The question you have to ask when making a reboot is how much of the earlier incarnations of the story you’re setting out to tell anew do you include in your new “origin story?”
In “Hellraiser,” the eighth film spun out of the horrific works of Clive Barker, they decided “None at all.” Two credited screenwriters and director David Bruckner (“The Night House”) just throw a new victim into Pinhead’s sights, give us a new spacesuit/swimsuit-edition Pinhead (Jamie Clayton) and leave out explanations of this ancient and murderous puzzle.
Was the word “cenobites” ever used? Not that I caught it. I’ve seen several of the earlier “Hellraisers,” but it’s been a minute as this franchise drifted off the big screen and into direct-to-video and streaming, where this new one resides (Welcome to Hell, Hulu!). I kept wondering why self-absorbed junky Riley (Odessa A’Zion, not bad) wasn’t more than shocked at all the supernatural mayhem erupting around her when she and her latest squeeze (Drew Starkey) burgle a warehouse and all they find is this baroque Rubik’s Cube looking thing.
You’d think the underneath that unruly Janet Joplin mop-top, our heroine who gets lots of other people killed in excruciating ways might have “questions.”
Oh. Right. “Junkie.”
The basics of the franchise remain the same. You get the ever-shape-shifting oblong, hexagonal or whatnot metallic puzzle, it stabs you in your hand and you’re doomed. Pinhead or her minions come to you in a dark and gloomy corridor and tell the stabbed, “If not you, bring us another.”
Riley gets her hands on a book, but its explanations are not cut and dried, not enough to help her, her lover, her brother (Brandon Flynn), her brother’s lover (Adam Faison) escape their doom.
The ones with answers might be the evil owner of the box (Goran Visnjic), or at least his amoral lawyer (Hiam Abbass). But cracking into Voight’s metal latticework-caged mansion only brings bloody consequences to Riley and anybody unlucky enough to try and help her.
“Your suffering has barely begun!”
These pictures have always been about the pitiless, unemotional murdering machine with pins in its face, their sinister tone and the increasingly gruesome means of death — skin flayed, hooks and knives and pins and the like. Bruckner delivers in that regard.
But at this point, the only real novelty is making Pinhead a (voice-altered) female and limiting the credit passed on to Barker. There’s not enough that’s new to merit raising this corner of hell all over again.
Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
Cast: Odessa A’Zion, Jamie Clayton, Brandon Flynn, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Hiam Abbass and Goran Visnjic.
Credits: Directed by David Bruckner, scripted by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, based on the novel by Clive Barker. A 20th Century release on Hulu.
Running time: 2:01