3 out of 5
Directed by: Rick Bota
We’ve arrived: the truly low budget, DTV Hellraisers. I mean, Inferno was both of those things, and actually lower budgeted than the estimated cost of Hellseeker – aka Hellraiser 6 – but Inferno started as a possible theatrical release, and followed Bloodlines’ attempts at revamping the HR mythology by shaking up the formula in its own way, even if that was only because the movie didn’t initially start as a Hellraiser sequel. I have seen some references to Hellseeker* also being adapted into the series, which I could buy, but the movie itself is much more faceless than Inferno, and so better suited to such retrofitting. And hilariously, at the same time it kinda sorta retells the same story as Inferno, just with less creativity, and then also gives up on trying to differentiate itself from other HRs by going back to the never-really-get-what-they’re-going-for pain and pleasure concepts – at least for one throwaway sentence – and the old standby of bringing back a classic character (Kirsty; played by Ashley Laurence) as a shortcut for bonafides. So while Inferno had a pretty terrible lead actor, and had some clear cost cutting, its energy and under-the-surface intelligence made it a coulda-been-a-contender franchise entry – that I quite liked. Hellseeker has a much better lead with Dean Winters – who can actually act, and succeeds in making us like an unlikeable character – and more money, and ties to the original, but you can just tell it’s a DTV flick.
…Uh, but, I quite liked it too!
Whether or not this was an original Hellraiser script, writers Carl V. Dupre and Tim Day and director Rick Bota follow the decisions of the better HR entries in relegating Pinhead and the Cenobites to supporting roles, and not making the movie strictly a gore / creature feature. The aforementioned pain and pleasure thing isn’t important at all, but most of the script does actually follow a thread regarding repeated mistakes, and personal Hells, which is as much in line with the series’ themes as is possible, given that no one’s ever been too clear on what those themes might really be beyond, like, black leather. The story itself is rather obvious – Trevor Gooden (Winters) searches for his wife (Laurence) after her body goes missing from a car crash, suffering memory less and headaches himself, and recalling, in pieces, nightmarish past events that suggest he’s maybe not the best of guys – but Winters plays the mix of confusion and dawning awareness well, and Bota and DP John Drake cast the whole flick in a sickly color palette, and off-kilter framing that plays into the movie’s B-vibe in a similar way to HR 1. That said, the “is this a dream?” shtick is pretty much all the movie has, using resequenced scenes to stretch the flick out to juuuust long enough and skimping on too much depth in favor of girls taking off their shirts and some pointless jump scares. But Pinhead’s final reveal is pretty arty, and the subsequent reveals of what’s-what are rolled out in a punchy and satisfying fashion. And I guess Gooden could be said to have been ‘seeking Hell?’
*Or maybe I found a really obvious reference on wikipedia, confirming this was a spec script, rewritten.