VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.

After the missteps of Hellraiser Revelations, Judgement looks to right the ship. What’s the verdict?

By Josiah Pitchforth.

Undoubtedly, there’s a lot to unpack with this movie and franchise, in equal proportion to just how you feel about the horror genre in general and, more specifically, the often-marred Hellraiser franchise. The talk was strong surrounding this one: 2015’s ‘Revelations’ left so many fans gob smacked by the sheer scope of its miscalculations that the big curiosity now was to see just how they were going to attempt to recover this franchise from the proverbial flames.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
Things weren’t great for Hellraiser.

Hellraiser:  Judgement (2018).

The story is a rehashed serial killer plot that is so obtuse and unrealistic in its execution that you have to just kind of sit back and let it unfold like a bad car accident.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
Goofus and Gallant.

It centers around two cops, brothers, detectives, working the same case… yup, you guessed it, one’s a clean cut boy wonder, the other is a hard drinking grizzled vet with an apparent case of PTSD. They’re hot on the trail of the Preceptorwhich is really just the poor man’s John Doe from the movie ‘Se7en’. Instead of the seven deadly sins, it’s like the ten commandments or some shit… really…

Anyway, they are joined by a hot young female detective whose a take-no-nonsense kind of gal. It really doesn’t matter.  The problem is that none of this matters really.

And the ‘twist’ at the end is so asinine I won’t even go into it here- not out of respect for spoilers but I just really don’t want to waste much time thinking about it.

What the Hellraiser?!

Judgement is not a hard reboot, and it’s not a soft reboot either.  It’s, well, it’s Hellraiser and if you’re familiar at all with the past nine installments, particularly later efforts, you would know about the only thing any of them ever have in common is a sometimes all-too-brief cameo from everybody’s favorite leather daddy Pinhead. I guess, if I had to pin this one down, yes, pun intended, I would have to have to call this a tonal reboot.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
Obligatory Pinhead.

Visions of Hellraiser.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
Hell is apparently tans and beiges.

The shift in tone becomes almost immediately apparent within the very first moments of the film. Long gone are the cool, blue, pristine, moonlight shadows against glistening black leather; enter now the dingy tinge of yellow stained sepia tone under what I have dubbed the independent gloss -it’s a tired look in my humble opinion: you shoot under exposed and then boost the gain in postIt makes everything soft andsort of/kind of film-like I guess… anyways, enough about video gimmicks.

The tone isn’t just in the look. The tone in this new-fangled HR universe, where everything has become amped up to 11 (despite obvious budget constraints.), is layered so let us peel away at it like skin and flesh and all those goopy gory things.

Everything is a little less operatic and a little more rock and roll, which, if we’re being honest, we’ve seen this shift coming for a while now. Even the inclusion of Beethoven’s Fur Elise seems a trivial ornament to be hung on a more Nine Inch Nails inspired soundtrack.

Re-Tooled.

However, what I think viewers will notice first and foremost, , is the level of degradation involved in this new hell-full realm. Stuff that was maybe a bit more glossed over or romanticized in the earlier and more mainstream installments get a kind of artful exploitation that fetishizes mechanics and processes;  however the whole remains painfully dull and superficial on additional levels.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
Welcome to Hell’s bureaucracy.

Changes Just to be Different?

So, the lament configuration (a staple of the franchise) is now, more or less, obsolete.  Pinhead and his new cast of characters, that more closely resemble some darkly sardonic depiction of DMV employees, seek out the sinners, they are no longer called to them.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
Yup. That’s a literal description of the process.

So, a sinner will get an invitationOnce there, he is strapped into a wheelchair, his veins are tapped and used as ink in a magic typewriter into which he dictates his confessions to the “Auditor” (played by director Gary Tunnicliff).  Once written the confessions are literally fed to the “Assesor” (a charming cameo by director John Gulager of Project Greenlight: Season 3 and ‘Feast’ fame). The ‘Assesor” then vomits what he has eaten down a funnel where it gets blasted on the tits of some half naked demon girls in the basement…

Are you following all of this?

I swear, I’m not making any of this up!

What is interesting and kind of new is the presence of angels in this Hellraiser universe. I mean, if there’s a hell, there must be a heaven right?

Unfortunately, the heaven and its guardians are just as cynical and unlikeable as nearly every other character in this story- so, while consistent, ultimately unsatisfying.

Casting Agents from Hell.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
I need to talk to my hellish agent.

Pinhead figures more prominently in this Hellraiser outing than most of the previous ones.  Director Gary Tunicliff seems to want to make the franchise deal more heavily with Pinhead (this time played decently by newcomer Paul T. Taylor instead of mainstay Doug Bradley).   The problem is not the performance by Taylor, it is that putting the focus on Pinhead robs the film of the Hellraiser mystique:  more is less in horror, and over-using your iconic villain dilutes him, shows the holes in your make-up budget, and demotes him from a Lovecraftian entity who is always at the periphery but rarely glimpsed.

What some might consider to be mildly interesting here is a cameo by Heather Langenkamp, of Nightmare on Elm Street fame. She had appeared in one other entry of the Hellraiser franchise before and returns again, not to reprise any kind of role but to play ‘Landlady’. I don’t know, if you blink, you’ll miss her. Seems like a waste of talent.

The rest of the cast is solid, but they are in such uninspired roles that they’re hardly remarkable.

The (Hellraiser) Judgement.

VOD Review: Hellraiser Judgement.
Not quite as bitter a pill to swallow as Revelations…but still not a return to form.

On the whole, I don’t hate this Hellraiser.  I’d give it about a 7 out of 10, if I had to peg a number on it.  Why? Well, in short, because they are trying. They ARE trying. It was something new in a day and age when new is usually frowned upon,so, I do want to encourage the franchise to continue to grow. When viewed next to ‘Revelations’ it is a considerable rebound, although I’m not entirely sure about their jump shot.  The director has said he’d be open to continuing on, and the film definitely ends on an open note after a (mostly asinine) twist in the final act.  It’s hard to lobby for an 11th outing for the franchise, but fans may be heartened to know that at least Judgement is better than the last few outings.

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