Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 2005 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 22nd, 2011
Evil goes online
I always got a thrill every time a Miramax film was critically acclaimed. Sure Miramax had some hits with films like Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient, but for every hit they had to buy a dozen films at exorbitant prices. It wasn't really a sustainable model, and what most of the arthouse crowd didn't realize is that Miramax was being kept in the black by its partner company, Dimension. Without films like Scary Movie and the endless franchises Dimension took over (like Halloween and Hellraiser), Miramax might not have survived as long as it did. Honestly, that's all that excuses some of the later entries in those franchises. Hellraiser: Hellworld is a perfect example. It's a decent little generic horror film straight out of the Nineties Dimension playbook, but it succeeds in only bleeding Pinhead dry of whatever scare factor he might have still possessed after six sequels.
Hellraiser: Hellworld takes place in a universe where Hellraiser has been spun off into a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing game. The film opens at the funeral of a man who got a little too into the game, with his friends giving it up as a result. Fast forward a little bit, and someone is advertising a party for players of the game at an isolated mansion. The friends decide to go to the party, but things go horribly wrong as they're separated and picked off one by one.
I'm not sure about the other direct-to-video Hellraiser films, but the extras for this film reveal that it did indeed start life as another project entirely. Those who make it through the whole film will find it very easy to believe. Hellworld had the potential to be a really creepy story, bringing the Hellraiser mythology into the twenty-first century with some mind-bending plot twists courtesy of a videogame. Instead, we get a haunted house tale with some guilt/revenge overtones with the Cenobites awkwardly grafted on.
Which is a total shame. The film promises so much with its tagline of "Evil goes online," and Pinhead in cyberspace is still an intriguing premise. On the flip side, without all the Cenobite stuff, Hellworld would be a decently creepy take on the haunted house genre. Instead, the haunted house stuff feels underutilized as fans wait for the next peek at a Cenobite, and the Cenobites seem kinda sad stuffed into the already overflowing haunted-house plot. The tragedy is only emphasized by the fact that the film is competently made, from the gore effects to the film's visual scheme.
Actors, apparently, have to eat, and despite the lower budget of this sequel, the filmmakers managed to snag some serious talent in front of the camera. Lance Henriksen (Millennium) plays the host of the Hellworld party with his usual gravity, a gravity that far outstrips what the writers put into the character. Katherine Wennick (Bones) plays the plucky heroine who is initially reluctant to go to the party but who rises admirably to the challenges of the house. Khary Payton (General Hospital) deserves a shout out as the comical ethnic sidekick these films love to offer up. He meets the usual fate, but he's good natured about it until the end.
Hellraiser: Hellworld gets a decent DVD re-release. The anamorphic transfer is okay; for such a dark film I would have liked a bit more detail in the shadow. However, overall the image looks fine, with good saturation and little artefacting. The 5.1 track does fine with the film's dialogue, and the surrounds kick in a bit here and there for atmosphere. Extras include a short (13 minute) making of featurette with interviews and behind the scenes footage, and a commentary with the director, writer, makeup FX designer, and producer. The commentary is a lively affair, with lots of information on the production of the film as well as its genesis in a non-Hellraiser project.
Hellraiser: Hellworld may be the best of the direct-to-video sequels to the Hellraiser franchise, but that's only because it's a decent little flick without the Cenobites. It's a shame the producers felt the need to shoehorn what would have been an okay fright flick into their franchise, but the blood, gore, and sex work well enough with Pinhead and his pals that this one is at least worth a rental for fans of the franchise.
Guilty of mediocrity.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R