From Hellraiser’s fourth installment onward, the quality control had been taking a noticable nosedive with every subsequent episode. Slashed budgets and the opting and retooling of existing horror scripts into a more Hellraiser-y kind of story had turned the once proud franchise into an exhausted cash cow that had been milked to oblivion by Dimension Films. But despite Pinhead and co. dragging themselves from sequel to sequel, you could argue that even the most crappiest installment at least had something for the most forgiving or die hard fans of the universe that Clive Barker created.
However, even the most ardent acolyte of the Cenobites would find the eighth film tough to defend as Hellworld may be the most slapdash and insulting Hellraiser yet that wastes a surprisingly starry cast on a story that delivers none of the pleasure and all of the pain…
Hellword is an online, immersive videogame based on the Hellraiser series (that’s right, all of a sudden the Hellraiser movies are just movies in it’s own continuity) and a group of twentysomethings have gathered at a friend’s funeral after he killed himself after becoming way too engrossed in the MMORPG – I mean, I’ve heard of rage quitting, but Jesus Christ. Anyway, the friends are made up of Chelsea, Mike, Derrick, Allison and an estranged member Jake and while they all played Hellworld back in the day, some on their number feel responsible for not stepping in before disaster struck. However, I guess they can’t feel that bad, because two years later they all go back onto Hellworld and win tickets to a private Hellword Party held at a place called Leviathan house and run by a middle-aged man known only as the Host.
Given a personal tour of the Host’s private Hellraiser collection, the gang eventually spread out into the party to indulge in their own personal pleasures, but while Mike and Derek are pure horn-dogs and Allison indulges her curiosity and goes on exploring the house further, Chelsea and Jake remain sceptical wallflowers, distrustful of the whole scenario.
Well, give Chelsea and Jake each a gold star, because the Host has a sinister ulterior motive (which is unsurprising considering he’s played by Lance fucking Henricksen) and as he targets each of the friends one at a time, they have hallucinations of a familiar, Pinheaded figure watching over each demise.
But is the infamous figurehead from Hellworld actually real, or is there something far more human at play here than sadistic, interdimensionial pleasure demons? If Chelsie and Jake fail to figure it out in time, they’ll undoubtedly be next.
Essentially a House On Haunted Hill style supernatural stalker, Hellword proves to be a frustrating, insulting addition to an already sorry bunch of sequels. Once again directed by Rick Bota, a man whom the Cenobites should have taken a restraining order out on two movies ago, the movie tries to go the meta route by insisting that the world of Hellraiser we once knew is merely a hit role playing video game (with atrocious graphics – even for 2005). Now, while this would account for Pinhead acting more like a typical slasher (as he’s not technically Pinhead at all), it’s still a horribly miscalculated attempt at trying something new – why in hell would a Hellraiser fan want to watch a movie that does their favorite character so relentlessly dirty?
Even without the neutering of its iconic poster boy, Hellworld is still a patience testing grind despite being a treasure trove of before-they-were-famous appearances. The involvement of Vikings’ Katheryne Winnick is impressive enough but we also get a pre-Superman Henry Cavill as the perpetually horny Mike that just goes to show that he’s been in far worse sequels than Justice League. In fact watching Cavill blunder through weirdly staged proceedings is quite possibly the only joy you’ll get from the film with a blow job scene being so appallingly blocked, his dick would have to be growing out of his belly button.
As your irritation builds, you eventually shrug it off as you think Hellworld is chugging along no better or worse that the usual cheapjack Hellraiser sequel, however, when you think the movie seems to be wrapping things up, a quick glance at the timer shows you to your dismay that you still have forty more minutes to go of random mansion searching and shitty murders.
To be all spoilerific, it all turns out that everything has been a massive hallucination and that the Host (Henricksen, staggeringly overqualified for these proceedings) has drugged them all during the tour and buried them alive while they inexplicably all share the same visions – they interact and everything – in an attempt to gain revenge for his son; the friend who had committed suicide years before.
His ridiculously complicated plan (bizarrely reliant on Nokia phones) is the final straw as the film clumsily tries to wring suspense out of death scenes that technically aren’t happening from a bunch of characters you couldn’t give a toss about being threatened by a villain that doesn’t exist.
Even a last minute twist that has Henricksen come face to face with the real Pinhead and the Cenobites is way too little and way too late to salvage anything. However, possibly the most depressing thing is that as bad as Hellraiser: Hellworld is, there’s still more to come and worse yet, impossibly loyal Pinhead actor Doug Bradley finally bows out after this movie and retires the pins.
“We didn’t deserve this!” whimpers a victim at one point. Fucking hell woman, how the hell do you think we feel?