The Revenant Review

Horror Film History, Analysis, and Reviews



Movie Review – Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

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.

Grade: F

Movie Review – Hellraiser: Deader (2005)

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+

Movie Review – The Fog (2005)

Movie Review – The Fog [remake] (2005)

John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) is considered a minor horror classic, though an imperfect one. Among Carpenter’s impressive early outings it is, by his own admission, the one with the largest possibility for improvement. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film, not so much for its effects, and it’s not a very scary film, but the story that it tells of a leper colony being betrayed by the founders of a quiet island town that returns after one hundred years in a thick fog to exact revenge upon the descendants, is a fantastic backdrop to a ghost story. If any horror movie could be improved with modern technology, with the potential to be greater than the original, it is this one.

What a profound disappointment, then, is the lifeless, boring remake that is 2005’s The Fog, directed by Rupert Wainwright. Wainwright had directed 1999’s Stigmata which, although not a great film, showed more promise than this offering. Though the basic story remains the same, save for a few tweaks, all other elements have been dumbed down and tamed for the adolescent crowd. The film is a perfect example of the same manufactured, generic, formulaic celluloid that is continuously churned out of the Hollywood horror factory, complete with beautiful actors in their underwear ready for the teenage consumer market.

In addition to the audience’s target IQ, the film has also lowered the ages of its main protagonists, which works only to its detriment. Instead of the everyman Tom Atkins, who is easy to relate to and identify with, we get the handsome, jockish Tom Welling, who adds nothing to the film and who unfortunately has no screen chemistry with the female lead, played by Maggie Grace. The characters are paper thin and are made to fit their stereotyped roles, including the token black friend who exists only for comic relief. Other problems persist, such as that the film cannot seem to decide on the motive of the mist and the final scenes leave the viewer dumbfounded and feeling cheated.

I have very little interest in the fashion world, but I am aware that designers will create budget-friendly, off-the-rack clothing based upon their top-of-the-line, thousand-dollar pieces. Movies such as this remind me of those identical, ten-thousand-of-a-kind blouses. They are of a lesser quality and made for the maximum number of consumers possible, marketed as the latest thing when really it’s the same crap they sold you twenty years ago, maybe even twenty days ago. Most buyers know they are not paying for the best. Unfortunately, though, too many young people being introduced to horror will not know that this new version may have capable CGI and a hot blonde, but it is a poor, dollar-store quality film when compared even to its flawed original. It is New Coke. Please, if you must see one, stick with the recipe that worked the first time around.

Grade: F

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