel like a fresh start and a reimagining. The concept of the Lament Configuration and the presence of the Cenobites (all but two of which are completely new) is really the only carryover from the original film, though, so this probably should be considered a new adaptation completely separate from the originals.
Regardless, we’re going to start by introducing the basics of the film. At a party, a sex worker named Joey (Kit Clarke) is invited to a back room by Serena Menaker (Hiam Abbass), the lawyer for the extremely wealthy and decadent Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic). Here we are going to be introduced to the puzzle box, Joey is going to come to a sticky end, and Roland, we see, is going to beg a boon of the creatures that come from inside the box, the Cenobites.
Fast forward six years and we are introduced to Riley McKendry (Odessa A’zion), a recovering junkie living with her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), Matt’s boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison), and their friend Nora (Aoife Hinds). Against Matt’s best judgment, Riley is seeing Trevor (Drew Starkey), who she met at a 12-step meeting. Trevor isn’t completely legitimate—he knows of an abandoned storage warehouse that still has some items in it. Naturally, what they find is the puzzle box.
Eventually, Riley gets to playing with it, and she starts to discover that the box changes shape and configuration. This causes Matt to go missing (much like Joey at the start of the film), and people continue to disappear as the box continues to alter its configuration. Through all of this, Riley has visions of the Cenobites, the horribly mutilated creatures that are summoned by the configurations of the puzzle box. Of this, the primary one is called the Priest (Jamie Clayton), but is more commonly known as Pinhead due to the rows of nails in her head.
Eventually, we discover that the puzzle box needs to go through a series of configurations, with a sacrifice being made at each step. Eventually, the person holding the box at the end of the changes can be granted something like a wish—power, life, sensations, etc. So, the rest of the movie is us getting there.
There are going to be some people who base their criticism and dislike of this film on the fact that Pinhead is now played by a woman. My objection isn’t that specifically—it’s that Doug Bradley is, in my mind, the only person to play Pinhead. This is like someone else playing Indiana Jones or Freddy Kruger. I get the need for it and Clayton is competent in the role, but there’s going to be a part of my that misses Doug Bradley.
The Cenobite designs are much more brutal in this film. The originals featured some flayed flesh and some open wounds, but these Cenobites are all open wounds and exposed bone and muscle. In addition to Pinhead, there are five others—The Weeper, The Gasp, The Asphyx, The Chatterer, and The Masque; all but Chatterer are completely new. The designs are good, but are also disturbing, as is a lot of what happens in the film.
That said, this is a film that feels less personally involved than the first one in some ways. I’m far less invested in these characters in large part because I don’t like most of them. In the original Hellraiser, the evil character were really evil, and so it was easy to want the best and cheer for the innocents who end up wrapped up in what happens. Here, the innocent are just cannon fodder, there to move the story along. It feels mean in that respect, and while that might be believable that people are torn apart because of being the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn’t sit well with me.
It's also less visually appealing than Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2. There are some truly stark images in those first films—the flayed Julia wearing a white suit, for instance—that nothing in this film comes close to. It feels smaller in that respect, and the evil feels less grandiose and smaller because of it.
Hellraiser is not a bad movie, but it’s also not nearly as good as the first one, even if the practical effects are better in a lot of respects.
Why to watch Hellraiser (2022): It’s plenty gory.
Why not to watch: The characters we’re supposed to like are pretty unlikable.