I want to start out by saying Spoilers are going to be dropped throughout. I feel like it would be a disservice to the movie to talk about it without them.
There’s quite a bit of difference between this and the first Hellraiser aside from the obvious stuff that was known even before the movie’s release. The initial response to the recasting of the iconic character of Pinhead was divisive among fans. After the last two movies, that left me wanting something, I was interested in seeing what would be brought by the new people behind the movie.
Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski wrote a screenplay that feels like it belongs with anything that Clive Barker would write. There’s the right amount of sex and gore to fit right in. The screenplay was based on a story by David S. Goyer along with Collins and Piotrowski. Goyer’s influence on the story probably reeled in the story from going to far into the more extreme direction. I didn’t realize until recently that I had seen David Bruckner’s work. Bruckner’s work that I had seen had the right mixture of sex and gore.
The story follows Riley, a recovering addict, who lives with her brother Matt, his boyfriend Colin, and their roommate Nora. After an argument between the siblings, Riley and her boyfriend, Trevor, go to an abandoned warehouse that Trevor had delivered to before so that they can steal what was left there. They eventually get into a safe that was in the shipping container and what was in it was an old wooden box that had a puzzle box. Riley takes the box and goes home. Matt and Riley have an argument when Riley gets home which causes Matt to throw Riley out. Riley relapses and solves with the puzzle box. Matt feels guilty and finds Riley half passed out on playground equipment and immediately tries to revive his sister. Matt gets taken by the Cenobites shortly after. Riley takes Trevor to find out about the warehouse after Matt’s disappearance. Riley learns about the businessman Roland Voight from his former lawyer. As more people get taken by the Cenobites and the puzzle box changes shapes Riley is taunted by the lead Cenobite known only as The Priest. We eventually learn that Roland was still alive, and Trevor was working for him. Roland was unhappy with his initial gift and wanted it taken back. This is what caused Trevor to choose Riley. The movie ends with Roland getting a different gift, the gift of power, and Riley choosing the gift of lamentation and the Cenobites leave her be so that she and Colin can leave the mansion. Roland is turned into a Cenobite right before the credits roll.
Odessa A’zion is amazing as Riley. I just wanted her to stay safe which caused the revelation about Trevor to work as well as it did on me. She was a flawed character that meant well even when she fucked up. Adam Faison is also great as Colin. I felt so bad for him as he was thrown headfirst into stuff that he had no clue about. Jamie Clayton was fantastic as The Priest. Her version of the character is much more devious than any other version. That’s all while being detached from the proceedings as well. Honestly all of the different Cenobites were amazing. I also really want to say that I wasn’t fully expecting Goran Višnjić to be such a spectacular antagonist. I think it’s from my time watching him on ER that made me think that.
The practical effects are amazing in Hellraiser. The way the Cenobites look offer a much different look than previously done. It sets them apart in a much-needed way. The VFX are mostly outstanding. The only part that I had issue was when Roland was being made into a Cenobite but that mostly comes from the all-white background being so bright compared to everything else. The sound design made everything so much more than it would have otherwise. The design of the box is amazing and whether it was practical, CG, or a mixture it looked amazing. The music from Ben Lovett is amazing. It doesn’t feel as religious as the music by Christopher Young from the original movies, but this movie doesn’t have that kind of feel.
Hellraiser is the best entry in the series in years, and I would gladly watch more from this creative team. I know that some people won’t be a fan of it for any number of reasons. I do want everyone to see it and have their own opinion. I do wish that it had more gore. The gore does feel a little tame compared to other entries in the series. I also wish that it had gotten a theatrical release on top of being released on Hulu. I give Hellraiser 9 puzzle boxes out of 10.