Halloween is just around the corner, meaning abandoned warehouses will be stocked with cheaply made costumes, candy will be filling the aisles of your local CVS and movie studios will go searching for the dead horror franchise they can resurrect for a quick buck. “Hellraiser” is a new Hulu-exclusive release that seeks to breathe new life into a franchise that began in 1987 and is now 11 entries deep. Despite the franchise’s long history, the latest installment of “Hellraiser” is plain boring, failing to add anything new.
The movie opens up at a luxurious but generic party in a mansion in the Berkshires hosted by a man named Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic). In attendance is a sex worker named Joey (Kit Clarke) who finds a mysterious puzzle box in the basement. Voight catches him in the act of inspecting the puzzle and forces Joey to solve it, after which a knife comes out of the box and stabs him in the hand. The chaos is compounded by the opening of a portal, from which chains fly out and rip Joey apart. The rest of the film takes place six years after this event when Riley (Odessa A’zion), a recovering drug addict, is convinced by her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) to break into an abandoned warehouse where they find this puzzle box and slowly learn its sinister, supernatural functions.
The opening scene of the movie hints at an interesting narrative, and while the acting is over the top, a melodramatic tone could work in a film like this. But instead it makes the same mistake as many horror movies today: It takes itself seriously. The movie spends nearly an hour purely on exposition, with no action and no good dialogue to keep the viewer’s attention. Once the action does kick in, it’s boring, predictable and frustratingly not scary.
“Hellraiser” is a movie in which the main antagonist is a supernatural, satanic being with pins coming out of her head, and the filmmakers missed the opportunity to do anything interesting with that premise. The same goes for every other supernatural element of the film. The movie could be frightening, through-provoking and entertaining if it ventured outside of modern day horror movie convention.
Instead, the film finds itself preoccupied with trying to flesh out interpersonal relationships between characters that are one-dimensional. The entire personality of Riley, the main character, is centered around her identity as a recovering addict. But this characterization fails to play into her arc in the film or the narrative as a whole, making the choice for her character feel pointless. It feels like the writers decided to make her an addict just because it would add a gritty edge to the film. Every other character is even less defined. Figures such as the boyfriend, the brother and the brother’s boyfriend are one-dimensional, reduced to caricatures of their role.
The film is shot well with character designs and setpieces that would flourish if bolstered by a compelling narrative. Unfortunately, “Hellraiser” just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. After 11 preceding films in the franchise, the latest installment feels like it lacks a reason to exist, bringing nothing new. As it stands, the film feels like a generic template for a horror movie with a few minor tweaks made to give the illusion of uniqueness. The quality of recent horror movies has been a flip of a coin: It seems that any new release could be either groundbreaking or bland — and the only way to find out is to sit back and watch. Sometimes you’ll be blown away with films like “Barbarian,” but you have just as much of a chance of being utterly disappointed by “Hellraiser.”
Finn Kirkpatrick is an arts & culture editor. He is a junior from Los Angeles, California studying Comparative Literature who likes to review movies and other things of that sort.