Hellraiser: Revelations deserves another look

On Sept. 2, 2011 Hellraiser: Revelations was released as a double feature with World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries (aka Zombie Diaries 2) for a limited theatrical run. Both films are distributed by Dimension Extreme, and both run somewhat short, so it was a savvy marketing decision to offer the two together as a double feature.

Hellraiser: Revelations the ninth in the series, directed by Víctor García and was reportedly made for a budget of $300,000, initially on a two-week shooting schedule. The reason for this rush job is apparently to retain rights for the Hellraiser franchise, which are currently owned by Dimension Films (Weinstein Company) but would revert to Mirimax Films (Disney) if a new entry into the series was not released in time. Dimension Films needs to retain the rights in order to make more sequels and also in anticipation of a big-budget Hellraiser “reboot” in the coming years.

As such, expectations are uniformly low for Hellraiser: Revelations. Upon seeing the trailer an enraged Clive Barker took to Twitter to declare:

Hello, my friends. I want to put on record that the flic [sic] out there using the word Hellraiser is NO FUCKIN’ CHILD OF MINE. I have NOTHING to do with the fuckin’ thing. If they claim its from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.

The film has also received negative reactions from Shock Till You Drop and Hellraiser: The Hellbound Web (fan site), along with Dread Central. Today, in 2018, it seems many of these reviews are no longer available online. However, Bloody Disgusting provided a more nuanced review, which in my opinion rings closer to the truth. My take is that the film (although flawed) is really not that bad and deserves a second consideration.

The film starts out with video of “found footage” of two 20-somethings, Steven and Nico (Nick Eversman and Jay Gillespie), on their way from Los Angeles to Tijuana via car. The purpose of the trip appears to be to get their “dicks wet” and to “get wasted”, which the two plan to document via hand-held video camera. There is then more footage of Nico fumbling with the Lament Configuration (the iconic puzzle box) with Cenobites in the background, before the two men are taken to hell for the regular Hellraiser torture.

Something very bad happened in Mexico and the grieving families of the young men are unwilling to discuss the specifics. Instead, they are all gathered together for an intimate wine dinner at some later undisclosed time. Both sets of parents are present, along with Steven’s sister, Emma (Tracey Fairaway), who also happens to be Nico’s girlfriend. As the film progresses Emma becomes obsessed with the puzzle box and inadvertently brings Steven back from hell. At first Steven seems normal, although exhausted and traumatized. Through a series of flashbacks, though, we learn what actually happened in Mexico, and it’s not pretty.

Pinhead, as played by Stephan Smith Collins in Hellraiser: Revelations.

Pinhead, as played by Stephan Smith Collins in Hellraiser: Revelations.

Hellraiser: Revelations successfully explores many of the same themes as the original film: revenge, infidelity, and cruelty, with a hint of incest thrown in for good measure. The idea of killing others for their flesh in order to return from hell has also been appropriated. This time around, Nico is the truly evil character, the “uncle Frank” of this sequel. In the end, the family’s dark secrets are laid out on the table and it turns out that there’s more to Steven’s story than meets the eye.

The film is not a remake by any means, although the general story basically mirrors the original. The Cenobites are just as nightmarish as the original, although created on a fraction of the budget. The plot is nonsensical and riddled with holes, but for me that irrationality is part of the charm; there are many great horror films that do not make sense. In fact, the parts that make the least sense, such as the mystery of what happened to the parents’ cars, only add to the film’s suffocating atmosphere. The direction, effects and make-up are actually quite good considering the limited budget and shooting schedule. The plot, while not entirely original, is unique and is reasonably well-written. Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who has contributed makeup and effects to at least a half dozen Barker-related films, wrote the screenplay.

The main concern among die-hard fans seems to be that Doug Bradley does not reprise his role as Pinhead. Out of all the arguments against this movie, this one rings the most hollow for me. Pinhead was always a periphery character with a certain presence, but he has never had much in the way of dialogue or action sequences, and he was never meant to be a recurring cult figure. To “pin” the whole movie on one character as portrayed by one actor seems a bit too fanboy-ish for me. On the other hand, there are movie franchises that really are much more dependent on one actor, such as Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street, or Brad Dourif as Chucky in Child’s Play.

In the end, I think much of the negative reaction to this movie seems to be that it was made on a shoestring budget in a short amount of time, and that both Clive Barker and Doug Bradley chose to distance themselves from it. That’s not a good enough reason for me. Hellraiser: Revelations is not a great movie, nor is it a great horror movie. But there are far worse horror movies out there, probably including several of the other Hellraiser sequels.

Clive Barker should be thankful that his vision is still inspiring others, but also recognize that this film is a means to an end. If they did not release this film, even in its rough state, then Dimension Films would have lost their franchising rights and would not have been able to continue the series. But badmouthing a film, and all the people who worked on it, is disrespectful and unnecessary. If Barker actually saw the film I think he would recognize it as a doting tribute to his work and unique vision.

Note: my own review in fact had its own detractor; read a rebuttal to this review at this location.

For other horror-related articles, please see:

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