Actors: Nick Eversman, Steven Brand, Fred Tatasciore, Stephan Smith Collins
Synopsis: Two well-to-do friends leave their affluent family lives behind to seek excitement in gritty Tijuana. Their trip takes a horrifc turn when they cross paths with a puzzle box that dooms them to eternal torment at the hands of servants of hell.
Here we have Revelations, the ninth installment in the Hellraiser saga. Regardless of the many missteps that this once heralded franchise has taken in the over two decades since its inception, it still holds a place in my heart as one of my favorites. As a child, I would sneak into the living room late at night on the weekends to watch whatever horror movies were being played on cable at the time. At some point in the mid-to-late 80’s, my pre-pubescent self crossed paths with the morbid tale of Hellraiser (based on the novella “The Hellbound Heart” by Clive Barker). It was the story of a man named Frank that purchases an antique puzzle box in London, who upon solving it opens the gates to hell. Through this portal comes the sadistic servants of hell, the Cenobites. They, the black cloaked and leather clad torturers, are lead by the now iconic antagonist… Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley) and promised him pleasures beyond the realm of human comprehension. Instead, Franks’ physical body is torn to shreds by the Cenobites upon their summoning via their trademark chains and hooks, with his soul being imprisoned in hell. Franks’ brother Larry and his family, with whom Frank has very little contact, are unaware of his demise as they move into a new home. Larry is unaware, but his new wife Julia had previously been intimately involved with Frank… and was still very much in love with him. While moving their belongings into the house, an accident causes Larry to cut his hand and drip blood on to the attic floor. This blood drains through the floorboards and makes its way to Frank… somehow partially restoring him to the realm of Earth, albeit at first as a grotesque pile of gore that barely resembled a man. Julia eventually discovers this form of Frank in the attic and swears to bring him fresh blood to further restore him to his normal state. As to not the ruin the ending for those of you who have not seen it… I will just say that the original Hellraiser is by far, one of my favorite horror movies and I highly recommend it.
In regards to the numerous sequels that were spawned from this legendary film, I truly enjoy parts 2 and 3. After that, I really feel that while some films had strong aspects and at points even great potential… the series had mostly gone off the rails. It really felt as if Dimension Films had taken pre-existing low budget horror movies and shoehorned Pinhead, the puzzle box and the Cenobites in to make them part of the sequel chain. I came to find out that it is alleged that this is actually what they did with some of these. It is also alleged that they did this as a means to pump out another film in the franchise every so often so that they could retain the rights to the name “Hellraiser” due to a planned reboot (that is apparently in some form of production). Keeping that in mind, I give credit to the filmmakers of Revelations because this is at least an actual Hellraiser film… although an abysmal excuse for one.
Revelations is the story of two affluent young men (Stephen and Nico) who want to escape the minutia of their privileged lives and seek adventure in Mexico. While in Tijuana, they cross paths with a strange vagabond who offers to give them the legendary puzzle box. Much like the original (and every sequel after), the box is solved by Nico and he unknowingly summons the Cenobites. His fate is much like that of Franks’ in the original film, leaving his friend Stephen to murder various innocents to supply him with the blood needed to return to this world. I know this sounds like modern take on the original story, but I assure you they missed the mark on nearly every opportunity they could. Long gone is the phenomenal make-up, prosthetics and practical effects of the earlier films… but most notably, long gone is Doug Bradley as Pinhead. This is the first film in the franchise to introduce a new actor in the role and to be honest, I wish they would have taken a few more auditions. Now under the slightly-better-than-Halloween-costume Pinhead garb is actor Stephan Smith Collins. His take on the character leaves a lot to be desired. The solemn and matter-of-fact tone that Bradley had brought to the character has now been replaced with over-acting and an unneeded angst that takes away from the cool and calculated demeanor that you may be used to. Another point I’d like to make is that the Hellraiser series typically hold a higher standard when it comes to practical effects and gore. While some work is adequate, most is barely above the level of a college freshman film class project. For me, this at least added a comedic value to my viewing experience… but I know that was not intended. My biggest gripe with this film is the story. It borrows far too heavily from the original film in regards to its “blood resurrection” plot points. If handled properly, I really think this could have been a respectful nod to the original film but instead we are treated to a trite story full of telegraphed twists that you see coming from a mile away.
The bottom line is that if you love this franchise and you’ve already bulldozed your way through 8 of these films… might as well go for number 9. If you have never seen any of the Hellraiser films, or only seen the first few… quit while you’re ahead.