There’s a certain irony of being a Hellraiser franchise fan. The sadomasochistic themes of pleasure and pain is uncannily similar to the experience endured by Hellraiser fanatics, from the lofty promises prior to the release of each successive movie, and the deep-deep lows of what is actually released.
Instalment number 9 ‘Revelations’ was about as titillating as a swift kick in the balls, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting a great deal out of number 10: ‘Hellraiser Judgement’ either.
That said, whilst far from being a shot in the arm for a series, which let’s face it pretty much began and ended with the original couple of movies released in the 80s, Hellraiser Judgement is something of a highlight amongst the withering roster of franchise sequels.
The plot opens with Pinhead’s musings over the internet (and other modern temptations) making it harder for them to lure fresh soul sustenance to their domain. Him, and another character ‘The Auditor’ (from a separate sect known as the Stygian Inquisition) begin discussing different recruitment tactics. Its not long before a human serial killer known as ‘The Preceptor’ piques their interest and ends up in the doorstep of their own personal slice of hell. However, despite their seeming omnipotence, there becomes an issue when ‘The Preceptor’, protected by a superior race of angels is forcibly released. Vowing vengeance, the Cenobytes must wait patiently whilst cops on earth do their part in bringing ‘The Perceptor’ to justice, returning him to them for ‘Judgement’.
A+ for effort, I will give it that, and to be honest, given a bit more money, time and perhaps some additional input on the script and production, this could have actually worked marginally better than it did in reality.
Let’s start with the positives. This film is deliciously gory. Its not just a little bit gory either, at its best, its distastefully so. The opening scene sees gallons of viscous crimson spraying everywhere. The floor, the walls, over the ample bosom of a small gathering of naked ladies, not a square inch of the torture room is spared as a wild surgeon style character slices the shit out of some poor guy’s upper half. Admittedly the gore isn’t massively frequent, but there is enough throughout to maintain an interest, and whilst you will wait until the equally visceral ending sequence to see violence of this intensity repeated, there are some gruesome spattering’s here and there throughout the film which all do the job just nicely. The effects look pretty good, with the low budget actually working in the films favour somewhat; it generally feels like the films of old where the production hoped ‘gross-out’ would compensate for ‘thought-out’.
I guess, as an overall, I would say the films plot, or at least the inclusion of some pretty diverse and repugnant characters could be seen as a positive, as they certainly bring something new to the table.
That said, whilst all of the above did enough to hold my attention, there was a lot seemingly doing its best to tempt me into giving up. Quite aware that the budget wasn’t going to allow for 90minutes of splatter frenzy, the bulk of the story is given over to the rather tedious cop investigation as three agents do their best to track down ‘The preceptor’. Its all very much Saw like, except without the Saw. On paper ‘The Preceptor’ is a pretty nasty bastard. Killing his victims in accordance with the 10 commandments, we sadly hear more about his antics and perversions of biblical parable than we actually see. “He cuts out the father’s tongue and feeds it to the child” we are told in one of the numerous stories regarding preceptors (prior) grisly crimes; but in reality there isn’t much else going on with the investigation beyond reminiscing of previous murders.
I get that there was some character development going on here, but still… its like being invited on a night out, only to spend the evening listening to stories about how previous nights out were better than this one!
Overall, as I’ve said, ‘Hellraiser: Judgement’ has its moments as a gore movie, which to its credit, and against all odds, works hard to give a faint pulse back into one of horrors most beloved franchises. Its far better than some of the more recent sequels, but that really isn’t saying much, and, whilst the numerous sequels seem to be made out of contractual necessity. it goes to show that there really could be more milage to be made out of Hellraiser yet.