Movie Review – Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Rick Bota returns to direct his third installment of the Hellraiser series, the eighth in the franchise, Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), released just three months after his Hellraiser: Deader (2005). Unlike the previous couple of films in the franchise, the script is based not on an unrelated horror spec but on a short story called “Dark Can’t Breathe” by Joel Soisson.
Bota had directed the fan-favorite Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002) and the almost passable Deader, and all indications pointed to him being able to finally deliver a capable Hellraiser film for his third try. It makes the film’s failure, therefore, all the more painful. The implausible plot follows a group of thinly veiled stereotypes who are also recovering video game compulsives. They once played an online game called Hellword, based upon the Hellraiser universe, until one of their “addicted” friends lit himself on fire. Two years after his death they’ve all been invited to an exclusive Hellworld party at a mansion deep in the woods where they slowly get isolated and picked off. The film is at its heart a teen slasher, though it still manages to still give us the now obligatory it-was-all-a-phsychological-hallucination-until-the-big-reveal-at-the-end franchise sequel formula. Nevertheless, Pinhead (Doug Bradley) is nothing more than a wise-cracking slasher who kills quickly (and at least one time painlessly) whenever a death is needed. That Hellraiser had nothing to do with the original story is clear, but it’s made painfully apparent in the continued misapplication of the mythos by the supposedly obsessive characters: the history is wrong, the Lament Configuration is mispronounced, the Cenobites don’t torture, and after eight films I can tell immediately that when the puzzle box is solved in the film, it’s solved backwards. Really, Bota already made two of these – how do you fuck up the little Hellraiser that’s in the movie that badly?
Unfortunately, Hellraiser isn’t the only thing this film gets wrong. Though released in 2005 its depiction of the internet and gaming world is shown more like Hollywood’s depictions of them in 1995 – as dangerous, almost mystical realms unto themselves. Those who designed the Hellworld game might have known less about gaming than they did about the internet, yet with the video game as a plot device the script shows clear influence from Scream (1996) as it attempts a cringe-worthy meta-analysis through poor dialogue and lame jokes.
Other problems abound. The script can’t keep its characterizations consistent, such as when the anti-social Jake (Christopher Jacot) suddenly becomes a social butterfly just when it’s convenient in the plot to reveal that he’s invisible. Other plot devices either go nowhere or are immediately shown to be nonsensical. For instance, at the party there are masks with numbers on the forehead, and those who wish to partake in anonymous sex can wear them and use cell phones to call the numbers of the people they’re interested in. Except that everybody almost immediately takes off their masks to hit on each other and the whole thing is essentially forgotten. The characters wander alone around the mansion, snooping into places they shouldn’t until it’s convenient to kill them off. For every odd item they uncover a cliché is there to be found. Even the dependable Lance Henriksen, who plays The Host, can’t redeem his corny dialogue.
As a teen slasher Hellword is subpar and as a Hellraiser film it is atrocious. That this was Doug Bradley’s swan song as Pinhead its shortcomings are amplified. As The Host says, “Like a bad horror movie, isn’t it?” Yes it is, Lance, yes it is.