Fantastic Fest 2022: HELLRAISER

Fantastic Fest’s second secret screening was an actual feature film that serves as a reboot to the Hellraiser franchise. Now, this was one particular rumor that rang true, and going into this movie, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. While I pride myself as a film critic who has seen a lot of movies, I had not seen a single Hellraiser movie prior to this one. Well, I must say that I very much enjoyed and appreciated this new take on Hellraiser, and after doing so, I watched the very first installment in this franchise. After considering what I experienced with both films, I think that this reboot is a great way to relaunch a new series of movies that should appeal to both fans of the older movies and people discovering this world for the first time.

For fans familiar with Clive Barker’s world of Hellraiser, they know very well that this horror franchise deals with the difference between pleasure and pain. It is a concept that is imbedded within the lifestyle of BDSM. And I can definitely see that translates well within the original movie. As for this latest feature, I see a much more complex view, as the story revolves around a protagonist struggling with addiction. Because of this spin on this world, the concepts of pleasure and pain work on much deeper levels and make this installment have much more meaning and gravity. That said, I found myself very much invested in this movie and how this journey would play out.

Odessa A’zion stars as Riley McKendry, an addict struggling to maintain a life free of substance abuse. In her twelve-step program, she encounters a fellow addict named Trevor (Drew Starkey), a man who has a scheme to score some big cash. While Riley relates to and trusts Trevor, she obviously has some reservations regarding his plans to break into a storage facility that has a particular “treasure” sought by someone familiar with it. As it turns out, the particular, desired item is an elaborate puzzle box that seems to have some supernatural powers. As Riley discovers, this box connects her with an extraordinary world of pain she did not anticipate.

Directed by David Bruckner, this new Hellraiser proves to be a thrilling and riveting horror fest that fans of the original film franchise should appreciate. The writers of the movie have succeeded in delivering a brand new vision of this universe and Bruckner’s crew succeed in creating a world that is so frightening and disturbing in all of the best ways. After watching the original Hellraiser movie, I feel that the film refrains from what could have been an extraordinary introduction to this world. This is where the new movie succeeds. As someone who has never experienced a Hellraiser movie, I was totally interested and invested in this story and the characters.

My only complaint regarding the film has to do with some of the cast members who lack the acting chops to completely pull this off superbly. The only exception is Jaime Clayton, who assumes the mantle of Pinhead, and it is a very exciting new take on the character. Nevertheless, the other actors perform well enough to make this movie work. And I do sincerely hope that this installment leads to more further episodes, perhaps with better actors. If this movie is successful enough to warrant sequels, I would love to see David Bruckner helm another installment or two, or more, as he has a wonderful grasp and take on this world.

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