Movie Review – Hellraiser: Deader (2005)

Hellraiser: Deader (2005) is the second directorial entry by Rick Bota and the seventh installment in the Hellraiser series. It is in many ways like the two previous movies as the script began as an unrelated horror spec but was adapted to accommodate the Hellraiser hallmarks. We once again get the psychological approach where someone opens the box, is tormented by nightmarish hallucinations, and then meets Pinhead who reveals the meaning behind it all – to varying success. This normally makes the narrative incomprehensible, however, Deader at least deserves credit for not becoming overly convoluted until the final act.

Kari Wührer plays Amy Klein, an investigative reporter who specializes in exposing the seedy underside of society. Klein is a breath of fresh air, being the most competent series protagonist since Kirsty Cotton. She makes some odd choices, such as not calling the cops when she comes across a corpse or not helping people who are seemingly bleeding to death in public, but the film allows Wührer time to react in other ways, such as an extended sequence where she tries to get a butcher knife out of her back, bloodying the bathroom as she’s slipping around. There are some good set pieces for her to work with as well, such as a corpse on a toilet that she must try to reach around.

The themes are also a welcome return to the original film, with the Lament Configuration reclaiming its position as an object of desire tempting those who would open it with promises of ultimate pleasures. The cult of “Deaders” which Klein investigates is comprised of young people who have grown weary of what life has to offer, seeking ever more extreme experiences, even courting death to gain them. Desensitization in a world of immediate gratification, reflected in Joey’s pleasure train, is once again fertile soil for the Cenobites. Doug Bradley returns as Pinhead, and refers not to Hell but to his realm, invoking the idea of the puzzle box containing not an entry into biblical hellfire but a pocket universe unto itself. This is complicated by certain aspects, certainly, but Pinhead’s victims are not targets because they’re sinners, but because they are intruding on his domain. It’s refreshing to see the series continue to drift towards its origins and further from Inferno’s Christian moralizing.

Of course, Deader has its problems. The movie was filmed in Bucharest, Romania, but doesn’t utilize its location at all – I think Klein only talks to one person with an Eastern European accent. For a movie filmed in 2003 and released in 2005, it feels outdated with its use of VHS tapes and aesthetics that feel much more akin to the 90s. The waking nightmare that Klein finds herself in is at first effective but becomes, as stated before, a jumbled mess in the last fifteen minutes (e.g., when did Joey join the “Deaders”?). The finale is a lazy, underwhelming closure to an otherwise, up until that point, competent and interesting film.

I’ve read many reviews that completely pan this entry, and admittedly the title is stupid. However, there’s a lot to respect in how many of the aspects were handled. If it hadn’t shit the bed in the last act, it would be my favorite sequel after Hellbound. Hell, considering what it’s up against, it might still be, but that’s jumping a hurdle whose bar is set so low it’s practically buried.

Grade: D+