23rd Mar2023

‘Hellraiser’ DVD Review

by Guest

Stars: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn | Written by Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski | Directed by David Bruckner

A young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.

Ever since first seeing The Ritual back in 2017, it’s been crystal clear to me that filmmaker David Bruckner is one of the best of our time. His horror films are legitimately terrifying and manage to tackle themes such as grief, loss, and trauma in shockingly powerful ways. My favourite film of 2021 was The Night House, directed by Bruckner masterfully. On the surface, it’s essentially a creepy movie about a woman who may or may not be dealing with some paranormal, otherworldly stuff in her complexly designed house, but underneath it all, it’s really a movie about how suffocating trauma can be.

That’s why when I found out that Bruckner would be directing a Hellraiser reboot, I was beyond ecstatic. They really couldn’t have chosen a better guy for the job, in my eyes. Having now seen the film, I will admit that it’s a little disappointing. It’s still a really good movie, but it’s easily the weakest of his directorial efforts so far. I’ve given The Ritual and The Night House my perfect rating when they came out, but sadly, the same rating will not be given out this time.

The biggest issue with this new reboot is just how dreadfully boring the first act is. Seriously. There was a brief moment where I was concerned that the entire movie was going to be like the first act – melancholy, unstylish, and bland. Nothing really happens. We follow a young woman who is an extreme drug addict and… that’s really it for a long while. Thankfully, the second act kicks into gear afterwards and things get immediately more interesting. Bruckner definitely knew what to do with the rest of the movie which was definitely a delight to discover. All of the character development on display here is fantastic and he manages to dive deep into Hellraiser lore which is sure to please hardcore fans of this decade-spanning franchise.

It’s also the most complex entry in the series, for better and for worse. It’s clear that screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (who previously worked with Bruckner on Night House) had a ton of huge, ambitious ideas and are fans of Hellraiser and its lore. But at the same time, it can be a little overwhelming at times, having to take it all in. This is definitely one of those movies where you’re going to want to look up some “ending explained” style articles on the internet after the credits roll. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but I do wish this movie was a little more concise in certain areas.

Another thing this movie has going for it is that it’s easily the best-looking entry in the entire franchise. Bruckner’s films always look staggeringly beautiful and this one is, thankfully, not an exception to the rule. Eli Born‘s cinematography is truly breathtaking. Who knew a movie about extra-dimensional demonic beings could look so gorgeous?

The performances across the board here are also remarkable, notably Odessa A’zion as the lead protagonist Riley McKendry, who is easily the most interesting human character in this franchise as well. Jamie Clayton portrays the iconic character Pinhead / The Priest, and she does a wonderful job stepping into the shoes of such an iconic, beloved character.

There’s a whole bunch of things to love about this new Hellraiser movie even if it suffers from a really slow and bad first act. It’s not the masterpiece that I was expecting to see from Bruckner, but it’s certainly still a great movie that is worth your time. Seek it out.

***½  3.5/5

Despite a dreadfully slow first act, David Bruckner’s Hellraiser is a brilliantly complex, multi-layered, and legitimately unsettling supernatural horror film that will leave you haunted. The film is released on DVD on March 27th courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.


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