There’s no such thing as easing the viewer into the film in the new movie Hellraiser (2022). The revival of the Hellraiser thriller series, which first started coming out in the ’80s, taps into the darkest side of humanity.
It opens with a young man wrapped in chains as a supernatural power offers him up to the great Leviathan after he cuts himself with a mysterious puzzle box booby-trapped with a blade attached.
Released on Oct. 7 on Hulu, Hellraiser is the 11th installment of the Hellraiser franchise and was adapted from the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker.
The first Hellraiser film was a huge success in the ’80s, yet this reboot is no different than a standardized franchise horror movie. A predictable horror screenplay—where the protagonist runs into a mystery, tackles the creepy creatures, and ,voilà, the mystery is solved—can no longer ratchet up suspense for its audience.
But by stimulating either pleasure or fear in watching carnal tortures—with a few novel reinventions of masochistic elements—Hellraiser continues to challenge the threshold of horror that fans can endure.
The 2022 film centers around a puzzle box that summons the Cenobites—creatures from another dimension who take pleasure in inflicting pain on people who solve the puzzle. Whoever holds the ultimate configuration will defeat the Cenobites and force the creatures to actualize their deepest desire.
This reboot invents a new story within the Hellraiser universe. The story follows Riley (Odessa A’zion), a young woman struggling with drug addiction, who comes into the possession of a mysterious puzzle box without realizing the supernatural power it can have. In order to save her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), she is coerced to solve the puzzle and confront the Cenobites.
Whenever the Cenobites are summoned, it’s easy to anticipate their next action of inflicting pain and expect possible close-up shots of human suffering. With a few refreshing plot twists, this reboot is close to feeding the sensational appetite of the Hellraiser fans, but its tropes are played out.
As a classic horror movie series, Hellraiser is rated R for a reason. There’s a substantial degree of sadistic visual experience in the film. The movie’s penultimate visual shocker happens when one character ends up chained upside down, and their brain is penetrated with the needle from Pinhead (Jamie Clayton).
The shots switch between images of dreadful facial expressions of pain and the bloody carnal structure of the brain. The disturbing images can trigger feelings of fear or shock while elevating the visual aesthetics of the horror movie.
This reboot is the first Hellraiser film to feature a female Pinhead, and it offers a fresh and striking portrayal that stands up against Barker’s original iconic Pinhead. The creepiness of her merciless tortures to human bodies contrasts with her feminine and luring voice. The differences reveal an extraordinarily sadistic and smart version of Pinhead.
With the interference of a new character, Roland Voight (Goran Višnjić), the final battle between Riley and the Cenobites becomes more tense. The ending, which leaves an uncertainty of Roland’s future, is one of the few highlights of the reboot that may evoke further curiosity about future stories focusing on the Cenobites.