When describing the Hellraiser movies, there’s enough to say that it’s best to divide into two posts. Since there are eight movies, it makes sense to break at the midpoint, but it is also logical based on the stories themselves.
The first four movies form a loose tetraology that defines the Hellraiser mythology. “Loose” is an important consideration since continuity between movies has rarely been much of a consideration. After these movies, the stories are pretty much standalone tales in the Hellraiser Universe, with Pinhead becoming less of a force of evil and more a force of somewhat sinister justice. These films are stories that use Hellraiser elements but more-0r-less exist outside the Hellraiser saga comprised of the first four movies. As a another reason to logically break after the first four movies, they had been released theatrically; the next four were direct-to-video/DVD.
As for the movies themselves: the fifth movie is Hellraiser: Inferno, the tale of a corrupt cop who retrieves the Lament Configuration from a murder scene. There are indications that a child is being held prisoner by a mysterious figure known as the Engineer. After a binge with some coke and a hooker, the cop opens the box and things get really weird, almost like a David Lynch version of a Hellraiser movie. While many of the films have dream sequences, this one almost goes overboard with them. As seems appropriate, the bad cop pays for his crimes thanks to Pinhead.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker brings back Ashley Laurence, the heroine of the first two movies. As the movie begins, she is traveling with her husband, played by Dean Winters, currently most well-known for his guest appearances on 30 Rock as Dennis Duffy and his Allstate commercials where he’s Mayhem. Any bliss between Kirsty and Trevor ends quickly as their car crashes into a river and Kirsty drowns. Or does she? Clues point to Trevor being not-so-nice a guy and Kirsty’s body never appears. Strange flashbacks point to a less-than-happy marriage, one in which Trevor eventually gives Kirsty a Lament Configuration box. Nothing good can come from that. Pinhead is around, but his appearances are getting more and more limited.
Hellraiser: Deader kind of revisits the concept of the third film, with a reporter getting entangled in a nasty conspiracy. In this case, the reporter Amy Klein is played by Kari Wuhrer, one of those actresses whose name is kind of familiar but I can never quite place. After viewing a video showing a person being killed and brought back to life, Amy is off to Bucharest for a story. She finds a cult known as Deaders, led by one of the descendants of the original Lament Configuration. This fellow plans on using Amy as a pawn to gain access to Hell and control of the Cenobites. Pinhead has other ideas. It should be noted that this is one of the signs of a death knell of a franchise: first, direct-to-video, then filming in former Soviet bloc countries where everything looks European but is super cheap.
The next sign that a franchise is on its last legs is when it goes “meta”, referring to itself. This is what happens in Hellraiser: Hellworld. The premise here is that the Hellraiser story is just a computer game, one which obsesses one player so much that he kills himself. A while later, his friends go to a Hellworld party where strange things are going on, including the appearance of various Cenobites. Here’s where I have to insert a spoiler: it turns out the whole thing is the grand scheme of the dead kid’s father, who’s drugged the friends with hallucinogens, making most of the movie one big dream (and one with plot holes that are too big to be ignored. Of course, as a final twist, it turns out that the Cenobites are real, and they exact justice on the vengeful father. I’d like to point out that one of this movies failings is that the computer game that sparks this whole thing appears to be not very interesting or difficult, making me wonder why college-age kids would be obsessed with it for years.
Next post: rating the movies.