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My least favorite of the first five Hellraisers, but it still has a story to tell that adds a minor little something to the fran
on August 6, 2015
Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil), this fifth installment to the Hellraiser franchise continues to follow the pleasant trend of presenting a new infernal chapter in yet a different style from its predecessors; never does a sequel feel like a rehashed facsimile. Hellraiser was a dark chamber thriller fueled by lustful desire, Hellbound more of a curious exploration of Barker’s Hell-ish Labyrinth and his Cenobites, Hell on Earth was a troped-up action/horror movie chronicling Pinhead’s own escape from Hell, Bloodline an anthology story illustrating the creation and lineage of the Puzzle Box, and now we find a crime thriller neatly packaged in the dark trappings of the Puzzle Box. There may be an admittedly significant drop in quality in the third and fourth films from the original two, and yet another such drop for this fifth and direct-to-video installment, but it remains comforting that we never seem to find the same story recycled and retold with different victims.
Our latest story revolves around Detective Thorne (Craig Sheffer; Nightbreed), who is perhaps the least likable protagonist of the series so far as a drug-using adulterer who neglects his family and frames his partner. Thorne discovers the Puzzle Box and some macabre clues at a murder scene where the victim was apparently torn apart in his luxurious home, decorated and candlelit for an occult ritual. Thorne solves the Puzzle Box and encounters some Cenobites, but is neither shredded and taken to Hell nor forced to bargain for his soul. Instead he wakes up (as if from a dream) and is occasionally haunted by Cenobites. Well this is a strange and welcome change…
The franchise continues to expand the Hellraiser mythology, although with less impact here than before. Whereas parts 1-4 revolve around the Box or Pinhead (Doug Bradley), this chapter is illustrative of what experiences befall those damned souls who open the Box. As a result, we see much less of Pinhead and focus more on our curious and potentially damned soul. Thorne’s journey begins as a rational investigation, shifts to something supernatural, and ultimately steers us into what feels like a surreal dreamscape of his life.
This film opens with the scoring, lighting, style and plot of a Skinemax softcore porn. It didn’t quite grasp the noir-ish detective film tone for which I think it was reaching and I was almost embarrassed to be watching it. Thankfully, it shifted more to the point (and story) about halfway through and the sleazy feeling washed away. A major fault of Hell on Earth and Bloodline was the nuisance of over-exposition. I didn’t find that to be a problem here. Although some strange things certainly happen that make me question the quality of the writing and direction at times…to that end, I’ll just say three words: “Ninja Cowboy Cenobites.” Clearly, this concept has no place in any Hellraiser movie ever. LOL.
These ninja cowboys are among some new Cenobites. The gore (while toned down here in part 5) is well done, the effects satisfactory, and the Cenobite make-up is cool. One Cenobite resembles the head and arms of Chatterbox (without legs or even the rest of its torso), menacingly hand-walking around like a Silent Hill monster. There is a pair of twin female faceless BDSM Cenobites with long tongues involved in a macabrely sexualized scene with hands rubbing “under” Thorne’s skin. And, of course, there’s Pinhead.
We are re-introduced to The Engineer. In Hellraiser, The Engineer was the dweller of the halls of the Labyrinth who is never given a name in the film. Back then it was a monstrous aberration of uncertain purpose. Having heard nothing of this character in parts 2-4, we now find The Engineer wandering Los Angeles, assuming the role of a murderous pimp. How this character fits into the story is revealed in due time, along with how Thorne truly fits beyond the capacity of solving his case.
Parts 1-3 of this franchise should be watched in order. After seeing them, there seems to be no consequence to seeing part 5 before part 4 outside of the fact that Bloodline is much better. This film is nothing special, nor is it even a “good” Hellraiser story. But I take it for what it is and appreciate of it what I can. I didn’t regret watching it, and this is the first in the franchise that I don’t really recommend seeing.