After Hellraiser: Inferno’s DVD premiere presumably made enough money for Miramax to scrape together enough loose change to make another, Hellraiser: Hellseeker was released onto the long suffering fans of Clive Barker’s original.
If we’re being honest, Inferno – which was directed by none other than Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson – wasn’t actually that bad of a movie at all and even went a small way to showing that the business practice of buying up unrelated horror scripts and retooling them into a Hellraiser movie could have been an innovative (not to mention cheap) way to give the unkillable franchise some diversity.
However, while arguably feeling more of a Hellraiser movie than its previous entry, it seems Hellseeker shows that this new practice may only be a one trick Cenobite…
Trevor Gooden is suffering from a uncomfortably fractured memory after a car crash apparently killed his wife and left him more muddled than someone trying to read a bowl of alphabet soup and as he struggles through with his high profile job and numerous hospital visits due to a reoccurring headache, he’s plagued by horrible visions that make him question his memory and reality in general.
If he was the loving husband he’s convinced himself he was, why are numerous women in his life throwing themselves at him with the attitude that this is apparently a regular thing? Why are two detectives claiming that his wife’s body was never claimed from the crash and are growing ever more suspicious about Trevor’s involvement? And, most disturbingly, why are a selection of women from Trevor’s past turning up mutilated in a way that makes our lead look very suspicious.
The answers may lie in multiple places, but the most obvious one is the ornate puzzle box Trevor offered to his wife as a gift that was received with less than enthusiastic results. Is this the reason that Trevor keeps having visions of viciously deformed, leather clad creatures that perform particularly brutal acts of violence during his increasingly disturbing hallucinations.
Utterly lost in whatever hell his splintered mind is showing him, most noticable to Trevor is the sight of an imposing figure with pins nailed into its skull that claims to have all the answers, but does Trevor actually want them?
It seems that his supposedly late wife, Kirsty Cotton-Gooodem, has a incredibly dark past that has caught up with her and Trevor in the worst way.
The first of three Hellraiser movies banged out on the cheap by Rick Bota, a former cinematographer who now specialises in tv work, Hellseeker has a lot of details lodged in its carass to entice long time Hellraiser fans, but to get to them you have to wade through scene after scene of loosely plotted hallucinatory horror that holds together worse than a set of origami weighing scales.
So let’s focus on the pleasure before we delve into the pain and straight off the bat we’re gifted with a hugely welcome return to the franchise for Ashley Lawrence who reprises her role as Kirsty Cotton in an extended cameo that holds the secrets behind the movie’s twist. That fact that we also get a scene between Lawrence and her old pin-headed sparring partner genuinely warms the meat hooks lodged in my heart and the fact that we even get a clutch of brand new but scarcely seen Cenobite (plus a Chatterer return!) is hardly a bad thing. However, the fusion of Barker’s universe with this random horror script means that the movie is as uneven as Pinhead’s complexion and the constant blurring of the lines of reality and fantasy means the story doesn’t make a lick of damn sense and it frequently delivers images that simply doesn’t marry up with what we’ve seen before – since when do Cenobites kill people with a plastic bag?
Alternatively, some of the horror imagery woulf work better if they wasn’t attached to an established brand name, such as an impressive body horror style twist on the good cop/bad cop trope which explains why two detective partners are never seen together at the same time (spoiler: they’re sharing a head).
Not to be too negative to a guy that’s simply being paid to do a job, but really, really weird to watch a film, no matter how low budget, that’s being carried by Dean Winters who is best known to me as The Vulture from Brooklyn 99 but is also a familiar face to anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Oz, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit. It’s not that he’s especially bad, it’s just I’m so used to see him playing scumbags that casting him as someone who’s morals aren’t immediately questionable simply isn’t a good idea.
However, the final nail in the…. skull (?) proves to be the actually plot itself in which the big twist is (spoiler) that Trevor’s been dead all along and that his hallucination plagued journey is actually him being tortured in hell is exactly the same shit Craig Sheffer’s similarly asshole lead went through in Hellraiser: Inferno and although the reason he’s there is pretty cool (Kirsty does like making those deals with demons, doesn’t she?), it’s a long and messy journey getting there.
Still, Pinhead himself, with his his role still wisely reduced to that of a supporting role, still maintains an air of power that still hasn’t diminished with the budget of this, a hellish cash grab.
A puzzle that only Hellraiser completists should attempt to finish.
I love the fact that I stumbled on to your articles almost the exact same time I’m watching these DTV sequels. I’ve always loved Hellraiser one and two, I loathed the third and fourth, and never had bothered to watch any of the other sequels… until now. After a promising start with the surprisingly “ok” Scott Derrickson’s Inferno, hoo boy does it start going downhill from there. Hellseeker is an incomprehensible mess, and a wasted opportunity of bringing back Ashley Laurence (tho I admit I almost appreciated the inspired gusto Dean Winters put into his character). Deader is another incomprehensible attempt and is about as joyless as it gets thus far. Hellworld – an absolute abomination for the franchise – may have been an entertaining premise if it wasn’t forced into the Hellraiser mythos; and its only reason for checking out is seeing a young Henry Cavill acting like an annoying teenage goofball. Next up for me is Revelations, which I’ve heard is the absolute bottom of the barrel for these sequels, and even SO bad that Doug Bradley said “to hell with this”, for which I feel like I have no more energy to put into this project… Until I inevitably do, bc I’m a glutton for punishment like all of these other poor saps I’ve watched who can’t stop themselves from playing with that shiny toy box. Looking forward to your next review!