Really, Pinhead? Really? This is how you treat me? We’ve come so far, and I’ve given positive reviews to so many of your movies, and this is how you pay me back? I suppose it’s fitting. After being lea down the tempting and Byzantine labyrinths of the Hellraiser franchise, I finally arrive and the final (for now, anyway) installment, only to discover it is the cinematic equivalent of finally solving the puzzle box only to have hooked chains shoot out and rip me to pieces.
Hellraiser: Hellworld is beyond awful and well into the “absolutely unwatchable” territory. I can’t think of a single redeeming thing to say about this horrible movie, with the possible exception of “Well, at least they finally got around to having Lance Henrikson appear in a Hellraiser film.” But that’s hardly enough for this wretched retread of other, equally as bad horror films. The plot this time around goes “meta” — featuring a group of twenty-somethings who play an online Hellraiser themed video game, only to discover that the game may be more real than they realize!!! Oooo! When the players are invited to a special “Hellworld” rave for the hardest core gamers, they find themselves in the mansion of Lance, who spins them a yarn about the house being built by the same Le Merchant who made the Lament Configuration, even though that guy lived and died in France. As the kids wander from one room to another, they are slowly killed off, one by one, in the usual outlandish fashion…or are they???
One of the things I really liked about most of the Hellraiser films is that they were relatively adult. They starred adults, were written for adults (even though, as is the case with most horror, teens still rallied around them). Hellworld immediately turned me off with its shift to following the trend in horror that declares all stars must be in their early twenties and look like they are between seasons for whatever WB program on which they appear. Their characters are about as bad as you would assume, possibly worse, and it’s excruciating to be in the same movie with them. Even the token elder statesman, Lance Henrikson, barely registers, and I’m not sure he even realizes he was in this movie, so tired and uninterested is his performance.
The plot is a mishmash of ideas from other, higher profile movies like the Saw movies. I won’t be so naïve as to suggest that the concept of “torture porn” that defines these newer movies hasn’t always been present to some degree in the Hellraiser movies, but it’s was always one ingredient among many, and it was usually handled, when it was present, in a fairly unusual fashion. But Hellworld is just a dull rehash of all the other torture-porn horror movies with a dash of whichever Halloween movie it was where Michael Myers battled reality television. And then I guess you’d thrown in a bit of House on Haunted Hill, but with everyone tired and bored instead of gleeful and macabre. The twist at the end, rather than being clever, is one of those, “Are you kidding me?” disappointments that renders everything you’ve just watched not only dull and stupid, but also entirely pointless.
As for Pinhead himself, I’ve supported the previous sequels that featured so little in the way of Cenobite action, feeling that they should be sprinkled throughout the film with reserve, waiting to make their big appearance at the end. This film does the same, except that there’s even less on hand, and when he does appear, Pinhead has no reason at all to be there. And once you have the twist spelled out for you, his appearance makes even less sense. On top of that, when he and his crew finally do appear, it’s for a singularly uninspired, uninteresting, and unimportant conclusion. This is where you’ve ended up, Pinhead? Shouldn’t you be spending your time tempting, I don’t know, heads of state and priests and such, instead of some no-name jerk in cheap motel room? I mean, I know he hasn’t been aiming high, even in the first film, but Pinhead really seems to be slumming this time around.
Director Rick Bota proved that he had the stuff to make a good Hellraiser film with Deader, so I’m laying blame for this chunk of garbage squarely on the shoulders of screenwriters Carl Dupre and Joel Soisson, both of whom have written an impressive number of really boring horror films, including involvement in the one Hellraiser sequel I absolutely hated, Hellseeker. Even though they both have experience, they seem content to merely mimic other horror films, and so turn the Hellraiser franchise into another lame teens-and-torture exercise in tedium. I’m sure when the Saw franchise eventually goes direct-to-video, these guys will be tapped to write screenplays for it that will make even non-fans of the Saw films like me realize how good by comparison the theatrically released films were. Really, as a fellow writer, I don’t like to be harsh to other writers, but these guys? They’re just terrible, albeit terrible and successfully employed. It’s too bad they weren’t kept far away from Hellraiser, because the two times they’ve touched it, they’ve turned the franchise to utter crap.
For starters, any horror movie that includes the line, “This is like a bad horror movie,” should instantly not get made.
I suppose someone out there might be able to mine some sort of entertainment from this dreary mess, even if it’s of the “so bad it’s good” variety, but I’m not this person. If they make another one, here’s hoping they look back on what was done right in movies like Deader, Inferno, and Bloodline (to say nothing of, you know, the original film) and forget that Hellworld ever even existed.