Written by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Directed by: Víctor García
Starring: Steven Brand, Sebastien Roberts and Nick Eversman
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
"You opened it. Summoned us. And we came."
Pinhead’s box sure does get around; that sounds like the basis for a dirty joke, but it’s actually a pretty accurate way to describe the Hellraiser series, which has been whored out like a cheap trick to the DTV market for the past decade, where it’s been reduced to a shell of its former self. With the release of Hellraiser: Revelations, it’s seemingly hit the point where it finds itself doing coke off of a toilet lid while it gets banged from behind by the cheapest bidder. As is the case with its fellow worn out franchise, Children of the Corn, the only reason we have a new Hellraiser is because Dimension needed to hang on to the rights to get a remake off of the ground; as that’s proved to be exceedingly difficult, they were forced to toss together this production, and they apparently couldn’t even convince Doug Bradley to come back one more time.
Appropriately enough, the Lament Configuration has found itself in Mexico (I guess even the Cenobites need to spring break in Cancun every now and then), where Steven and Nico have taken off to get away from life (‘cause they’re angsty young men). It proves to be a fateful trip, as the two disappear, leaving behind only two clues for their families: the mysterious puzzle box and some video footage of Pinhead showing up to tear their souls apart. As the two families gather together to grieve, they’re startled when Steven shows up out of the blue with a warning that the Cenobites are coming since he managed to escape their grasp.
Maybe it’s because my expectations were in the depths of hell, but Revelations somehow manages not to be the worst Hellraiser ever, if only because I can say one thing about it with great certainty: it’s not boring (which is something I definitely cannot say about the dreadful Deader). Between the brisk pacing (hell is only raised for a scant 70 minutes), the inanity, and the batshit craziness (implied incest and baby killin', among other things), it manages to be a quick and painless cinematic train wreck. Oddly enough, screenwriter Gary Tunnicliffe (the franchise's long-time effects guy) has seemingly attempted to get back to the stuff of the earlier films, as the main thrust eventually involves Steven reviving Nico’s corpse in the same manner Julia regenerated Frank Cotton. Of course, it’s filtered through standard slasher stuff, as it quickly degenerates into Steven screwing and killing Mexican hookers. It’s difficult to buy these guys as real pleasure seekers and masochists since they’re really just a couple of petulant kids who seem to be getting their rocks off.
Also, don’t get me wrong: this thing looks and feels like it was made over a three day weekend with a budget that would otherwise net you a few pizzas from Little Caesar’s. This is most evident in the script, which feels like a first draft that would have never been produced otherwise. Leakier than a submarine with a screen door, you’ll find yourself baffled by how loose it is. To give you an idea of its aggressive laziness--you know how most horror flicks invariably do the “no phone signal/broken car” cliché? Well, here, the phones don’t work, and the cars disappear for no reason. Even more baffling is how the characters take it in stride; no one seems to think it’s too weird.
Likewise, the mechanizations that set the plot in motion are similarly bizarre: after our two guys kill a hooker in a bathroom (don’t ask me how she dies--the movie doesn’t make this clear), a mysterious hobo shows up and gives them the Lament Configuration, presumably because he’s just some weird guy who may or may not be in league with the Cenobites. More small bits of puzzling logic abound, such as how the families got a hold of the box and the video recording, which certainly contain evidence not only of the guys’ own possible demise, but also the death of that hooker (yes, somehow, one of the guys twists logic and decides it’d be a better idea not to erase the tape). Though the basic plot is easy to follow and still much more interesting than some of the previous DTV installments, it soon becomes clear that Hellraiser has once again been reduced to gore-soaked silliness, as this shoddy narrative is often punctuated by schlock sequences (which at least carry some pretty decent effects).
In fact, Pinhead pops up pretty often; perhaps in the cruelest of ironies, he gets the most screen time since Bloodline now that Bradley isn’t around. Not that I think the veteran Pinhead could have salvaged this, but he would have fared better than his ill-fated replacement (Stephan Smith Collins), who just looks like a young guy in a Pinhead Halloween costume. He’s not given a whole lot to do besides look pouty and spout off the typical generic lines, and he lacks the refined gracefulness that Bradley brought to the role. He’s also got a new assistant Cenobite that looks even more like a faux-Pinhead than he does, which is kind of weird. Though we see them on screen kind of often, they’re still just sitting there waiting until the very end to reveal their purpose, which becomes pretty obvious about halfway though (they’re understandably pissed that these guys have somehow escaped their grasp). The typical chain and flesh-ripping gags ensue in the blood-laden climax whose narrative twists would mean something if the script had any notion of characterization.
Instead, though, we’re stuck with a bunch of poorly-acted clichés, and the film can’t settle on who the main character is. You’d think it might be Steven’s sister, Emma, as the film starts and ends with her, but she sort of gets lost along the way. Eventually, Revelations just turns into a bunch of people yelling at each other with some ghastly and laughable dialogue; I howled at the ridiculously-delivered scene where one of the guys makes his “angry young man” speech that’s loaded with 90s teenage-angst bullshit, which only makes this even more puerile. Whereas Pinhead and company once scoured the world for the most depraved degenerates, they now seem content to punish kids who have listened to way too much Korn.
Anyway, Hellraiser: Revelations is pretty bad, but perhaps not as bad as you might expect; unless you were one of the few who showed up during its modest “world premiere” in March (where it played one night in an LA theater), you only now have the chance to see for yourself thanks to Dimenson’s DVD release, which is okay. The anamorphic transfer is crisp and clean since this was no doubt shot on HD video; the soundtrack is aggressively boomy, with the dialogue sometimes being drowned out by all the sound (I had to turn the subtitles on). A handful of deleted scenes serve as the disc’s lone special features. With the prognosis of that long-mooted remake not looking too good at the moment (there’s an easy joke about it being in developmental hell), my biggest fear is that we might be subjected to another one of these that might follow up on the possibilities teased at the end of this one. While Revelations might not be a total atrocity, I don’t really want to test our luck with a direct sequel to this. Rent it!
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