Well, here we are. Itís the end of the line for our Hellraiser retrospective. If you told me after concluding the Children of the Corn series last year that our next ďFranchise HarvestĒ would have me pining for the good old days of Final Sacrifice, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here I am, a year later, and man, do I wish I was reviewing Final Sacrifice right now. Instead, I have to talk about Hellraiser: Revelations, the cynical and depressing final nail in the coffin of the Hellraiser franchise. Unlike Julia or Frank, no amount of fresh blood is going to be able to bring this series back from the pit of hell.
In 1987 when Pinhead told us heíd tear our souls apart, I didnít realize just how prophetic his words would be.
Is there even a story? Not really, but hereís the premise: Two teenagers, Steven Craven (Nick Eversman) and Nico Bradley (Jay Gillespie) take off to Mexico for a wild weekend of drinking and whoring, only to disappear without a trace. Stevenís personal effects are returned to his family by the Mexican authorities, including a video camera with the footage they shot before disappearing. The camera offers a few cryptic clues to what happened to the friends but no real answers. A familiar looking wooden box with gold trim is also among the missing boyís possessions.
A year later, Stevenís family Ė father Ross (Steven Brand), Mother Sarah (Devon Sorvari) and Sister Emma (Tracey Fairaway) - are having Nicoís parents, Peter (Sebastien Roberts) and Kate (Sanny Van Henteren), over for dinner in their posh LA home when Steven reappears, dazed and seemingly suffering from amnesia. The script makes convenient excuses as to why they donít call the police right away, the family is assaulted by a familiar looking vagrant, Steve is not who he seems and blah, blah, blah the box is opened and Pinhead shows up to mete out a sixth graders concept of ironic justice.
When the film starts out with the tired found footage motif I sighed with weariness but, by the end of the movie, I wished theyíd stuck with the gimmick; at least it would have brought something different to the table. Instead, Revelations is an all-too-familiar trek down a well-trod path; there isnít a moment in the film that hasnít been done before and better in earlier films. So many visual cues are lifted straight from the original Hellraiser, yet their appropriation makes no sense. When Steve is forcing Emma to open the box he has her kneeling on a coffee table surrounded with candles? Why? What is the purpose, beyond pathetically trying to ride to coattails of imagery in original film? Itís that kind of pure laziness and lack of inspiration that haunts the move throughout.
The story behind the making of Revelations is pretty well known by this point but hereís a quick primer for the uninitiated. After Hellworld, and with the glut of horror remakes and reboots cleaning up at the box office, Dimension looked at doing a reboot of the Hellraiser series with Clive Barker brought back on board as a producer. Martyrs director Pascal Laugier was tapped for directing duties, and things were looking up. Love it or hate it, Martyrs represented the same kind of visceral gut punch that the original Hellraiser did so many years earlier, and touched on a lot of the same themes in a new way. Under the direction of Dimension, though, the project languished and the key participants drifted away, due to ďcreative differencesĒ between Laugier and the studio, which want less Martyrs intensity and more teen friendliness. As it stands now, the Hellraiser reboot is in development hell. Bitter irony, no?
Dimensionís options on the Hellraiser franchise rights had a ďuse it or lose itĒ clause and were about to run out. With no movement on the reboot, Dimension made the decision to crank out a Hellraiser sequel as fast as possible so they could retain the rights. With a first draft script that was written over a weekend by long-time series FX creator Gary J. Tunnicliffe and a director, Victor Garcia, with a history of cranking out low rent direct to video sequels quickly, cameras rolled and shooting wrapped in eleven days. Doug Bradley declined to participate (yes, the man who agreed to be in Hellworld turned this down), citing the script as his main objection.
Now, I love Doug Bradley. I think heís a fantastic (and fantastically underrated) actor. He has screen presence and authority, as well as a fierce intelligence. Itís his command of the screen that made Pinhead so scary to begin with (check him out in the recent Wrong Turn 5 and watch him own the screen with a glare or a smirk). That said, the man hasnít exactly shown a discerning taste when it comes to picking projects and has been more than willing to phone it in for a paycheck. When a gigging actor trying to keep the bills paid takes a pass on a project, it really gives you pause. How bad could it be? Answer: pretty fucking terrible.
Hereís how cynical this movie is: if nobody, I mean literally nobody watched it, if it didnít generate a single cent in revenue, it still would have fulfilled its purpose. This film wasnít even made to make a quick buck... its sole purpose for being is to prevent other people from possibly making a good Hellraiser film. This isnít art. Itís isnít storytelling and it isnít filmmaking. It isnít even commerce. Hellraiser: Revelations is a contractual obligation. Itís a For Your Consideration ad in Variety pimping Green Lantern for best picture. Itís a midnight caterer for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Itís the moral equivalent of a motel room full of hookers and blow. Itís the farthest thing from art, or even entertainment, imaginable.
Now, Iím not weeping for Clive Barker. Heís doing just fine, and heís pretty much washed his hands of the movies and is creating his vision of the continuing Hellraiser story in the comic books from Boom (check them out; while not as good as the Marvel ones from the 80s and 90s, theyíre definitely worth reading). And when they crank out one of these DTV shit stains, Iím sure he sees some kind of residual check in the mail shortly thereafter. No, Iím not mad for him. Iím mad for the mythos, rich and complex and pregnant with possibilities, thatís been used as a doormat for nearly a decade. Most of all, Iím mad for the fans of the original film who spend their time hoping against hope that each successive sequel might show a glimmer of the dark genius that first attracted them to the series.
Itís that spark of hope that might cause some hardcore Hellraiser fans to rush and defend Revelations based on the fact that it`s the first sequel actually written as a Hellraiser film since Bloodline, as if that alone absolves it of its responsibility to be at least passable entertainment. Iím not going to let if off so easy; Revelations is just shit filmmaking through and through. The screenplay is a pedestrian effort, clearly aspiring to tread the same perverse territory as the original but, with the exception of one scene of effective incestuous implications, it fails miserably. The actors are all just cashing paychecks, with only Steven Brand giving what can charitably be called a performance. The rest of the cast is just glum, as if theyíre entirely aware of just how unlikable their characters are. The gore is competent but entirely of the boilerplate, off-the-shelf Hellraiser variety. People being hung from chains: edgy in 1987, but it doesnít exactly get the blood pumping nowadays. And Pinhead... if they did nothing else right, they could have at least made Revelations worth watching for Pinhead. Instead, we get a weak actor in ill-fitting makeup playing out poorly written scenes that are so incompetently incorporated into the picture, it seems like Pinheadís chilling in the basement rec-room. Crow all you want about how Revelations was written as a Hellraiser sequel, this pile of shit is every bit as disjointed as fart blowers like Hellworld and Deader. At least their excuse of being rewritten spec scripts explained their haphazard construction. You know why Revelations' story is so disjointed? Because they didnít bother to do a second pass on the screenplay. Everything I hear about the production of this film is so sleazy and depressing it makes my skin crawl.
What this film really represents is the need for control, to hoard intellectual property. Dimension wasnít even using the Hellraiser license, but goddamn if theyíre going to let it go. Itís a case of ďI donít want it, but nobody else can have it, either.Ē If Dimension can churn out a terrible Hellraiser sequel in under two weeks, then thereís no reason they couldnít have made a halfway decent one in the six years between Hellworld and Revelations. If past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, then we know what weíre in for as long as the Dimension holds the rights. Even in a horror-friendly, remake rich market they were unable to get a theatrical series reboot off the ground. Theyíve spent nearly a decade wiping their asses with Barkerís creation and theyíre sitting on the rights so they can what? Make more awful direct-to-video sequels? Make a PG-13 theatrical reboot? Thatís indefensible on any level.
The very existence of Hellraiser: Revelations is a complete perversion of the spirit and intent of intellectual property laws. Dimension made this movie with little concern for if anybody ever watched it. I say, letís all oblige them this time.
It pains me to say it but the image on this Blu-ray is close to flawless. Revelations may be a terrible movie but it looks far better than a movie made in 11 days has any right to. Even though itís only on a single layer Blu-ray, this 75 minute feature doesnít present any noticeable compression issues, and maintains a consistently high bit rate throughout the feature. The film has a pretty murky color palette so there are not a lot of instances of colours popping off the screen, but the image is sharp and clear and has zero source defects. Unless you consider the film itself a major defect, that is.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also a bit better than I would have expected, though itís still about on par with your average direct-to-video feature. The mix is typically front-heavy, with ialogue and most of the sound effects confined to the front channels and ambient noises and score filling out the rear. There are a couple of good surround effects but most opportunities for effective use of the back channels are passed up. During flashback scenes, the mix almost totally collapses to the front channels with the surrounds completely void of sound until the score starts creeping back in. Donít worry; every line in insipid dialogue and flat delivery of such is crystal clear.
A few Deleted Scenes (9:17) are included, mostly character moments developing the drama between the parents of the two boys. Not hard to see why these were cut; even at a Spartan 75 minutes, Revelations feel interminable. The decision to get it over with as soon as possible is one of the few good decisions associated with this movie.
And thatís it. Iím not at all surprised that nobody involved wanted to step in front of the camera to defend or explain Revelations. I wouldnít if I were responsible, either.
I know Iíve said this before, but I give out so few Fs that it bears repeating. Almost every movie, no matter how bad, usually has something in it to admire. Even the direst film will warrant at least a D-. I save the F grade for films that I find not just bad or stupid, but morally indefensible. In the case of Hellraiser: Revelations itís not the content of the movie but its very existence and what it represents that churns my stomach. Even if you can divorce yourself from the greed and hubris that caused Hellraiser: Revelations to be shat out, and the fact that itís pissing on the grave of a genre classic, itís still a fucking awful movie. The only thing thatís revealed here is just how much contempt Dimension has for Clive Barkerís Hellraiser mythos, for art and storytelling, for entertainment and for their audience.
"Is there even a story? Not really,"
"This isnít art. Itís isnít storytelling and it isnít filmmaking. It isnít even commerce."
What? WTF is that? I don't mean to be rude, but I call bullshit on this review. I feel that it just comes from a place of resentment. It's a C- from me.
Disagree big time with the review of the film. I think every Hellraiser fan should at least give it a chance (I'm fairly certain you didn't, Chunkblower). "itís not the content of the movie but its very existence and what it represents that churns my stomach" Pretty much confirms my suspicion. It would be a shame for fans of Hellraiser and horror for that matter, to dismiss this one outright. Once you get past the sacrilege of making a Hellraiser film without Barker and Bradley, you'll find Eversman's performance alone makes the film worth checking out. This and the fact that this sequel more than any other after Hellbound, is the most faithful to the Hellraiser mythology. It's clear from an "F-" rating your sensibilities about the franchise got in the way of reviewing the film objectively.
That being said, it's no "A+". The moron playing Pinhead is unfortunately the worse part of the movie.
It's a tough movie to review, and I understand the sentiments, Mok. I agree that it is the first film since II (maybe III) to really get back to the core of the franchise, and I think it does have its moments. The motivations behind it though, are pretty deplorable from Dimension's standpoint, so I certainly stand by Chunk's assessment. While I do like the film more than Inferno, Hellworld and Deader, it'll always be tinged by Dimension's callous treatment of the franchise.
Mok, I am willing to give the movie another chance since I am a huge Hellraiser fan. But honestly, I don't know if I'd like it any more than the first time. If I ever saw the Blu-ray for like a few bucks, I might bite...just for completist's sake.
I will agree that the guy playing Pinhead was the worst, except for perhaps the lack of any real budget anywhere in the film. The last few sequels are MAJOR Hollywood movies compared to this one! LOL
No doubt, this is a movie no one is allowed to like, but all politics aside, it's Citizen Kane when put next to sequels like Halloween Resurrection or Jason X. Both of which people have forgiven and looked hard to find some sort of redeeming qualities in. At the very least, no one can deny the fact that they had enough reverence for the series to stay away from rap stars and ridiculous shark-jumping gimmicks.
It would be a different world for Hellraiser: Revelations if say one day Doug Bradley or better yet, Clive Barker admitted, "Funny thing, that Hellraiser movie they made without my blessing, wasn't all that bad!"
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