Given the nature of the last four Hellraiser movies, I've felt for the past two weeks like I've been in one of them myself. Everything is disconnected, it all has vague connections to reality, I see hints of familiarity, but then, without warning, I find myself somewhere else with a sense of déjà vu and lost time and oh look, there's Pinhe--oh wait, he's gone again. And then the dream starts over, like watching an old 8mm film on which someone has spilled their Pepsi and the syrup from the drink has gummed up the works and then I leave the room to get a drink and I come back and oh look, there's Pinhe--oh wait, he's gone again. Then the dream starts over again, this time somewhere else and I'm surrounded by different people and oh look, there's Pinhe--dang, missed him again. But this time Lance Henrikson is there, so that's always good, at least. And Henry Cavill managing very well to NOT pull off a convincing or consistent American accent. All I can say is I hope he does better in THE MAN OF STEEL.
Anyway, so HELLRAISER: Hellworld is the 8th installment of this franchise and the 4th in a row to begin life as something other than a Hellraiser movie. Originally, Hellworld was a story by Joel Soisson called "Dark Can't Breathe." But apparently it's become the in thing to take a movie that's not a Hellraiser movie and make it into one anyway, like Smokey's mother in FRIDAY. "That's not enough." "Make it enough."
The story this time revolves around a group of friends of indeterminate age, a group of 5, the player, the black guy, the goth chick, the pretty girl, and the angry guy (usually this character is the nerd, and I have a feeling that Christopher Jacot's "Jake" character is definitely smarter than the rest of the gang, but in this story he's more angry than anything), all of whom are mourning the death of their friend Adam who died as a result of his addiction to an online game called Hellworld, which is basically a role-playing game centered around the Hellraiser mythology.
Two years after the funeral, the gang is still playing, and they all win invitations to a Hellworld party, held at the Leviathan House, and hosted by Lance Henrikson who is, as usual, 10 kinds of cool and 15 kinds of scary as sht!
The Host takes the gang around the house, filling them in on its history. It was the second crowning achievement of Philip LeMarchand and has been during its history both a convent and an insane asylum. Now it's just Hellworld party central. The Host gives everyone a faceless mask with a number printed across the forehead. Everyone gets cell phones. If you see someone amid the crowd you like, just dial the number on their forehead and sneak off somewhere to do whatever it is horny young people do in movies like this. Or rather in lesser movies, because dangit this is Hellraiser, and from the beginning this franchise has established itself as being something more than its contemporaries. How the mighty have fallen.
So the gang all go their separate ways, lose themselves in the crowd, and one by one begin to fall victim to the machinations of the Lament Configuration. Except, in this movie, the puzzle box, the Cenobites, Pinhead himself, it's all just part of a made-up mythology. So how can Pinhead be appearing to the "kids" only moments before they die?
The answer to this and other questions is FAR from original, but I have to admit, even knowing what it was before I watched the movie didn't ruin the experience for me. In fact, I probably liked it even more BECAUSE I knew ahead of time what was what. I think otherwise, if I'd gone into this movie cold, I would have simply dismissed it as one more reality-altering mind warp Hellraiser sequel. Instead, this one plays like a typical slasher movie, but with a very different climax and resolution. The payoff here works. It's a disappointing addition to the Hellraiser franchise, but as a movie in and of itself, I think it works. But really that just makes me wish I'd seen this as the "Dark Can't Breathe" story instead. I think I can figure out pretty much what details would have had to be changed to make the DCB to Hellraiser transition, and I can see what plot details were probably true to the original, and, yes, I think I'd have liked the original story better.
This is Rick Bota's third time directing a Hellraiser movie, and I think this is probably the best job he's done. He doesn't get any better a performance from this cast than he has either of the previous two movies (with the obvious exception of Dean Winters in Hellseeker), but at least he manages to make the real world/hell transitions a LOT smoother and less grating, which goes a long way.
Again, Doug Bradley has almost nothing to do in this movie--even LESS than he did in his 10 minutes of screentime in Deader--and it's getting really old. I could see some justification for the 5th movie being a retrofitted non-Hellraiser script if they felt it was time for another sequel but hadn't written one yet. Once I can understand. But 4 times? Come on, man, you mean to tell me there are NO actual Hellraiser scripts in Hollywood? Maybe something that returns the series to its roots, where the Cenobites were an actual force to be feared? I believe the original idea was those who opened the box were seeking to expand their understanding of the limits of pleasure and pain and the Cenobites were there to administer it. That was a Hell that intrigued me. But from Hellraiser 5-8 Hell is just a Mobius strip of bad dreams and comeuppance. Big friggin' deal. I want mythology, I want progression of the SERIES, I want consistency and continuity. I don't think that's asking too much.
HELLRAISER: Hellworld is an interesting idea, an okay movie, but it does absolutely nothing in helping to return the Hellraiser franchise to required-viewing status. But at least it had Lance Henrikson.