(Hulu) HELLRAISER (1987) never needed a sequel. Like the best horror films, it said all it had to say — a paean to want and need and physical sensations and hedonism — and got the fuck out. However, Hollywood is never content to leave a well-crafted character design alone, so we ended up with over ten Pinhead — excuse me, The Priest — films.
I bailed after the second. Maybe there’s a gem in there somewhere. I wouldn’t know; I’ve spent enough time trying to mine gold from long-running franchises to realize it’s usually a fool’s errand.
Reboots are another thing entirely, and a reboot of a singular BDSM horror film over thirty years old certainly intrigued me, especially since they recast Pinhead — excuse me again, The Priest — with SENSE8’s Jamie Clayton.
Unfortunately, they placed it in the hands of stolid David S. Goyer, then punted it to the creators of THE NIGHT HOUSE — a mighty fine film, but an incredibly icy work. The end result is a defanged property, almost completely removed from the messy, horny entity of its origin. This is just another slasher in different makeup.
So why am I recommending it? It is a visual marvel, a literal puzzle-box-in-a-puzzle-box. The decision to model the mansion around the original HELLRAISER puzzle box is inspired and expertly handled. The new puzzle box, and the explications regarding its transformations? There’s a lot going on there! Also, Odessa A’zion is amazing as the lead, all wild eyes and curls and smart and savvy while also being a fuck-up! It’s a fun time!
However, it’s a dull echo of the original film. There’s no sensuality; it’s simply a basic slasher film that leans a tad more into flayed flesh for scarlet fashions. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I wish that for once someone would embrace Barker’s original vision.