“Hellraiser:” Who are you calling ‘Pinhead?’

Director David Bruckner’s 2022 film sets a new gold standard for horror reboots

“Hellraiser” is a 2022 reboot of the horror franchise of the same name. This is the third film from director David Bruckner (“The Night House”), and stars Odessa A’zion (“Grand Army”), Jamie Clayton (“Sense8”), Drew Starkey (“Outer Banks”), Brandon Flynn (“13 Reasons Why”), Goran Višnjić (“ER”) and Hiam Abbass (“Ramy”). The story follows a young woman struggling with addiction who comes across and solves a mysterious puzzle box, unwittingly summoning the beings known as Cenobites.

I watched Clive Barker’s 1987 original a few years ago, and while I remember liking it, the film didn’t really blow me away. If anything, I was more excited about this film due to its director. He started off by directing segments from anthology films (“The Signal,” “V/H/S” and “Southbound”) before making his feature-length debut with “The Ritual,” which I mostly enjoyed. The script was a mixed bag, but Bruckner’s knack for cool visuals managed to salvage the film. His fantastic follow-up, “The Night House,” continued to demonstrate his understanding of the horror genre.

Bruckner hit yet another home run with “Hellraiser.” As far as reboots go, this manages to show a lot of love for the original film without being a carbon copy.
The film was by no means perfect, as the CGI is one aspect that was pretty bad at times. I can’t find any information regarding the film’s budget, but my belief is that the filmmakers didn’t have enough money to achieve their vision in that regard. I also felt like the film was slightly longer than it needed to be. On my first viewing, I reached a point where the film seemed to almost be over … but then I realized that there were still 30 minutes left. Granted, I don’t believe that the movie is as sluggish as others say, but I do think that some scenes in the middle of the film could have been cut down.

That’s all I have to say about the negative aspects of the film. In spite of these issues, I found “Hellraiser” to be a thoroughly captivating horror film.
My favorite aspect of the film was Jamie Clayton’s portrayal of the iconic antagonist, the Hell Priest/Pinhead. Doug Bradley’s original iteration is iconic, and absolutely no one can successfully imitate him. Thankfully, Clayton doesn’t even try to do so, and she instead makes the character her own. While Bradley gave the character a lot of gravitas, Clayton’s performance is more understated. There are times when the character comes across as if they don’t really care about the film’s events, but in my opinion, this makes the Priest feel more intimidating. I like the idea of this character as being such a powerful deity who views everything else as meaningless. These details make the character feel scary without being a mustache-twirling villain.

Speaking of which, the excessive violence of the original is mostly gone from this film. Granted, “Hellraiser” is still plenty violent, but it feels more grounded in comparison to the original’s scenes of characters being torn up into chunks. This film’s story is more grounded than Barker’s gothic dark romance, so over-the-top violence would feel out of place. If anything, I’d argue that this film’s violence is less focused on the gore and more on the characters’ terror. The film is still graphic, and thankfully a lot of the violence seems to have been done with practical effects, but it still makes a point to make sure that the violence isn’t necessarily the focus.

Another big strength of “Hellraiser” is its characters. I found Riley to be a particularly interesting protagonist to follow, which is aided by A’zion’s very realistic performance. On the other end of the spectrum, Višnjić’s sadistic businessman Voight is a solid antagonist, and the actor plays him with a perfect mix of camp and menace. The rest of the actors/characters are good enough for what the movie is going for, and there isn’t really anything else to say about them.

“Hellraiser” is easily my favorite horror film of the year. While I still had some issues, I found Bruckner’s take on the tale to be delightful enough to watch three times over the course of 24 hours. It has a fantastic production design, disgusting practical effects, fantastic makeup, great performances, creepy music and a mostly solid script. I recommend this film to any horror fan, regardless of whether or not you’ve watched Clive Barker’s original.

RATING: 8/10