Our review of The Hellraiser Collection, published October 31st, 2011, is also available.
Evil. Deadly. Immortal.
Fans rejoice! Bob Vila's worst enemy is back—the demonic Pinhead—and he's come for your soul! Well, actually he's come to reap the profits of straight-to-video schlock, but who's keeping count? Apparently Buena Vista, since they're the goons who decided to pick up this franchise a few sequels back. Like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers, old Pinhead (fun fact: his last name is "Manchowski") can't be stopped by mere electrocution or an axe to the noggin, and here's further proof with Hellraiser: Hellseeker, the sixth in the horror series that has most definitely worn out its welcome. Hellraiser: Hellseeker is now on DVD, just in time for my favorite holiday—Halloween!
Facts of the Case
Kristy Cotton (Ashley Lawrence) fought Pinhead (Doug Bradley) years ago in a film of a considerably higher budget. Now nail-face is back to wreck havoc on earth and Kristy is the only one who can stop him! After Kristy and her husband Trevor (Dean Winters, TV's Oz) are involved in a freak car accident, Kristy is assumed dead or missing while Trevor seems to be suffering from head injuries, amnesia and some really weird dreams/hallucinations. While Trevor tries to make sense of the tragedy and find out what really happened to his beloved Kristy, Pinhead returns to make his life generally miserable. As Trevor digs deeper and deeper into his past, he finds a terror so unrelenting that…it, err…well, uh, I don't know. I've grown tired of making this movie sound like it's really intriguing or scary. Let's just all be up front and honest, okay? Hellraiser: Hellseeker blows…big time.
Let's do a little rundown of all the previous Hellraiser films, shall we?
• Hellraiser: Interesting little movie. Sick, but fairly imaginative and oddly entertaining.
• Hellbound: Hellraiser II: In and of itself also pretty weird, but at least it's entertaining.
• Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth: Not great, not terrible. Just kinda there.
• Hellraiser: Bloodline: Everyone thought it was horrid. Not as bad as I anticipated.
• Hellraiser: Inferno: Sucked sweaty monkey nads. A lot.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker continues the downward spiral started by Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth and peaking (or hitting rock bottom, if you will) with the unbelievably rancid Hellraiser: Inferno. Hellraiser: Inferno made the critical mistake of taking the film's most popular centerpiece—Pinhead—and giving him all of about three minutes of screen time. The rest of the film we were treated to star Craig Sheffer (Deep Core) looking tired and bored in a movie that was equally as tiring and boring. Hellraiser: Hellseeker is not as bad as Inferno, though it's snapping pretty close to its heels.
Consumers: beware of any DVD that features the statement "Better than the original…more horror, thrills & suspense!" and doesn't credit anyone to the quote! This means the studio had a lackey make up this BS blurb to suck you into their manipulative marketing web. Hellraiser: Hellseeker is not thrilling, includes only a mild amount of horror, and is about as suspenseful as watching an episode of Murder, She Wrote with the sound turned off. The plot is so incoherent and jumbled that it borders on obscenity. One "Phew, it's only a dream!" sequence I can handle. Two is pushing it. Over fifteen starts to get on my nerves. By about the twentieth dream sequence I was starting to wish the hour and a half I watched Hellraiser: Hellseeker had also been a dream sequence.
When I first heard the rumblings about a sixth Hellraiser movie, which was to feature original star Ashley Lawrence (who has grown up to be quite a fetching lady), I'll admit I was a bit intrigued. "Maybe," I thought to myself, "we'll finally get back to the basics of what made the first two films decent." Ha! I should have known better than to waste precious time on such wishful thinking! Poor Lawrence is only on screen for about 1/4 of the film, then disappears to let Dean Winters wander around while rubbing his head and moan about how bad his headaches are. Director of photography John Drake nobly attempts making the visuals appear in the same vein of Se7en or Panic Room (predominate grays and blues), but ultimately it matters little if there's no good story behind it. While I can commend director Rick Bota for trying to do something different with the material, the fact remains that fans of horror films (with over three sequels) rarely see them for deviation—familiarity is the key and something the filmmakers didn't keep in mind.
As for the real star—Mr. Evil himself, Pinhead—he's just not as scary as he was fifteen years ago. Bradley has gotten older and paunchier, and it sure does show (note to Mr. Bradley's agent: no more snacking at the catering booth). Though Pinhead is the main baddie in these movies, it's sad to see some of the weirder and grosser Cenobites pushed to the sidelines while Bradley's character spouts such inane dialogue as "You unleashed the power. There is no turning back." Writing like this sends shivers up my spines, but for all the wrong reasons. If you feel like you must watch a movie dealing with people's flesh being torn off or eyeballs shooting from their sockets, try either the original film or the first sequel. Otherwise, you'll feel as if someone was slowly pounding nails into your head for 90 very long minutes.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer for this film is better than expected for a straight-to-video title, though it's still nothing to write home about. Some of the colors have an overly saturated look (not including the intentional drab gray and blues), while a small amount of edge enhancement and grain pops up once in a great while. Overall this is a passable, if somewhat lackluster transfer. Then again, what do you expect from a horror movie with the word "hell" in the title not once, but twice?
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and is also serviceable, if only mildly interesting. I was a little surprised to find this track void of any substantial surround sounds or directional effects. There are a few, though they often seem to be few and far between. Otherwise this sound mix is fine with the cheesy dialogue, clinking effects, and bombastic music free of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Oh, I see how it is. A great horror movie like Candyman is completely ignored, while sludge like Hellraiser: Hellseeker is treated to a batch of meaty extras. Whoever said "life isn't fair" sure wasn't kidding. Anyhow, for those who actually did like this movie, Dimension has thrown on a few extras, starting with a commentary track by director Rick Bota. It's obvious that Bota has an affinity for the series and seems to really enjoy the movie he's made (though there's much allusion to alternate sequences, opening titles, et cetera). Overall this is a fairly informative commentary for those who like this movie (all six of 'ya).
Next up are three alternate scenes ("Old Man and Trevor," "Kirsty Confronts Trevor" and "Pinhead Talks to Kristy") with optional commentary by the director. None of these scenes would have added much to the final film, though it was slightly interesting to see Doug Bradley ("Pinhead") as a weird old man.
A two-minute "Visual Effects Walk-Thru" offers the viewer a chance to see how certain special effects were accomplished using computers. This was probably the best thing about this whole disc, and it's a shame is lasted on a few moments.
Finally, there are a fair number of trailers and promo spots for other Dimension horror films, though not a single one for Hellraiser: Hellseeker. Is that telling or what?
Hellraiser: Hellseeker is strictly for die hard fans of the series, and it's most likely that even they won't be thrilled with this latest entry into the never-ending saga of Pinhead and his adorably nipple-pierced friends.
Hellraiser: Hellseeker is not worth seeking out, even on a rainy day. Go rent something more uplifting, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
• Commentary by Director Rick Bota
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