The first time I entered the world of HELLRAISER, created by Clive Barker, I was completely enamored. Well, maybe that isn’t the right word, but I found this nightmarish creation a thing of bloody beauty. The images of flesh being ripped asunder and the re-birth (or regeneration) of Frank was a stunningly horrific experience. Oh what sights the Cenobites were able to show us! And let us not forget the lovely and talented Ashley Laurence who proved to be a surprisingly powerful adversary to Pinhead and his gruesome crew. Even in the sequel, HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, the grotesque imagery and the frightening premise proved to be the stuff bad dreams are made of. And all of it led straight to hell. A horror lover’s dark playground.
With two incredibly promising features, the next chapter in the series was the beginning of the end for this viewer. HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH presented a few cool deaths, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as the first two. After that we had the final theatrical release, HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE. Again, the quality was wearing thin, but fans seemingly still wanted more. Thus we had such titles as HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000), HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2002), HELLRAISER: DEADER (2005), HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD (2005) and finally HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS in 2011 - the first film to not feature Doug Bradley. I tend to be a completist when it comes to most horror franchises, but this particular brand of gory goodness didn’t pull me in for every film.
And now we have HELLRAISER 10, which is currently shooting in Oklahoma under the title JUDGEMENT. To be fair, there are a number of recent reports that have slightly raised my interest. The first is the inclusion of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET scream queen Heather Langenkamp. As somebody with a strong love for genre, it is always nice to see vets return. And then there is the bizarre casting notices. You have an “accountant from hell” and a bunch of “aging, naked women” who clean bodies for punishment. You even have a German Mormon missionary showing up, as well as an amputee surgeon! Are we sure this isn’t an episode of South Park?
Here’s the deal, I’d love to see a cool new HELLRAISER flick. Remember all the news regarding a remake of sorts? While I’d normally rather have a sequel to an existing franchise, this time I’d be far more interested in some sort of reboot with Clive Barker attached. The straight to video sequels rarely captured this viewers attention. It’s a shame really because oftentimes they bring some talented actors to battle the demonic kings of torture. And that brings me to my biggest issue with the new HELLRAISER flick… once again, Doug Bradley will not be returning to play Pinhead. He is one of the few consistently good things about the series.
It may be time to let this franchise rest in peace. With a ton of cheap sequels and continually diminishing quality, there is very little that is building excitement for yet another crappy sequel. With the loss of Doug Bradley and the continuing bizarro world that has been built, I miss the simplicity of the original film. HELLRAISER had so many elements that worked, as did HELLRAISER II: HELLBOUND. They worked partially because Pinhead and his minions from hell were still truly terrifying. The gore was there, but it wasn’t just that, it was something special and it didn’t feel rushed. I’m not even sure if you could really return to the haunting visions the first couple of films offered.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but stop making cheap ass HELLRAISER sequels! This franchise has fallen hard, and while the numerous sequels have a couple of creepy moments spread throughout, they all feel generic and rushed. Even with the return of Ashley Laurence for HELLSEEKER, Hell just wasn’t the same. HELLRAISER 10 is coming whether we want it or not. Perhaps it will surprise all of us and be something special. However, the past seven features haven't encouraged any real promise that the latest chapter will be worth watching.