Friday, 16 February 2018

Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005)

Firstly, whoever is designing these covers has given up trying. Secondly, Pinhead is starting to look like Kryten from Red Dwarf. And thirdly, what kind of name is Deader?


This is by far the most forgettable episode so far, once again, the screenplay not starting out as a Hellraiser story, but being adapted. Directed once again by Rick Bota, Deader begins with London reporter Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer - General Hospital) being sent to Budapest to investigate a death cult - The Deaders (!).  Winters (Paul Rhys - Being Human) the leader of the cult is supposed to be able to bring the dead back to life, as evidenced with a video. At this point in the franchise, who knows where the plot may take us? Arriving in Budapest, Amy uncovers one of the cult, dead, holding onto the Lament Configuration. Surely...this isn't...going to be...a proper Hell-, Oh wait. Never mind.

Kari Wuhrer and a dead person.

Amy flees the apartment complex leaving the corpse behind, returns to her hotel room and solves the puzzle box. The chains are unleashed from the box! There's a vision of someone... (?). Pinhead is heard. He warns her of danger... then she what, wakes up? Was it a dream? Is she - like the last two movies - in Hell now?

No such luck. Amy follows leads to meet with the Deaders and through convoluted exposition - her father was abusive, and such - she is stabbed, presumably to death, and returned by Winters. Then Pinhead turns up, announcing that Winters is of the bloodline of LeMarchant, is evil, and is, I don't know, stepping on his "hell toes"? What? Pinhead then kills everyone except Amy, who kills herself.

Um. Fin?

Doug Bradley

Okay, so I've given up on Hellraiser being about puzzle boxes and the ferryman to hell by now. This "episode" brings little cenobite. I feel that somewhere in the lost story there was probably a good film in here. Conceptually a cult that can bring back the dead isn't a bad idea. Reporters running them down is perhaps a little convenient, but I'd watch it. But levered in, again, is the Hellraiser mythos.

There is some hope in here. The scene where Amy finds the puzzle box in the hand of the corpse of Marla is pretty effective. It's...disturbing. As Hellraiser should be. One of the leads that Amy follows is to a subway train that is in a state of constant party. The first visitation shows excess. Lust. Sex. Drugs. Perversion. It's over the top. Scenes unnecessarily depicting debauchery, sure, but at least in the same vein of Hellraiser. Just, misguided. The second visitation? Everyone's dead. Everyone. It's probably the most Hellraisery scene.

But then there is everything else.

Paul Rhys (and the Deaders)

Initially, there is promise. But once Amy hits Budapest the story tanks. The acting is uninspiring, and the direction bland. Linking Winters to LeMarchant is cheap. Having Pinhead point out that he's overstepping the line is silly. The leverage of the original four movies is long lost in time, and trying to tie this to them is a desperate effort in fruitlessness.

The cenobites look cool.  Didn't expect that, did you? They do. Awesome. Shame they're completely wasted in a film that has nothing to do with Hellraiser.


Hopefully the next one will be better.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

For the Love of Shorts: The Top of the Stairs: Agatha (2017)

A young orphan girl must feed a mysterious woman at the top of the stairs in order to earn her keep.

With outstanding direction from Timothy Vandenberg, and staring Louise Ogle (one to watch), this week we have the excellent Agatha.

It's creepy for sure.

Monday, 12 February 2018

HomeSick (2015)



Ambitious cello student Jessica receives the invitation to an international contest. A great opportunity - but at the same time enormous pressure. Stress begins to gnaw on Jessica's everyday life and soon reality and imagination blur.


HomeSick is listed as a psychodrama/arthouse-thriller - and before watching I wasn't sure what I was going to get. Now I know, I think the description suits.

The film begins with Jessica and her partner Lorenz moving into a new apartment. He has a day job, and she is a budding cellist, having just be nominated to take part in an international competition. They're happy. In love. Things couldn't be better. On the first night in their new house, well after midnight, their loud music disturbs their neighbors who complain. And from there the nightmare begins.

Jessica begins to see the neighbors spying on her. Odd events occur. Jessica is scared, and the goosebumps appear. Lorenz sees none of it - and we, the audience become drawn into the nightmare.

From the beginning of the film something seems askew. The camera work obscures certain parts of the apartment, making it feel alien. Nothing feels...right. At one point within the movie I tried to work out the layout of the apartment and the neighbors apartment and where one window overlooks another didn't seem plausible. The walls are all off-white. The living space has no personality. The furnishings are sparse. I reminisced of The Shining in direction and set design, and Rosemary's Baby in feel.

And as Jessica becomes more frightened, it becomes apparent that she is the only one who can see it.

And by the midpoint, Jessica is sure that the neighbors are trying to get her and her partner to leave. And at this point I will leave the plot. No spoilers here.

With long drawn episodes of Jessica alone in the apartment, it falls to her to carry large parts of the film. Esther Maria Pietsch (Reality Check) does a relatively good job - she is expressive enough to engage with an audience without vocals - and she portrayed the character well. Matthias Lier (The Story of the Green Line) as Lorenz is the grounding for the tale. He is the non-believer, the voice of reason. He is very good as the "suffering" boyfriend, parrying each of Jessica's claims with a positive explanation. Outstanding performance must however go to Tatja Seibt (Dark), the neighbor upstairs - Hilde - the tormentor.

It's a clever film, for sure. It's setting is largely two rooms and a stairwell. It challenges the viewers expectation sneakily - events forgotten, suddenly becoming important. Most of that must go to the screenwriter and director, Jakob M. Erwa (Center of My World).

Having watched it I felt wrung-out. It's not a fun watch. It's taut and disturbing. The ending will likely leave you horrified, and wanting to fathom meaning. I know it's best to avoid the term horror these days for fear of alienating an audience. But this is horror - and it subverts the genre. In places it is mortifying. Others sickening. It's a hard watch. That doesn't make it less enjoyable, but some may find it too much come for the final act.

For those willing - or able - to confront the final act it is worth it. The twist is exceptionally well done, and I can usually guess them - this one I didn't see coming.

HomeSick is available today on DVD and VOD:  

Friday, 9 February 2018

Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2002)

Why is Pinhead a floating space head now? Come on Miramax.

Bam! Kirsty Cotton is back. Opening scene. Direct sequel to H2, no doubt. No. Doubt. It's not. Well, it is, but it's post H4 so...

Kirsty and her husband, Trevor (Dean Winters - Rescue Me), are travelling down a highway - clearly there are some marital issues - when Trevor loses control and the car goes over a bridge into a river. Trevor escapes, but Kirsty is dragged down into the water locked within the car. Oh. Um, Kirsty's dead, forget I spoke.

When Trevor awakens in hospital with amnesia, Kirsty is missing. He says she must have died, the police say the car door was open so she's a missing person. Trevor might be mixed up some other murders too. Shit, this is another H5, isn't it? And basically, the movie dips into unnecessary complexity and plot meandering now. So, (deep breath) Trevor gave the Lament Configuration to his wife as a wedding anniversary gift (unknowingly - apparently), he's having an affair with his boss, then she dies and he's a suspect, There's a lot of death followed by waking up. Can you see a pattern between this and Inferno?

Ashley Lawrence / Dean Winters

In the conclusion of the film, when Trevor goes to identify the body of Kirsty, he is cornered by Pinhead, who reveals that Kirsty traded her soul for that of five others, murdering everyone in the film that Trevor was suspected of, and in fact, Trevor himself, who has been in Hell since the car accident at the start.

Cut to Kirsty and the police as the car is dragged out of the water, with Trevor apparently having "killed himself" while driving, with the same gun that killed everyone else.

The end.

You've seen Carnival of Souls (1962), right? So Hellraiser has become a remake of a fifty year old film? Really. Fine. So, the films protagonist, Trevor, is unlikable, and now we know. No. Hellraiser can't pull off an unlikable main character. Kirsty Cotton, the protagonist of the first movies is now a villain, murdering left, right, and center. No cenobites in this movie killed anyone. Is anyone surprised that the script for this movie wasn't a Hellraiser script originally, also? I hope lessons were learned.

Doug Bradley, awesome as ever.

Director, Rick Bota, sticks around for the next two installments. I can't say the direction was bad, but the film suffers in slews from the same as Inferno. Too much plot. Not enough lore. The point seems missed. Honestly, Ashley Lawrence is good. Doug Bradly is good. Even Dean Winters is good, but Hellseeker is a mess of plot, with Hellraiser sinking further from the source material.

There is a distinct lacking of Hellraiserness within the runtime. By the time I hit Hellseeker I was beginning to wonder if any of the film makers had seen the original movie.

It's not scary. There is little gore. The cenobites are bystanders. Established hero's are now villains. The story line is ripped from another film. No substance. No style.

It's watchable, just. It's not Hellraiser though.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

For the Love of Shorts: Look-See Part 1 / 2 / 3 (2017)

Starring Belinda Gosbee, Gwen Carole, Presley Reese, Jeremiah Hahn, and Sean Brison, directed by Landon Stahmer, it doesn't get much better than this. Below are the three segments of the Look-See, all released in 2017.

It's a joy to still be scared by film.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Hellraiser V: Inferno (2000)

Here we begin the journey into "unrelated" Hellraiser movies, turning the series into more of a collection of movies, an anthology, perhaps. Even the poster states "Another terrifying chapter in the Hellraiser legacy".

And what a mixed bag they are.

As Inferno is unrelated to the previous movie, we'll ignore that between present day and 2127, Pinhead was seen to be bumbling around with Angelique and the Twins. So don't mention that. Or, actually, anything that the series has taught us to date. We begin with Det. Joseph Thorne (Craig Scheffer - Night Breed), a police officer who is cheating on his wife, on the take, ready to frame his partner...the list really does go on. Our protagonist is a dick. Anyway, he investigates a crime scene when he finds the Lament Configuration, takes it, and after sleeping with prostitute Daphne in a motel room, opens it. Okay, so we're Hellraisering a little quicker. That's always a win.

Opening the box Thorne is suddenly somewhere else, being sexually traumatized by cenobites Wire Twin #1 and Wire Twin #2 (not to be confused with the twins from the previous movie) - meets with Chatterer (who is now sans legs) and bumps into Pinhead. When Pinhead attacks, Thorne awakens on the floor of the bathroom where he opened the box. Not actually a bad start.

Craig Scheffer and a very different set of twins

Sadly from here to plunges into a mess. Thorne returns to work, taking a call from Daphne screaming that she's in some sort of trouble. Thorne and partner Det. Tony Nenonen (Nicholas Turturro - NYPD Blue) return to the motel to investigate and find the woman dead. Thorne pursuades Nenonen not to tell anyone that he was there the night before, but plants evidence that could frame his partner later, should he need to. Following clues found at the scene, Thorne discovers that the killer is a man named The Engineer.

They then cat and mouse for a large chunk of the movie. The Engineer is known well by a psychiatrist, Dr. Gregory. The Engineer kills Thorne's informant. Thorne has strange dreams and visions of The Engineer killing his parents, and his wife and child.

When we reach conclusion, Pinhead reveals himself, to explain that The Engineer is Thorne, well, actually everyone is Thorne...sort of, and Thorne has been in Hell since he opened the box at the beginning of the movie being punished for past deeds. Pinhead then tears Thorne apart with his chains, and the whole process starts again. Sort of, purgatory.

Pinhead is unimpressed

The main problem Inferno suffers from is the lack of simplicity of the story. Complex narrative is fine, but this film is not complex, it's unnecessarily complicated, and at times the film makers seem to be trying not to tell the viewer things. Sadly, it doesn't work. It's a known fact that Inferno was never written to be a Hellraiser movie, and the studio saved money on levering in Hellraiser mythos into an unrelated work. That isn't going to help. But it also introduces new problems. Pinhead is now some sort of moral guardian. He's punishing Thorne for his acts - that's not what cenobites do.

The film starts well enough. It's not easy pulling off a movie with an unlikable protagonist, but we never find out if this film was going to do it because it devolves so quickly into a mess. And it had some real potential. The cenobites pull it back from the silly creations of the last two movies and are chillingly scary. Scheffer acts better than he has done at other times. The effects are good. Turturro is good. Director Scott Derrickson went on to write and direct the amazing Sinister (and wrote Marvel's Dr. Strange), Bradley does his Pinhead.

But it's not quite enough. And it's a real same.

It's worth watching with a beer, but adds nothing to Barker's creations, and don't try too hard to follow it.

Oh, and if you look closely, Pinhead is naked on the poster. Um, what?

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

For the Love of Shorts: Geppetto (2018)

Things take a turn for the creepy in this weeks short. Directed by Hans Stjernsw√§rd, and starring Roy Allen III, a turn on the Pinocchio is in order.

Very taught, indeed.