Monday 19 February 2018

Movie Review: HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT (2018)

Hellraiser Judgment

If you read my review of the previous Hellraiser movie, Revelations (if not, click here), you'll know that my opinions of every movie after the fourth (Bloodline, range from disappointment to outright loathing. However, I've read about the passion and enthusiasm towards the franchise from director Gary J. Tunnicliffe (who was a special make-up effects artist on Hellraiser III), and actor Paul T. Taylor (who plays Pinhead for the first time), and it made me quite excited about this new release. It's common knowledge that Dimension keep making these low-budget Hellraiser films now and again so that they can retain the rights to the movie franchise, but with the right people involved in this film, a little budget can go a long way.

The wait is finally over, and having now seen it, I can assure you that it's infinitely better than its predecessor, and easily the best Hellraiser movie since the much-maligned Bloodline. Considering the low budget, the team have done exceptionally well, and Paul T. Taylor is excellent in the Pinhead role. However, Judgment isn't without its flaws. Far from it.

(Spoilers from here onwards)
The movie opens with Pinhead discussing the puzzle box with The Auditor (the dude with cuts all over his face who's in the trailer). Incidentally, he is played by the movie's director Gary J. Tunnicliffe. It is suggested that the box was now obsolete and that they need another way to collect souls, given the advances in technology. They decide to send letters to people. Yes, that's right. Letters asking the recipient to come to an address! They could have tried using Twitter (#desire), or even some kind of Cenobite Tinder app, but no. Old school letters it is!

Some guy, who we can assume is a paedophile or a child killer, receives a letter and turns up at the address. When the door is opened, he's rendered unconscious and wakes up, tied to a wheelchair, in front of The Auditor. Tubes from the victim are linked to a type writer, so anything typed is done so using the victim's blood as ink. The bizarre process that follows is something like this: The Auditor types up the man's sins. Then a fat guy called The Assessor comes into the room and eats the paper. He then vomits into a sink, and all of his puke goes into the next room where a bunch of topless disfigured women are waiting on their knees. They put their hands in the lumpy sick and have a good old mess about with it, before turning to The Auditor, who has poked his head around the corner to look at them. He asks for their verdict, and one girl, who has hardly any skin left on her face, says "Guilty". Then the victim is tied to a table where someone called The Surgeon cuts him up. We see his skin being folded and taken away. Surely the earlier process involving the puzzle box was easier?

The story follows three detectives, two brothers and a young female detective who has recently been assigned to the case. They are chasing a serial killer called The Preceptor, who murders his victims in ways that reflect the Ten Commandments. One of the brothers is a religious war veteran who suffers from PTSD and alcoholism. What follows is a story that's very similar to the movie Seven, but with Pinhead and crew thrown in. There's even a twist that I successfully guessed very early on.

Some of the murder scenes are quite cool, especially the woman with a small dog sewn inside her uterus. It's a good job she had a small dog and not a Labrador. There's even a cameo from A Nightmare On Elm Street's Heather Langencamp as a grumpy landlady, which was fun.

I have a huge issue with the Christian aspect of this movie though, in terms of the suggestion of the existence of God and Satan (the latter referred to as "Him"). God punishes Pinhead in the end by banishing him to Earth in human form as punishment for him killing one of his angels. Yes, a fucking angel. One in the form as a hot woman dressed as a high-end escort who's topless except for a fitted white leather jacket, and has hair straight from a shampoo advert. I think wardrobe must have confused the concept of angels with 'Charlie's Angels'. What happened to "Demons to some, Angels to others" from the first movie? Now the Cenobites are just Demons, I guess.

The Cenobites are now all about 'sin' rather than being explorers of the further regions of experience. Since when would Pinhead give a shit about people committing adultery? Why in Judgment does he say that "Evil seeks evil", when in the mighty Hellraiser III, he clearly states that "There is no good, there is no evil, there is only flesh. And the patterns to which we submit it". I am aware that there are religious elements to Clive Barkers Hellraiser book The Scarlet Gospels, but I haven't read it and have no inclination to. What's wrong with you Clive? Please keep Lucifer out of Hellraiser, unless you're going to make Jesus a Cenobite!

Anyway, back to the movie at hand. I enjoyed Judgment, and if you approach it as a stand-alone movie it's pretty good. However, it's very different to the early Hellraiser movies, and it doesn't take the franchise in a direction that I personally wanted it to go in. The script wasn't particularly strong, but it was good enough for this low-budget film. I can't say that I'd wait with bated breath for another Hellraiser in this vein, however, Judgment may be successful enough to persuade Dimension to make another with a decent budget and actually promote it properly. The irony is that they'd probably use a different cast and producer, which is a shame because, as much as I love Doug Bradley, he needs a successor at some point. Paul T. Taylor deserves another shot, ideally with a better script.


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