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Matt: I really wasn't sure what to expect heading into this film. I hadn't read 'The Hellbound Heart', but I'd heard of Clive Barker and knew he had a reputation of being the master of the macabre, so I gave it a shot. I never knew just how great he was until I saw 'Hellraiser' for the first time. It totally blew me away. The story was very well written, and while it bordered a bit on the sci-fi side of horror, it still held my attention the entire way through. The special effects were the main event of this film. They were absolutely fantastic, well ahead of its time. I found it totally believable that Frank was returning from hell, and that he needed victims to regain his human form. And with each victim, I found that the effects were that much better, as it clearly showed Frank's progression from nothing to his new form-- that of his brother, Larry. Doug Bradley stole the show as the Hellpriest, which later became known as the demon Pinhead. Not bad for a character that was just supposed to be a bit player. I bet Doug thanks his lucky stars to this day he accepted the Pinhead role, instead of being one of the movers, which was his other option. Clive Barker Rules! 10 out of 10.
HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988)
Matt: Clive Barker is back to his usual excellence, with the sequel to his classic 'Hellraiser'. Although Barker only wrote and produced this film, and it was directed by someone else (Tony Randel), Barker's fingerprints are clearly all over this, making it a very worthy sequel to continue the storylines he began in the original. A lot of the original cast is back, including Kirsty, Julia and even a cameo from Uncle Frank. This adds to the overall strength of the film, and gives it some much needed continuity. Kirsty, now locked up in an asylum with a crazy doctor, is tricked into returning to hell to save her father (who was really Uncle Frank). Meanwhile, the obsessed Dr. Channard is willing to do anything it takes to discover the secrets of hell, including resurrect Julia, who returns in hellish fashion and puts on an even better performance than in the original. Channard hopes to achieve success through the use of patient Tiffany, whose expertise at solving puzzles proves very useful. And let's not forget about the Cenobites, who return with an unholy vim and vigor, eager to take more souls to hell and please their Lord Leviathan. Doug Bradley is again great as Pinhead, and it was after this film that the character really became the franchise centerpiece. The effects were on-par with the first one, and the story was as believable as it could be. I really liked the exploration of the depths of hell. That was something that they really didn't touch on in the first film, and helped make this one a more well-rounded film overall. 9.5 out of 10.
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH (1992)
Matt: Where do I begin with this one? Although this was clearly the first 'Hellraiser' film to feature Pinhead as a central figure, it was lacking in so many ways. Clive Barker's influence was definitely there, but from here on out, it drastically decreases. Gone are the artistic expressions of individualism we so enjoyed in the first two films. In its place is a more commercialized, studio production, and that really hurt this film. The acting was alright, with Doug Bradley playing the double role of Elliott Spencer/Pinhead. Aside from him and Joey, the characters were cookie-cutter from that era, and I found myself rooting for their demise. The kills went from stylized to just plain gory for the sake of gore. There was probably very little thought into it other than, 'let's throw in some more gore'. Above all, the main storyline just made no sense. Why would Pinhead want to come to earth, when hell is the domain he ruled? They really flip-flopped the story here, where instead of Pinhead taking people to hell, he was bringing hell to the people. It was just very confusing throughout as to why this was going on, although I did find Pinhead's back story (written by Clive Barker but not included in the first two films) to be very fascinating. And don't even get me started about the new Cenobites. They were a complete joke, a far cry from the evil minions that served with Pinhead in the first two films. The soundtrack, also very different from the first two movies, really hurt the overall tone of the film, and the rock music included, although helping to set the scene at the club, was way overused. In fact, aside from the title track and the couple songs they used in the club, the rest had no place in the 'Hellraiser' universe. Still, despite all its faults, the performance of Doug Bradley and the continuity it exhibited following 'Hellbound' earned this one a mid-level score from me. 5 out of 10.
HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINE (1996)
Matt: This is one of the most confusing, unfulfilling entries in the entire franchise, and with all the script and creative problems, I can see why. Let's start with the good, which isn't much. Doug Bradley again proved he was irreplaceable as Pinhead, and Bruce Ramsay did a fine job portraying three different roles in three different time periods. Add to that the performance of Valentina Vargas as Angelique, and that just about wraps up the positives of this film. The best part of the film was the present day action, but once that ended, I found I had little interest in the rest of the film. There was way too much time-jumping involved, and it didn't help when trying to establish any of the characters or story. And, of course, the mere thought of Pinhead in space sent shivers down my spine before I saw it, just like 'Jason X' did when it came out six years later. Why are script writers so fascinated with sending our beloved icons into space? Even John Carpenter wanted to send Michael Myers into space at one point, but thank god that never came to fruition. Great horror just needs a great story to succeed, not blasting off into outer space. But anyways, 'Bloodline' was such a mess, it is easy to see why it was disowned by many of the cast and crew after filming. The music, too, added very little to the overall entertainment experience, and Daniel Licht delivered a way too orchestral, over-the-top score that felt way out of place, and certainly did not belong in the 'Hellraiser' universe. In fact, the only good points of the music were when Licht sampled previous scores that Christopher Young did in the first two films. Why even bother then? It's too bad they dropped the ball with this one, because it single-handedly knocked Pinhead out of theaters forever (or until the inevitable re-make surfaces) and into the eternal abyss known as direct-to-video. 2 out of 10.
HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000)
Matt: Direct to video. That phrase alone is enough to scare horror fans away from titles like this one. However, it is extra scary in this franchise, considering how its last theatrical release, 'Bloodline', turned out. Miramax, desperate to recoup the money they've put into the franchise, decided to continue on with it, and churned out this mangled mess of cinematic garbage. Craig Sheffer ('Night Breed') stars in this "film" that should be classified as nothing more than a bad episode of [insert your favorite crime drama here]. I know fans were glad that the franchise was continuing, but come on, THIS is the best they can do? Even for direct to video, I found the acting deplorable. The music was on-par with DTV releases of that time, but don't hold your breath on that 'Hellraiser: Inferno' soundtrack anytime soon. And when exactly did 'Hellraiser' become a morality tale like 'Saw'? That's not even close to what Pinhead and the Cenobites are about. The only saving grace in this movie was the continued involvement of Doug Bradley as Pinhead. Which brings me to a better point...where the hell was Pinhead for about two-thirds of this movie? I'm sure Bradley is wondering to this day why he stayed in the franchise so long (he bowed out after the eighth installment). Add to it the fact that the script wasn't even written for a 'Hellraiser' film, and it was so bad, Clive Barker wouldn't even get involved, and you start to get the picture. SMH. 1 out of 10.
HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2002)
Matt: Sigh. Here we go again. Another direct-to-video "crapterpiece" courtesy of Miramax. 'Hellseeker' continues the seemingly never-ending line of sequels that were not even 'Hellraiser' stories in their first draft. I don't know why, but someone at Miramax thought it would be profitable to take unused spec scripts and convert them into 'Hellraiser' films. And the end result is 'Hellraiser' movies 5-8. Fans cheered the return of Kirsty Cotton, who was again admirably played by Ashley Laurence, but other than that, I see no redeeming value in this film. It is nothing more than the typical psychological thrillers of its time, and the lousy special effects did nothing to boost this film at all. Pinhead, again reprised by the irreplaceable Doug Bradley, continues on the warpath in his quest for souls, and gets another crack at his adversary-- but doesn't take her? What the hell is that all about? After all Kirsty had been through with the Cenobites, you'd think by this time, they'd be more than happy to take her back to hell once and for all. I guess hell really doesn't hath no fury like a woman scorned. 2 out of 10.
HELLRAISER: DEADER (2005)
Matt: Won't the producers ever learn that direct-to-DVD sequels based on unrelated scripts just do NOT work. 'Deader' was a very interesting story in itself, but come on, sell it to NBC or FX or something. Don't try to pawn it off on the paying customer, the fiercely loyal fanbase that made the franchise what it is. Beyond the fact that this movie had no business with 'Hellraiser' in the title, I really dug the cult and the undertones of cheating death. If it didn't have the 'Hellraiser' reputation to uphold, I might have rated it a lot higher, much like 'Halloween III: Season Of The Witch' (1982). At this point in the series, it was painfully obvious that Miramax was churning out these sequels merely to bastardize the brand and milk every last cent that they could out of it. To its credit, the acting wasn't that bad. Kari Wuhrer was believable as Amy Klein, and Doug Bradley was masterful once again, when Pinhead was actually on the screen. It is so sad that Hollywood has zero creativity nowadays to come up with a sequel we could actually watch. Time after time after time, we are instead force-fed pieces of crap like this. 1 out of 10.
HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD (2005)
Matt: Call me crazy, but I didn't mind this movie at all. Sure, there was a TON wrong with it, but compared to the other sequels, I'd say this is the best one since 'Bloodline'. I know, I destroyed the previous three entries for not being original 'Hellraiser' scripts, but they actually made this one work. The acting was mostly good, and horror veteran Lance Henriksen ('Aliens', 'Pumpkinhead') really played the role of the Host with excessive zeal. He really seemed to be enjoying himself when all the pieces are finally put together at the end of the movie, and I had that "a-ha" moment when Henriksen revealed his true motives. The music was halfway decent as well, although it was mostly low-budget rock knock-offs. The only thing that really irritated me about this movie was that the role of Pinhead, played so brilliantly by Doug Bradley in the previous seven films, was really reduced to a supporting character in this film. From the get-go, it was obvious the Host was going to be the main baddie in this flick, with Pinhead merely serving as his pawn to extract his revenge. Despite that, Pinhead proves once again that in the end, hell always wins in Clive Barker's demented world, and Lance gets his just due. And barring a return to the franchise, this was Bradley's swan song, so the final scenes could not have gone any better for him. 3 out of 10.
HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS (2011)
Matt: Heading into the production of this film, I followed very closely to see how things were going to play out. When I heard the following phrases, I knew it was doomed: found footage, no Doug Bradley, $350,000 budget. I understand Dimension desperately wanted to hang onto to the franchise, but come on, when even Doug Bradley won't take part in this installment, you know it's gonna be bad. This is one of the worst movies, 'Hellraiser' or otherwise, that I have ever seen. The acting was so bad, it's not even worth mentioning. Dimension has done some dastardly things to this franchise in the past (creating movies out of unrelated spec scripts being one of them), but this by far had to be the biggest slap in the face to the fans that made this franchise what it is today. To pawn off a tired-old method (found footage) with an impostor Pinhead and a micro-budget, I was embarrassed to call myself a fan of the series after suffering through this 75-minute sh*t-fest. It was so bad that, at times, it felt like I was watching a home movie. Then, I realized even a home movie would be better than this. With no redeeming value whatsoever, I have no choice but to give this "movie" a big fat zero. 0 out of 10.
HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT (2018)
Matt: I'll be honest. My expectations were at an all-time low heading into this film. Based on the previous disaster and the fact that Doug Bradley was still not returning to the role he made famous, I was expecting to put down a nice fat 0 or 1 on this film. However, Gary Tunnicliffe put together a mangled mess of a movie that somehow managed to be a little enjoyable. Sure, Pinhead wasn't truly Pinhead and his voice was awful, but at least it wasn't as bad as the last guy, right? I was fascinated by how low the producers were willing to go to deliver the sheer nastiness we've come to expect from a Hellraiser film. That being said, the acting was very robotic and bland, and aside from the final sequences of the film, it just fell flat on its face-- again-- just like the last five or so films before it. I did enjoy the performance of the Auditor, and the cameos thrown in from past Hellraiser films were a nice touch as well. An appearance by Elm Street veteran Heather Langenkamp certainly helped, but that's about all it had going for it. 2.5 out of 10.
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