2 out of 5
Directed by: Rick Bota
Deader is, for me, fully what I was expecting when starting to trawl into these latter, DTV Hellraiser entries. Inferno had considerations for theater before budgetary constraints relegated it to video, but it was a pretty arty and moody piece thanks to a strong visual throughline from director Scott Derrickson; Hellseeker started to look and feel more like a “made for rentals” affair, but a strong central performance from its lead, and the inclusion of HR 1 and 2’s Ashley Laurence helped to keep it grounded.
Deader is, firstly, called Deader, which is, I guess, debatably better or worse or equally inscrutable next to any of the post-numbered Hellraiser subtitles, but it’s when we start getting in to “I guess this sounds like a horror movie” type title, even if it ends up having more legit plot ties than Hellseeker. Second, our ties to the franchise are now tenuous at best – there’s a box, and there’s a character, and there’s a Pinhead, but you can sense how tacked on these elements are, and you really need zippo former movie context anymore; “pain” and “pleasure” are fleeting mentions, as is Hell, even. Third – the thing is hardly of the same stylistic makeup as former Hellraisers; while we’re dealing with a very similar structure as Hellseeker, in that our main character (Kari Wuhrer) keeps experiencing looping visions after interacting with the Lament Configuration, it’s more of a typical thriller variety of hallucinations. Cenobites are in this thing for only glimpses.
On the plus side, director Rick Bota, besides some forced “cool” camera edits towards the start, and a pet peeve of using a snuff type flick (which introduces the “Deaders” – a sort of cult who kills and resurrects its members, which reporter Wuhrer goes to Budapest to investigate) that is shot and edited with multiple cameras, so not very convincingly snuffy, has more confidence here than in Hellseeker, and commits two admittedly really excellently tense scenes – one in a confined hallway; one extended, eh, stabbing – that had me clutching at the affected bodyparts on my own person. Kari is watchable in her role, and though it didn’t ultimately make much sense, I liked how Doug Bradley’s Pinhead was implemented as a kind of half warning / half villain. But the movie is stretched even thinner than the preceding entry, pretty much ending in plot developments and character additions once the Deaders are introduced, 15 minutes in. The final affectation of gore is okey dokey, for whatever that’s worth.
Overall, this probably would’ve been a more interesting flick had it not been wedged into the series.