Thursday, September 1, 2011
Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
What’s this? A “Hellraiser” movie? And it’s starring Lance Henriksen? Holy shit! This is gonna be awesome!
Two years after their closest friend died playing the “Hellraiser” MMORPG called “Hellworld”, a group of friends decide to get over the tragedy by attending a “Hellworld” themed party at a secluded mansion. The host of the party (Lance Henriksen) has made sure that all the wildest and most hedonistic party-games are available to his guests, who traverse the winding corridors of the manner from one orgy to another. But as they live it up, they are each hunted one-by-one by Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his gruesome Cenobites (Chatterer and Bound). Soon, only the feisty Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick) and melancholy Jake (Christopher Jacot) are left... but is the whole thing in their head?
What the fuck is this garbage?
The straight-to-video “Hellraiser” series had been moving at a great pace, with “Inferno”, “Hellseeker” and “Deader” taking a low-key anthology approach to the mythos of the franchise and being all the better for it. “Hellworld”, at the slightest of glances, would seem to continue that trend, being unconnected in narrative to the previous installments and even boasting the same director (Rick Bota) as the last two. Unfortunately, “Hellworld” is a sequel that seems eager to be a “Hellraiser” film in name only, bucking all the traditions of the franchise in exchange for an insultingly generic slasher film trapping.
Right off the bat, “Hellworld” hits audiences over the head with the revelation that it isn’t in the same continuity as the previous films. It takes an approach similar to “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”, being set in the “real world” where “Hellraiser” is just a series of films and a pile of merchandise. This isn’t exactly new territory for “Hellraiser”, either. The short prose story, “Look, See” by Nicholas Vince offered a similar concept (so in a way, “Hellworld” and “Look, See” share a continuity… which is very unfortunate for “Look, See”). This is almost a relief, come to think of it, as the movie is so terrible you’ll look for any excuse to pretend it never happened. And since it doesn’t share canonicity with the preceding seven films, you’ve got your excuse to ignore it right there.
“Hellworld” desperately wants to do something different with the franchise, which isn’t a foul intention per se, but there comes a point where you discard so many traditions and elements of a franchise in an effort to creatively branch-out that you lose everything that makes it a part of that franchise (think “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday”). And more so than that, it seeks to be “different” by becoming a clone of every uninspired slasher film on the market. It seems disrespectful to the character of Pinhead to have him chasing stupid teens around a house with a surgical bone cleaver, chopping their heads off as soon as he catches up to them or jamming spikes through their faces after following them through the woods. If “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth” was Pinhead pretending to be Freddy Krueger, “Hellworld” is Pinhead pretending to be Jason Voorhees. And that’s not a compliment even if it sounds like one.
Worse yet, the film is self-aware that it’s breaking the established rules of the franchise in a transparent attempt to “up the stakes”, as it were. It’s done in an obnoxious “Scream”-like fashion, as main character Chelsea begins citing “the rules of a Hellraiser movie” to Lance Henriksen. But rather than feel like there’s a greater sense of danger because the rules no longer apply, it simply leaves the characters becoming as frustrated as the audience because they recognize the glowing errors as much as we do.
If I can give the film any credit, I suppose it’s that it is consistent with itself. We find at the end that the entire movie was nothing more than a drug-induced hallucination on part of the teenagers, who have all been kidnapped and drugged by Henriksen. So the “reality” is that there was never any Pinhead or puzzle box and thus no need for any “rules”. It was all a “fake-out”. …Except at the end of the movie, when Pinhead turns out to be real for a dully telegraphed “shock” finale.
“Hellworld” is surprisingly star-studded, depending on your definition of “star”, I suppose. Lance Henriksen sleepwalks his way through a paycheck, and I honestly can’t blame him for any of it. The character Derrick is played by Khary Payton who has become a popular voice actor in recent years (Cyborg from “Teen Titans”, most notably, though he currently voices Aqualad on “Young Justice”). And you have Henry Cavill as the generic asshole character, a sharp contrast from the role you’ll be recognizing him for in about a year: Superman.
Perhaps Payton aside (who seems to be the only actor really trying in this picture), everyone is sure to get on your nerves, not that they had much to work with. There’s a scene where Chelsea confronts Henriksen’s unnamed character and delivers this brilliant oneliner before roundhouse-kicking him off a balcony: “Goodbye… ASSHOLE!”
“Hellraiser: Hellworld” was bad-enough to put the franchise back in the grave for another six years, with the next installment, “Hellraiser: Revelations”, not coming out until October of 2011. It’s such a tremendous misstep for the straight-to-video series, which was really gaining momentum until “Hellworld” brought it to a dead stop.
Grade: F (as in, “For Christ’s sake, the back of the DVD box has stills from ‘Hellraiser: Bloodline’ on it! That’s how much the people putting this film together gave a shit”.)