Miramax / Echo Bridge
This direct-to-video installment in the Hellraiser franchise is somewhat neutered compared to its forebears. Its eschews gory violence in favor of psychological torture, and it considerably less interesting as a result.
The previous Hellraiser films were some of the earliest examples of torture porn. The Cenobites, a race of mutilated demons from hell that wreak much of the series’ destruction, essentially worship physical pain, their own bodies are a testament to that. So, it’s a bit of a let down that Pinhead’s weapon of choice in this film is making someone sad and frustrated.
That someone is a police detective named Joseph Thorne. Joseph cheats on his nearly catatonic wife with hookers, and pays them with money taken from the evidence locker. During one such theft, he also takes along the famous puzzle box, which he proceeds to solve in the motel bathroom (again, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how it’s solved).
Joe then picks up a case involving a serial killer called ‘the engineer,’ who leaves a child’s finger behind at each crime scene. To make matters worse, he’s killing people Joe knows; starting with the hooker, then moving on to his family.
The problem, from a character development perspective, is that Joe is never shown to have the slightest respect, interest, or love for anyone in his life. The ‘psychological torture,’ then comes off as unbelievable. You can’t make your character out to be a bastard, and then expect the audience to sympathize when someone he treated like garbage dies.
And that’s the thing. Horror only works when the viewer can imagine themselves in the place of the protagonist. You can only be truly afraid if you think the horrible things you’re seeing might happen to you. But with Joe, we have a character so unlikable that he places a giant wall between the action and the audience; making the whole thing fall flat.
The special effects took a turn for the worse this time around. The Cenobites are lacking the creatively tortured visages, but they’re mostly shot in darkened hallways, so you can’t really see them, anyways. The movie makes use of CGI, but it’s low-quality and is used in silly ways that further lessen the violence.
I suppose, in the realm of straight-to-video movies about serial killers, this one rates between average and okay; but it’s severely lacking as a horror film, let alone a Hellraiser.
The Blu Ray, which contains four films on one disc, turned out fairly well. Scenes with sufficient lighting look HD, and the dark scenes, though not as detailed, are clean and balanced. There are, of course, no extras.