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Hellraiser: Judgment (Movie Review)

Hellraiser: Judgment (Movie Review)
0 10

PLOT: A detective tracking a serial killer known as The Preceptor comes across Pinhead and his Cenobite clan.

REVIEW: Hand this to HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT: It quotes the works of Charles Dickens way more than I was expecting. I guess when you're stumbling through yet another bargain-basement sequel from Dimension Films, you hold on to whatever unusual touches you can find.

To be fair, JUDGMENT is not the worst of the many sequels this franchise has spawned. Surely, it's better than REVELATIONS, for whatever that's worth. That one earns a special place in Bad Movie Hell thanks to its slapdash production and, more notably, the casting of Stephen Smith Collins as Pinhead after the script for REVELATIONS was so bad not even Doug Bradley wanted to be in it. (No offense to Mr. Bradley, but there are a few other really bad HELLRAISER sequels he could have drawn the line at.) JUDGMENT sports at least one intriguing new villain and a decent new Pinhead in the form of Paul T. Taylor. While none of the hardcore fans are likely to give this series much love as long as Bradley isn't on board, it must be said Taylor is an acceptable Pinhead, looking and sounding the part.

As for JUDGMENT itself? Shocker: It's still clear these movies are being made with little care for quality, more attention to keeping the rights of the franchise secure.

Seems to me that ever since the first two - maybe three - HELLRAISER movies, the creative teams behind the later sequels have really struggled to get us involved on any level with the human protagonists and their plights. Perhaps it's because they're assuming people are just here for Pinhead and his Cenobite pals. The actual heroes of the films are barely ever interesting or sympathetic, and JUDGMENT continues that trend, as the film is predominantly concerned with a very basic plot revolving around three very bland detectives who are on the hunt for a Bible-thumping serial killer (clearly inspired by SE7EN's John Doe). Along the way, lead detective Sean Carter (Damon Carney) - carrying some personal demons around of his own, natch - runs afoul of the Cenobites in a house they apparently rent in the middle of nowhere.

The movie is so slight and inconsequential, it almost leaves no impression at all. At 80 minutes, it's mercifully short, so it has that going for it, but it also feels like the screenplay was nothing but an afterthought. Our three main characters are completely unininspired, and even a third act revelation about one of them is met with a shrug. Once again, this is a HELLRAISER movie where we don't care what happens to the people at the center of it at all.

But what if you are really are just here for the demons? Note that Pinhead isn't in the film all that much, really only making cameos throughout until the finale allows him some time to do his thing. As mentioned, Paul T. Taylor is just fine as Pinhead, but it's not like JUDGMENT gives him anything to do other than what's expected of the character: He stands there, looking menacing, and morosely speaks about the delights and horrors of hell. Most other Cenobites are kept on the sidelines, save for The Auditor (played by director Gary J. Tunnicliffe), a well-spoken fellow with a sliced-up skull who compiles information on the guilty parties the hellish gang will be bringing with them to their dimension. The Auditor is really the sole figure of interest in the movie, and Tunnicliffe's lively performance definitely makes the character stand out. (One has to wonder if he's poised to become the main villain of the HELLRAISER films going forward.)

The only other new baddie of note is The Assessor, and his presence is, shall we say, less than welcome. As played by John Gulager (yes, the director of the FEAST films), The Assessor (who takes human form, or is a human, I dunno) messily eats moist clumps of paper - the confessions of the guilty parties - and pukes them into a tube for The Jury (a trio of naked women who also look to be human). This is about as gross as the movie gets; the standard skin-pulling/ripping is deployed a handful of times, but there's nothing quite as disgusting as watching Gulager choke on dripping mounds of typing paper. Close up, mind you!

The last shot of the movie is admittedly intriguing, and sets up rather curious sequel possibilities... but I'm not exactly waiting for the next installment with baited breath. It's unlikely anyone was expecting JUDGMENT to inject some respectability into the long-maligned franchise, and it's clear that Dimension is still only concerned with churning these sequels out in order to retain the HELLRAISER title. While surely better than REVELATIONS (and perhaps a few of the other sequels; there are so damn many of them it's easy to forget which one is which), JUDGMENT is just another weak entry into this battered, beaten-down franchise.

Extra Tidbit: HELLRAISER JUDGMENT hits Blu-ray/DVD on February 13th.

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