Friday, 16 March 2018

Where We Are At: Hellraiser

Something a little different this week. We have reviewed the whole Hellraiser franchise to date, and have now put down our thoughts on where it is at, and where it might go.


Oh, the suffering.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)


Detectives Sean and David Carter are on the case to find a gruesome serial killer terrorizing the city. Joining forces with Detective Christine Egerton, they dig deeper into a spiraling maze of horror that may not be of this world.


We're many years in since we had a Hellraiser movie that was supposed to be a Hellraiser movie. Is this obsolete. Irrelevant. In an age when desire has become amplified but where lust can be sated electronically, we need something more than just a wooden box?

55 Ludovico Place, Cricklewood, London, England.

The Cotton House.

I'm not going to use the term reboot, because I don't think it is (more on that in the "where this leaves us"), so I'll review this as a semi-continuation of the rest of the series. The film begins with Pinhead, now played by Paul T. Taylor (Super), discussing the state of affairs of Cenobites (see the quote above) with new character addition The Auditor, played by the Director himself, Gary J. Tunnicliffe (who has worked extensively with the franchise since part III). And it sort of fits. The two are discussing how the excess of the world post Y2K is a different place and how the lure of the box is no longer enough, and that they should seek out the worst of human kind. Then we are treated to 10 minutes of absolute squick, with Mr. Watkins (a child abuser/killer) being lured to a house, interrogated by the Auditor, processed by the Assessor, a verdict brought by the Jury, and then sentencing. All of which ends with Watkins being skinned alive by the Butcher and the Surgeon.

While having no direct connection to the events of the rest of the movie, it introduces the characters, gives us brief insight into what happens when you enter the Lament, and parallels the opening statement. "In an age when desire has become amplified but where lust can be sated electronically, we need something more than just a wooden box?" The scene is laid out on a platter to the viewer reminiscent of the opening of the original Hellraiser - it's new, it's different, and it is reviling. I remember seeing the original and being disgusted by it. This had the same feeling. It's different from "Hellraiser" because it has to be.

Times have changed.

Then we move to the story proper. Two detectives, Sean Carter and David Carter, played by Damon Carney (Logan) and Randy Wayne (Death Pool) respectively are hunting for a serial killer by the name of The Preceptor. They are joined quickly by Christine Egerton, played by Alexandra Harris (The Veil) because those in charge don't think the boys are doing a good job - but we'll keep the main story thread spoiler free as usual.

So does it work?

The film is obviously on a tight budget - much as the previous installments have been, but in this case it's no bad thing. Director Tunnicliffe has used small sets and visceral filming techniques to his advantage, and particularly the scenes set in the Cenobites courtroom, it feels very personal. Which helps to make it scary. Tunnicliffe himself is very good (actually quite excellent) as the Auditor - especially when you consider his lack of acting credentials. Obviously the question on everyone's lips is whether Paul T. Taylor carries off Pinhead. I'm happy to say yes, he does. It's a commanding performance, he has presence.

The main plot thread of the serial killer is engaging enough. Carney brings an intense performance as Sean, very much, the cop on the edge. He's given a back story and is an engaging character. Wayne is given less to do, and somehow manages to channel a young Brad Pitt in his performance, which is interesting. The whole serial killer plot feels a little like a callback to Inferno, especially with the occasional break in reality for the Cenobites to pop up in.

So overall, it's a good film. It feels like Hellraiser, but a new, different, Hellraiser. One perhaps for a more modern, harder to shock audience.

Of course, it does have it's flaws.

While most of the effects are very good, we're introduced to other Cenobites - one of which is original Chatterer, and sadly the makeup effect is not pulled off very well. As the film is so reminiscent of classic Hellraiser, it's quite jarring.

Because of the style of the movie, we see little in the way of Cenobites, um, 'cenobiting' (?), which is a shame. And for some reason Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street) gets a walk on cameo, but extremely high billing. Star power for the marketing, I suppose, but it didn't need it.

Overall it's a good intro to what I hope will be a new series of films. There are things here that I haven't discussed, because there will be a "Where This Leaves Us" video, that will perhaps explore some of the connections and ties between this film and the rest of the franchise.

It's dark, disturbing, and fun. It's not a traditional Hellraiser movie, but maybe the franchise needed a kick. Well worth the watch - with an open mind. Embrace the change.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

For the Love of Shorts: Still

From writer/director Oliver Park, and starring Lindsay Bennett (Coronation Street), the amazingly creepy abound with STILL. 

Something isn't moving and it's still scary. One for those who live alone...

Friday, 2 March 2018

Hellraiser IX: Revelations (2011)

I've seen this entry in the series get a lot of hate. Is it justified? We'll see.

Steven and Nico disappeared a year ago while jaunting Mexico, getting drunk, and having sex. And murdering people. The police have returned their belongings including a video tape of some of their last actions which Steve's mother has been obsessing over.

In his things is also a Lament Configuration.

When Steve's sister opens the configuration, Steve reappears claiming to have escaped the cenobites. Turns out that while in Mexico they did a little more than party.

Tracey Fairaway

Once the events unfold, the cenobites appear at the house, people die. The returning Steve is in fact Nico, wearing his skin. Nico opened the box originally and was brought back through consumption of blood. Very Uncle Frank. When the cenobites return we see real Steve is now a cenobite, having been killed by Nico, and Nico is just trying to make a deal with the cenobites so as not to return to hell. It actually reads pretty good. So why the hate?

Largely, I can assure you, it is because the movie was thrown together in order to keep the rights.
Beginning with found footage material (the boys video) is not a healthy start. The casting was a shocking mistake from start to finish. The whole production was over in three weeks. Three weeks. So where do I start? Let's do cast.

Nick Eversman (Get On Up) and Jay Gillespie (2001 Maniacs) portray Steve and Nico respectively. They don't do a bad job, but wouldn't have been able to carry the movie if they'd had to. That job fell more on Tracey Fairaway (A Hologram for the King), who, shall we say, had too much weight put on her inexperienced shoulders. The rest of the cast are made mostly from extras and TV actors, if their filmography's are anything to go by.

But a lot of people had something to say about this:

Stephan Smith Collins

Although the film reveals that real Steve is now also a Pinhead of sorts, and that there isn't only one Pinhead, Stephan Smith Collins (Castle) is credited as being Pinhead. So poorly is the casting done, that Collins is only the body, and Fred Tatasciore (Family Guy) is the voice. "Casting". If they'd run with it, however, (and cast someone who could do it) and moved with "Pinhead" being a moniker, a rank perhaps, they could have gotten away with it. But no.

The direction is middling, with Victor Garcia having little experience as a director, even to this day. He did the average to awful Mirrors 2.

The gore effects aren't bad. The story is Hellraisery. It's not all bad. It was written by Gary J. Tunnicliffe (who is a visual makeup artist) who has gone on to write and direct Hellraiser X: Judgment (unreleased at time of writing).

A bad misstep, but at least it feels Hellraisery. Mostly.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

For the Love of Shorts: Death Van (animated space-rock adventure) (2017)

Something, shall we say, a little different this week. Today we have "Death Van" created by Michael Enzbrunner. 

It's a nifty tale involving a giant lead-guitar-playing hand, an evil entity, and a drummer. 

You never thought you'd see that here, did you?

It's outstanding. The imagery is unforgettable, the story telling is masterful, and the emoting amazing...


DEATH VAN (animated space-rock adventure) from Michael Enzbrunner on Vimeo.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Would You Rather (2012)

Would You Rather?

Desperate to help her ailing brother, a young woman unknowingly agrees to compete in a deadly game of "Would You Rather," hosted by a sadistic aristocrat.


To be honest, you pretty much know what you're getting here. Play a game of "Would You Rather" for very high stakes. Having a reasonable setup (and one that gets done and dusted quickly) - we are introduced to Iris, whose brother is terminally ill. She can't afford the healthcare, and here brothers doctor introduces her to Shepard Lambrick - a man with the wealth and connections to solve all of her problems. Arriving at an undisclosed location, we find a group of people all there for the same reason. Would You Rather.

So the setup is simple. We're all going to sit around this table doing diabolical things to each other, last man standing, for the entertainment of a gentleman with a screw so loose we may never find it again.

So from around fifteen minutes in, the film runs very much as a stage play - and the enjoyment must then hinge on the acting and screenplay.

And it doesn't disappoint.

The cast is headed by Brittany Snow (Pitch Perfect) as Iris, and her foil Lambrick played by horror fan fave,  Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and they do a stellar job. The supporting cast is also solid to excellent with standouts from Jonny Coyne (Nightcrawler) as Bevans, Lambrick's strong arm, and Eddie Steeples (My Name Is Earl) as Cal - one of the other competitors. The screenplay is delicious. Written by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen the dialogue is witty, tense, and disturbing. It moves at pace, and for a "one room" film nevers drags or feels stale.

Obviously there are some rather nasty would you rathers, and each is handled well. The first was the weakest in both execution and execution, but challenge to challenge gets both stronger, and harder to watch - and with such good performances, impacting.

If you like horror, a well put together film, and something gritty - but not over gory - I can't recommend this enough. It's almost enough just to see Jeffrey Combs playing a rich, batshit insane figure this time, instead of his usual batshit insane figure.