Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hellraiser: Deader

Now this is a sequel! I can hear you saying "But Chris, this is part 7! It can't be good!" well, I'll tell you why, but first, a little history on the series…

The first three films in this series, Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth were creative little masterpieces of varying degrees in my honest opinion. The original was a twisted take on a haunted house movie that featured some great characters. The second took that film one step further by taking us into a minimalist version of hell and shaking everything up from the first film. The third film changed the premise from a slow burn horror film to a fast paced action-style film. It worked and it was fun.
But as far as I'm concerned that's when the series ended. Dimension Films milked it for all they could and continued to pump out film after film, each one moving further and further away from what the original 'trilogy' was. The fourth film, Hellraiser: Bloodline, attempted to tell the audience the history of Lemarchand's Configuration by showing the effect it has had on the lineage of it's creator. It had potential, but the producers thought the film's 2 hour and 20 minute run time was too much for audiences to take, so they cut it down to 80 minutes and in the process took out the story and imagination and left in all the gore. It was a disaster and bombed. It was a hit on video and so Dimension films made the decision to continue the franchise on video only.

Well, the way the franchise has continued is by the producers taking a horror script they've purchased for next to nothing, revamp it to include Hellraiser themes and BAM! Instant flick!

Hellraiser: Inferno wasn't about Cenobites, the box or anything from the series up until this point. It was a cautionary tale about a dishonest cop who was playing both sides of the fence, and in the end Pinhead pops up at random and tells him he's been a naughty boy. Lame.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker tried to fix that by bringing back one of the main characters from the first two films, Kirsty Cotton (the mega cute Ashley Lawrence), but in the end she was only in two minutes of the film. It was about her husband dealing with her death in a car wreck, and he keeps having strange nightmarish visions afterwards. Turns out Kirsty made a deal with Pinhead to take her husband's soul to hell so he'd spare hers for all the trouble she caused him back in the late 80s. It was a sad attempt to make another "real" Hellraiser film. Absolute garbage.

Now comes part 7 in this floundering series, Hellraiser: Deader. Continuing the current tradition of taking a random horror script and doctoring it to fit into the Hellraiser mythos. Strange thing is… this one actually works!

Reporter Amy Klein (the scorchingly hot Kari Wuhrer from Eight Legged Freaks) is assigned to research a Romanian cult known as the Deaders for a story. A "Deader" is someone who commits suicide, then is brought back to life by the cult's mysterious leader, Winter. She gets in deep with the cult and incidentally the puzzle box, which is connected to the Deaders in some way. Suddenly reality isn't what it seems, she's visited by Pinhead who gives her cryptic warnings and she thinks she's going crazy. But that's only the beginning.
It doesn't sound like much, but the film is like the puzzle box; the pieces all move into place in the end and it's a surprisingly cool little film. We're kept guessing until the very end, and it doesn't feel like we're being jerked around just for the hell of it (sorry, bad pun) like the last two films. And what's best is that the Hellraiser tweaks actually fit into the story and don't come off as gimmicky. Sure Pinhead is barely in the film, but when he shows up he's the Pinhead we all remember from the first film; he's mean, he has his own agenda and above all... he's creepy! Plus the main plot ties into the fourth film in a way I didn't see coming. It put a smile on my face to see a REAL Hellraiser flick again.

The acting is decent, but the main showcase is Kari Wuhrer. She's in every scene, and at first I wasn't too keen on her in the film. She came off as a bitchy city chick who was trying to act all sassy and such, but once her character travels to Romania she switches gears and she quickly realizes she's out of her element. Kari makes it seem effortless and I totally sympathized with her character and bought into her totally fucked up situation. In the end I was rooting for her and hoping she'd come through this nightmare of a situation unharmed.
Rick Bota's direction is pretty flashy for a DTV film with no real budget. He didn't impress me with his vision for Hellseeker, but I'm now looking forward to the next film in the series, Hellraiser: Hellworld, which he directed back-to-back with this film. He managed to get a B-movie actress to show off what she can do (as well as her lovely breasts), he creates the proper mood that isn't exactly Hellraiseresque, but works for the story and he managed to take an iffy premise and make it entertaining and pretty suspenseful.

Hellraiser: Deader may not look like much at the start, but stick with it and you'll find that it's a well made little DTV gem that is well deserving of the Hellraiser name.

3 out of 5

*written 6/7/05

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