As we reach film seven in the Hellraiser franchise’s descent into an inferno far more upsetting than the one Dante went on about, the tears in the format widen as much as some supple, human skin being pulled taunt by a couple of hooks.
Yet another entry that’s been born from the producers attempting to panel beat a spec script into shape until it vaguely resembles something like Clive Barker’s originals, Deader is another installment that hooked in Rick Bota to direct after he gave us the vapid previous entry, Hellraiser: Hellseeker and under the producing eye of Stan Winston (yes, that Stan Winston), the director managed to belt out not one, but two more bargin basement Pinhead appearances back to back. So, let’s run our thumb over that circle bit on a metaphorical Lament Configuration puzzle box and get this newest example of hell over with.
Amy Klein is an edgy reporter for a London newspaper (we know she’s edgy because she wears a leather jacket and smokes like a chimney) who writes controversial exposès like her classily entitled “How To Be A Crack Whore” that saw her go undercover in a drug den. Her editor calls her in as he’s gotten wind of a potential story that’s right up her proverbial alley and shows her a grainy video that features an empty-eyed cult called the Deaders who claim that their leader, Winter, can bring his followers back from the dead despite looking like the love child of Kyle Maclachlan and Billy Drago. The video certainly seems to confirm it as Amy watches thr video in horror as a Deader acolyte blows a skylight through her skull with a pistol and then is seemingly revived.
Sinking the teeth into the story thanks to the “fucked up self destructive thing” she’s got going on, Amy heads over to Bucharest where Winter and his cult reside and starts trawling underground clubs that are catered for extreme alternate lifestyles in order to get some valuable info.
A major puzzle piece is found when Amy stumbles on the dead body of Marla – who was the woman who sent the tape in the first place – and chooses to nick an ornate puzzle box she finds in the corpse’s grip which she decides to screw around with the moment she gets back to her hotel. Here she has an apparent hallucination of a regal, demonic figure with nails in his skull, but writes it off as being only a very traumatic dream.
As her search for the Deaders gets ever closer, she finds that Winter has bigger plans in store than simply lording it over a bunch of undead goths in a decrepit house, plans that directly effect the denizens of hell and you can bet your bottom dollar, Pinhead isn’t going to take it lying down.
So, I don’t think it’s much of a shock to reveal that this latest attempt to maintain a fierce grip on the rights of a franchise that desperately needs a cash injection is, bluntly speaking, a bit shit; but any comparisons in quality with it’s immediate predecessor results in somewhat of a depressing debate. Regardless of whether Rick Bota’s last Hellraiser film is worse than this one, to rank the two is to miss the point: the franchise at this point is neck deep in human excrement and still sinking, especially considering that back in 2005 we still had another entry to come the same year in the form of Hellraiser: Hellworld.
So let’s get the good points out the way first as it won’t take particularly long to list them and while it’s hardly her greatest performance, Kari Wuhrer does a decent enough job of portraying one of those stock horror characters who smoke, drink and come drenched in nihilism and yet has managed to retain a healthy metabolism and crystal clear complexion. To give her her due, she gives the material more respect than most and she’s engaging enough as we wander with her through yet another Hellraiser sequel that’s plagued with endless hallucinations and visions that render the plot as soupy as Linda Blair’s Exorcist vomit. The other light in this vast void of interest is good old Doug Bradley who is still loyally chipping away at his nail studded horror icon despite the best years of the character being far behind him. Still popping up here and there and then turning up at the end to conveniently wrap things up with a stern one-liner and a fuck-ton of hooks, this isn’t enough to stop the notion that Pinhead is starting to gradually look a little out of place in his own franchise as Deader owes far more to J-Horror style movies like The Grudge than anything Clive Barker once created. Still, some decent, last minute gore and a memorable scene involving a bath room and a kitchen knife stop the film from being an utter loss.
The rest of the movie, however, drags from beginning to end as the series once again takes the route of having the middle section of the story be essentially one big hallucination caused by exposure to various supernatural bullshit that are neither fun or scary. The concept that a random cult leader has been amassing an undead army in order to find someone to open tbe box and thus gain control of the Cenobites is half-baked at best, but at its worst it simply raises an untold amount of plot-holes. Why would anyone, even smacked out cult members, think that being dead would be beneficial? Why do all the S&M clubs in movies like this look less like the ultimate in unrestrained debauchery and more like an installation from a first year art student who merely wants to shock his parents? And even though Winter is revealed to be a descendant of LeMarchand, the toy maker who made the puzzle box, why on earth would he want to rule over the Cenobites – with the Chatterer around it can’t possibly be for the conversation.
So as yet another wretched Hellraiser sequel drags itself past the finish line, we are left with the sinking feeling that there’s still worse torments to come – to paraphrase Pinhead himself: ” We have such shite to show you.”