My notes on Hellraiser Judgment (2016)
Effects man Gary J Tunnicliffe, who has been with the Hellraiser series all along, scripted Hellraiser Revelations, the first non-Doug Bradley Hellraiser movie, which was thrown together on the cheap so Dimension could retain the rights in order to mount a higher-profile remake. That didn’t happen, so another episode was needed to extend the deal with the Devil (aka the Weinstein Company) and Tunnicliffe signed up again … landing a promotion to director and playing a new cenobite (the Auditor) who handles much of the action as if auditioning to replace Pinhead (Paul T Taylor, replacing Stephan Smith Collins replacing Doug Bradley) as the series lead monster.
Child molester Watkins (Jeff Fenter) is hauled into Number 55, Lodovico St – a wood structure that doesn’t look like that place in Dollis Hill where it all started – and subjected to bureacratic abuse by the Auditor. His typed confession is fed to a weird guy (John Gulager, creator of the Feast films) who sicks up the pages which are squelched by a jury of three topless women with partially skinned faces as the offender is licked and mauled by a trio of older naked women called the Cleaners. Then Watkins is chained down and mutilated by a big goon in a babyface mask (Joel Decker) who unleashes a lithe gimp-suited girl with big knives (Jilly Blundell) from under his poncho … then black goo is squirted from tubes on the naked girls’ tits. Yes, it’s elaborate and gruesome and hideous to look at – this is one of the ugliest horror films in recent memory – but ten films in, it’s also a bit blah, as if Hell were running low on ideas and going with ideas for torments hauled out of the reject bin.
After the credits, typed on burning paper, the film turns into something a lot like earlier Hellraiser sequels – which, to its credit, Hellraiser Revelations didn’t – in that it seems to be an unrelated script (a Se7en knock-off) with added cenobites. Cop brother team Sean (Damon Carney) and David Carter (Randy Wayne) are on the trail of the Preceptor, a serial killer who has been staging elaborate corpse tableaux to illustrate the Ten Commandments – somehow, ‘thou shalt have no other God but me’ inspires the maniac to sew a pampered lapdog into the womb of a tipsy slutty blonde (Grace Montie). Though Sean nurtures a bit of PTSD and worries his wife (Rheagan Wallace), he’s also got time to patronise his younger brother for not having read Dickens – and they haven’t made any headway on the case, so Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris) is added to the surprisingly small Preceptor task force in the hope of catching the killer before he completes his tenth atrocity (the covetousness one). Since only one suspect is offered, few surprises come along.
Sean is hauled out of the policier plot of standing around grimly at murder sites to be given some of the works by the Auditor (a decent new character, with a different, unctuous manner and a kind of blood-spattered fussiness that contrasts with Pinhead’s degeneracy) and the rest of the crew, who include a return appearance from the Chatterer (Mike Jay Regan) from the first two films and two females called the Stitch Twins. The cop story gets wound up, but the film is distracted by the appearance of Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald), a white-clad angel who channels Dimension’s rival Prophecy series and suggests this series’ version of Heaven is callously rotten enough to give a serial killer a free pass just so long as he rams those commandments home with each murder. Jophiel and Pinhead get into an argument, furthering the series’ attempts to wrestle Clive Barker’s concept into something more like Catholicism, and the hooks and chains come out to rend the angel to pieces … whereupon Pinhead is punished by being transformed back into a regular bald human being, which might even be a reasonable wind-up for the series if this is what it’s come to, though (as ever) a remake/reboot is on the cards, presumably inspired by the high profile of the recent Halloween.
Heather Langenkamp, of the Elm St films, has a one-scene cameo as a harridan landlady – she must have flown into Oklahoma for a single day’s shoot since there’s a hilarious later sequence as Sean pretends to be talking to her offscreen character when she’s blatantly not there.
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