Today, Hellraiser Judgment came across my desk here at TNM so I decided to pop it in. I’ve got an affinity for the Hellraiser series. Up to Bloodline, at least. See, nieces and nephews, back in Uncle Manhammer’s college days, he was able to pop a copy of Hellraiser 2 into the ol’ top-loading VCR and reap the benefits of an inebriated co-ed with eyes as green as emeralds pressing herself into me as the film continued onward.
Now, here’s where I admit I wasn’t the lady killer I currently am, and instead of making any sort of move after the film, I popped in Hellraiser 3. And then Bloodline. The co-ed, after various attempts at getting my attention (which included nuzzling my neck and laying her head in my lap at one point), left sober and unfulfilled. I spent the night alone having nightmares about people with no skin.
Now, I want it noted going in that the following five films in the series I have not seen, having heard nothing redeeming about them via word of mouth. And I have no affinity towards the Clive Barker and Doug Bradley camps, who have both derided the franchise in film form long ago. That being said, I’m oddly excited to review Hellraiser Judgment.
The Movie Itself (3/5)
We start with a pretty cool and very Hellraiser worthy cold open which introduces us to The Auditor, Assessor, Surgeon, Chatterer, Pinhead… all our friends and denizens of Hell. That’s just a taste of what’s to come, however, because the bulk of the story is composed of a police procedural where brothers Sean and David Carter are trying to track down an elusive serial killer known as The Preceptor. They’re not alone for long and are joined by Egerton, a new detective to the case and otherwise known as “The Voice of the Audience.” Sean is really the centerpiece of the film, having a drinking problem and a war vet with presumably PTSD… and, of course, he meets our friends from Hell.
Hellraiser Judgment is a far better film than I honestly expected it to me. Having said that, it isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything, but I respect the attempt to be faithful to what’s come before. One of the things I’ve always dug about the franchise at its best, was the atmosphere and restraint when using the Cenobites. The atmosphere here, especially in the Hell realm, is excellent, only occasionally wafting into 1990’s Nine Inch Nails music video territory. All of it does work during the course of the film, however, upon further reflection, you can start to poke holes in the logic if you really wanted.
The police narrative that the Hell sequences are framed around is serviceable, taking heavy inspiration from Seven, the first season of True Detective, and a dash of Dexter thrown in for good measure. It’s no worse than anything you’d see on a bad episode of Criminal Minds and serves its purpose to move the plot along. Though, admittedly, that’s only set dressing from what you really tune into a Hellraiser film for. It should also be noted that there was only one noticeable bit of CGI, and bad at that, towards the end. You can’t miss it. Otherwise, all the effects were practical and pretty damn good.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t compliment Paul T. Taylor’s performance as Pinhead. At the risk of being crucified by Doug Bradley fanboys, he was quite good. Granted, this outing didn’t really give him the chance to really own the role like Bradley did in the original and it’s sequel, but hopefully, Taylor continues to don the pins and can really stake a claim. Hellraiser Judgment is a standalone title. While there are some callbacks to previous installments (most notably “Jesus wept”) no prior knowledge of the franchise is needed to really enjoy this one.
Visuals/Picture Quality (3/5)
This was pretty standard fare as far as films go. One dutch angle was memorable, and otherwise, everything else looked to be adapted from how television is shot unless it’s to focus on a particularly good gore shot. You’ll also notice a lot of blue and sepia tones. Much of the visuals seem to be a stylistic choice and any deficits are made intentionally. While this wasn’t director Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s first foray into films, it was his first as a director, and there’s a lot of potential here to really make a mark visually.
Score/Audio Quality (2.5/5)
Low. Audio. My pet peeve. Everyone whispers, which prompted me to watch the film with the subtitles on or blow out my soundbar with how loud I’d have to crank it. As far as the score goes, it was serviceable, I think, I couldn’t hear much of it.
Special Features (2/5)
This release might as well have been bare bones. You’ve got a gag reel and seven minutes of deleted and extended scenes which aren’t worth your time.
- Again, a standard case that the disc didn’t fall out of. Slipcover included. Whoop de doo. Also has a UV code.
- Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH
Runtime 81 Mins
Hellraiser Judgment Overall (2.75/5)
Yeah, this movie has some issues, but I since I went in with lower expectations than a Thai prostitute trying to pass a GED exam, it actually surprised me. Also, after doing some further reading about the film, writer and director Gary J. Tunnicliffe has been involved with the Hellraiser series in some form or another since the third installment, and while this is his first time helming a feature, it’s very obvious that he’s got a grasp on why things work the way they do. If permitted to continue, he could very well steer the franchise back on course, and Hellraiser Judgment will be looked back on as the blueprint for the series reinvention. Check it out from Amazon or other Blu-ray retailers.