Hellraiser: The Rate-ening

So in the previous two posts, I discussed the Hellraiser franchise, eight movies that came out between 1987 and 2005.  How do they rate as movies, and more particularly, as Hellraiser movies?

As movies, they are generally okay.  At their best, these films are creative and original, but they are hardly masterpieces.  Even at their worst, however, they are passably entertaining.  So none are excellent, but none are atrocious.  If you like lots of blood and gore, these movies should do the trick.  So how do I personally rank them?

  1. Hellraiser – As might be expected, the original would be the best.  Although a bit dated in both fashions and special effects, at least this movie offered something different.  The Cenobites are something new to look at; eventually, they would become little more than generic movie monsters.
  2. Hellbound:  Hellraiser II – This works well as a followup to the first movie, though there are some inconsistencies (such as a house that’s destroyed at the end of the first movie and intact in this one).  With many of the same characters returning, this film is not just a rehash, but a nice continuation.
  3. Hellraiser:  Bloodline – The fourth movie provides a history that answers some of the “why” questions that have developed over the first three movies.  Perhaps most significantly, it provides an origin of the Lament Configuration.  The three stories that comprise this movie, however, are just so-so.
  4. Hellraiser: Hellseeker – The sixth movie brings back Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), the closest the series has to a heroine.  Admittedly, she doesn’t do that much, but it’s nice to see her character again.
  5. Hellraiser:  Hell on Earth – The principal virtue in this third movie is the little look into the backstory of Pinhead, who spends much of the movie split in two:  the evil half wants to take over the world, the good half wants to reunite and restore order.  There isn’t actually much difference between “evil” Pinhead and “united” Pinhead, as can be seen in later movies.  This movie also seems to establish that Pinhead can create new Cenobites.
  6. Hellraiser:  Deader – If the movies above have slightly (or more) good than bad, this movie is the balanced one, with at least the Romanian settings providing a nice change-of-pace look.  The mopey main character, however, is a bit of a drag.
  7. Hellraiser: Inferno – It’s kind of a toss-up between these last two rated movies.  This movie – fifth in the series – suffers from having no likable main characters (a cop partner is the only one who comes close, but he is in a supporting role).  It comes off like an elaborate and bloody Twilight Zone episode, one of those ones where a bad guy leads a bad life and suffers a bad fate.
  8. Hellraiser:  Hellworld – This movie is bad enough that it almost goes into so-bad-it’s-good territory.  Poorly written with gaping plot holes and bad direction and acting to boot, this film comes off less as a Hellraiser movie and more as a knockoff of Scream or Saw.
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Raising Hell times 8, part II

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.