Based on the Clive Barker novel The Hellbound Heart, David Bruckner’s Hellraiser (2022) takes the original concepts of addiction, pleasure, and pain and tries to update them for Gen-Z. However, the initial ideas get lost in translation, losing all of what makes the 1987 film, starring Doug Bradley, so fresh, fringe, and meaningful. The movie starts promising enough, but by the third act, tricks, tropes, and story issues pile on, and becomes too much to bear. However, some redeeming qualities include Jamie Clayton, the cenobite costumes, make-up, and set design.
Riley (Odessa A’zion) is trying to stay sober by staying with her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) and his partner Colin (Adam Faison). But the stint doesn’t last long as now she’s with Trevor (Drew Starkey), breaking into the abandoned Voight manor to steal a strange golden box called The Lament Configuration box that might be of some value. With the celebration of her stolen item, it’s right back to boozing. She eventually gets caught by her brother and is thrown out of the apartment with the box.
Riley takes her things and camps out at the local playground, pops four pills, and begins to play around with the box. She gets the contraption to quickly open. She begins hallucinating as the pills kick in, seeing strange figures and apparitions. Feeling guilty, Matt hits the streets looking for his sister, and when he finds her laid out on the park asphalt, he comes in contact with the configuration, and things go downhill for everyone close to the siblings.
In a video essay created by Youtube page WhatisAntiLogic? they break down why Clive Barker’s 1987 film is an allegory for drug addiction and BDSM. Writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski aims to make the same connection with Riley, but the idea never takes true form like in the first movie. The Lament Configuration isn’t treated like the mystery it’s supposed to be in this. The box should be like a drug to her. Every time she uses the box, it’s like getting a hit. Unfortunately, the leads are written as dunces, incapable of being rational. They yell, fumble, and tumble about that it borders on slapstick comedy.
The only thing about this reboot that feels new is Clayton, who is incredible as The Priest/Pinhead. The costume/character look gets an upgrade that’s much more elegant, domineering, and intricate, with added melodic vocal effects that give the horror icon a different sound. The look of the Cenobites has also improved. Their costumes and makeup define their personalities. The group isn’t portrayed in gray but includes color in their devilish appearance that highlights the artist endeavors of those who made these looks come alive
Hellraiser 2022 is a lackluster attempt to revive a stagnant franchise. The story is prime for exploration and a way to push the story to its limits, but the script chooses to stay in the safe zone. This limitation prevents the film from standing on its own and standing out amongst the previous eight films (yes, Hellraiser has 10 movies previous to this one). Nothing is more disappointing than another reboot that brought nothing to the table.