Hellraiser: Revelations

3 out of 5

Directed by: Victor Garcia

No, Hellraiser: Revelations (the franchise’s ninth entry) is not a great movie.  But it’s not a horrible one – certainly not as bad as its reasons for existing suggest it should be – and it’s actually surprisingly good given those same reasons, and its timing (three weeks!) and budget ($300,000!) limitations.

Besides the red flags of the film’s production (which I’ll get in to momentarily), the way the movie opens will probably also cause a restless horror fan to squirm with boredom and some disgust with the genre’s indulgences: a “found footage” style of two sex-obsessed teens (Nick Eversman, Jay Gillespie) discussing their wild road trip to Mexico with the apparently sole goal of getting the Sex.  And also wasted!  Let’s swear and talk about sex some more and film it!

Although the movie still dips into this framing, it becomes a bit more justified: the footage was part of the recovered leftovers from the two boys’ disappearances, which is being viewed by the mother of one of the boys at a later point, when their two families – two couples, and one daughter (Tracey Fairaway) who was dating one of the boys – have convened to discuss their vanishing.  We cut occasionally back to the footage, just so the families can have some reason to be aware of the curious box also included in the recovered belongings, but otherwise this is mostly (thankfully) dropped in favor of flashbacks to the kids’ time in Mexico, which includes having sex with prostitutes and drugs, and then the promise of “ultimate pleasures” when a stranger offers them the box.  In the present, the daughter of course also opens the box, leading to Pinhead and chains.

Hellraiser: Revelations was made simply to maintain rights on the HR franchise.  Minimal money and time was given to the production for exactly that reason: just make a movie so we can continue making Hellraiser movies if we want to.  Revelations certainly isn’t the first film to be made under such conditions, and won’t be the last, but it’s a frustrating practice all the same.  And the movie does bear the marks of that made-on-the-cheap mentality, with lazy nudity and repeated and stretched-out sequences that are just there for fill-the-seats “thrills” and to barely push the runtime to a feature length of 75 minutes.  There’s also the conspicuous lack of Doug Bradley as Pinhead (who can’t have truly objected to the “quality” of the flick, given the questionable value of the preceding entries, but moreso the lack of a quality paycheck – which is certainly an acceptable reason), and while I think the combo of Stephan Smith Collins as the lead Cenobite, voiced by a Bradley-impersonating Fred Tatasciore do their best, it’s… weird.  Collins is somewhat young and baby-faced looking and doesn’t fill the suit well, and the dubbing is pretty well done but still dubbing.  Another checkbox in the “cheap and quick” category.

But then there’s the clear efforts of director Victor Garcia and writer Gary J. Tunnicliffe to actually make this a legitimate Hellraiser movie, using Barker’s themes / ideas from his flick and story, and that’s where the entry gains back a lot of ground.  The ‘engineer’ returns, officially unseen since the first Hellraiser, I think, and while the segueway from humping teens to box-obsessives is definitely a bit random, it’s not any moreso than Frank’s descent in that initial movie; some of Revelations elements could even be said to form a loose remake of that film.  Garcia and Tunnicliffe also nudge the film further down the Hellish road than many of the vagaries of previous flicks by including a couple of taboo concepts, and spent the money they did have on some pretty great (and gross!) makeup effects, and maybe the best, smoothest looking Lament Configuration opening / closing animations yet.

So have we arrived at a good movie yet?  Nnnno, but again, it’s far from being a bad one – the camerawork, performances, and production-design-with-what-they-had are all acceptable – and it’s perhaps a better Hellraiser movie than the last few DTV entries, which were all repurposed scripts.  So call it a two-star, which I’m then bumping up to a three, given the efforts of the creative team to actually try and deliver something franchise satisfactory when the producers likely would’ve accepted filming a dumpster fire for 90 minutes, with cutaways to Pinhead, as long as they could maintain the HR rights.