Hellraiser review – a return to form for the franchise

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 8, 2022 (Last updated: January 8, 2024)


Hellraiser feels a little too slick and polished for its own good but is still undoubtedly one of the best entries in the franchise.

This review of the Hulu film Hellraiser (2022) does not contain spoilers.

When Clive Barker’s Hellraiser came out in 1987, it was immediately recognized as a different breed of horror film. This wasn’t some campy slasher where some faceless goon hunted down sex-crazed teens, nor was it about some family trying to survive a haunted house–which were essentially the two types of horror films in the 80s. Hellraiser had sexuality, an unusual morality, and an inventive viscerality in its violence, with shades of science fiction that were largely unseen in the horror genre. These elements, combined with an iconic performance from Doug Bradley as Pinhead, created a huge cult following that has remained faithful despite numerous sequels panned by critics and fans alike.

With 9 terrible sequels under its belt, the Hellraiser franchise has received the inevitable reboot treatment, following the footsteps of Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and ScreamThe Night House director David Bruckner helmed the reboot from a script penned by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, from a story by The Dark Knight‘s David S. Goyer.

This new Hellraiser follows recovering addict Riley McKendry as she attempts to discover the truth behind her brother’s disappearance and the role a mysterious puzzle box played in it. With the help of her sleazy boyfriend Trevor and her brother’s boyfriend Colin, Riley finds herself entangled with portals to Hell and the sadomasochistic Cenobites.

Bruckner’s Hellraiser follows many of the same narrative and aesthetic beats of Clive Barker’s original film. It’s well-paced and well-acted, with some real stylistic flair in the violence and scares. But despite these qualities, there is a sort of corporate hollowness in this reboot. Part of the charm of the original was that it felt messy and almost sleazy in its low-budget depictions of sex and violence. The Hulu film has a large enough budget to smooth out the flaws of the original, and what you’re left with is essentially a stylized, polished version of Clive Barker’s vision, but with none of the boldness and originality. That being said, this film clearly holds the 1987 film in very high regard and comes closest to capturing its spirit than any other film in the franchise, so fans will likely be pleased.

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