The new Hellraiser reboot is a textbook example on how to remake or reboot a classic. Keep the same scenario as the original while putting your own spin on it. Additionally, as we see a wave of re-quels meant to revive established franchises, like Halloween, Candyman, and Scream, Hellraiser just goes the straight reboot route. Same story structure as the original with the same iconic villains only without legacy characters.
Filling in the shoes of unsung horror heroine Kirsty Cotton is protagonist Riley (Odessa A’zion, Let’s Scare Julie), a struggling addict living with her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn, 13 Reasons Why), his partner Colin (Adam Faison, Everything’s Gonna Be Ok), and their housemate Nora (Aoife Hinds, Normal People) as she tries getting back on her feet. But once she and her new boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey, Outer Banks) discover an ancient puzzle box called the Lament Configuration, they summon the demonic Cenobites led by their famous leader Pinhead (Sense 8‘s Jamie Clayton). After Matt suddenly disappears, Riley goes on an odyssey to both get her brother back and explore the box’s origins.
Riley must even take a step into the dark underworld where the Cenobites hail from. A place constructed with enough vivid detail by production designer Kathrin Eder that calls back the visuals on director David Bruckner’s previous feature The Night House. Particularly, the visuals in that movie’s climax where the main protagonist fights her way out of a shadow-drenched climax that symbolizes her grief and depression. In Hellraiser, Riley similarly weaving in and out of the Hell dimension reflects the journey from Hell to Earth always appearing to end where it begins.
The Cenobites may be disfigured, inhuman beings, yet they are gatekeepers and manifestations of one’s deepest, darkest desires with the various configurations of their puzzle box allowing different forms of pleasure. Their presence allows Hellraiser to capture the spirit of the 1987 Clive Barker original and its theme on the blurred line between pleasure and pain with Riley’s addiction arc only furthering that theme.
When Riley gets her hands on the Lament Configuration, she steals and toys with it as a way of getting some kind of fix. However, her seeing what the box does and the supernatural evil it unlocks becomes a realization to undo her own personal demons and lead actress Odessa A’zion plays Riley with great conviction.
Jamie Clayton, the movie’s other acting MVP, offers her own unique interpretation of the famed bringer of pain, Pinhead. As opposed to the cut-off, authoritative persona of Doug Bradley, the original Pinhead, Clayton’s portrayal is more carnal. Her slithery physical movements and euphoric vocal patterns illustrate Pinhead’s yearning for those who hold the Lament Configuration to unlock their deepest inhibitions.
Both Clayton and A’zion emerge as best in show even if the other actors aren’t given characters with much development. Disappointingly, the great Hiam Abbass (Succession), who plays a character integral to the mystery surrounding the box that Riley aims to unravel, is underused to the degree where her character might as well been credited as “Plot Device.”
Despite these minor quibbles, Hellraiser is an exemplary franchise reinvigoration. One that shows a reboot doesn’t have to go the “re-quel” route to resurrect the property. It can keep the same essence while admirably finding newer avenues to go in. Plus, thanks to his strong visual panache, Hellraiser is further proof of David Bruckner’s horror genius.
Hellraiser will stream exclusively on Hulu beginning October 7.
Photo courtesy of Spyglass Media Group