Frightening Film Franchise Marathon: Ranking The Hellraiser Films

Frightening Film Franchise Marathon: Ranking The Hellraiser Films

For the third week of this horror marathon, I wanted to up the ante and go with something more disturbing than just your everyday dream monster or camp-orphan. That’s why I decided to open my Lament Configuration and straddle the line between pleasure and pain, by marathoning and ranking the movies in the Hellraiser series from worst to best. –George Heftler

9. Hellraiser: Revelations

After eight Hellraiser movies, Doug Bradley finally left the franchise and thus, Hellraiser finally collapses. This movie is absolute dismal. The new Pinhead is a pale shadow of the pale shadow that he used to be, but he’s not the only terrible actor. The whole thing is so over-the-top and dramatic that it truly feels like a soap opera. It’s awful. And you have to deal with it for what feels like soooo long. The pacing is awful in this, and for a movie that’s just 1:15, it feels like an eternity. Truly, Pinhead has perfected his torture, and it’s being practiced on us.

8. Hellraiser: Deader

The best word to describe this entry is OBVIOUS. Everything is so predictable that it almost seems like a joke. There’s a scene that couldn’t have telegraphed a corpse coming back to yell at the main character any more if someone had actually sent me a telegram.

It’s also got a dumb plot about an investigative journalist named Amy, who doesn’t need pinhead to kill her the way she’s sucking down those cigarettes. I guess we’re supposed to be impressed by her “do anything to get a story” approach because she wrote an article literally entitled “How to Be a Crack Whore”?

There’s more crappy special effects, the pacing is abysmal, and it’s so clear that Rick Bota’s Hellraiser entries didn’t start out as Hellraisers. Plus, let’s be honest, that title is awful. Do not watch this abomination.

7. Hellraiser: Hellworld

People thought space was where franchises jump the shark? This movie is about a damn video game. They make a lot of bizarre choices, like using Zach Snyder style slow down/speed up, but… just for walking into a room? There’s also some timeless comedy like a “can you hear me now” cellphone joke.

This is also going to seem like a nitpick, but *twice* people walk up to the bar and order a drink without specifying what they want. The guy walks up to the bar and says “three shots.” Doesn’t say of what. Later, a different guy walks up and says “Hello sir, I’ll take a drink.” I know this is small, but it’s demonstrative of a lack of effort to me.

As far as plot, it’s mostly just these people having sex and being trapped in rooms until the writer realizes the movie is dragging and it’s time for them to randomly die. But then, because Rick Bota thinks that *SPOILER ALERT* “none of that actually happened” is a great ending, you find out they just sat there in coffins. Thanks, Rick Bota.

The one thing that nudges this movie above Deader is there’s some actual acting in it, particularly from Henry Cavill and Lance Henrickson, who weirdly catfishes someone in this movie. Also, Chatterer is back!

6. Hellraiser: Hellseeker

It’s really hard to pull off an “amnesiac” story and unfortunately, this did not succeed. They don’t dole out any info along the way, and because the main character is confused the whole time, so are we. I like that they tried to go back to the Kirsty storyline from the first two movies, but because this movie is so bad and she’s barely in it, Hellseeker does zero justice to it.

There’s also no scares at all … honestly not really even any gore, which is what these movies are all about. I’m legitimately surprised this got an R, especially with such crappy effects.

It’s not offensively bad like those earlier on the list, but frankly, it’s just boring for an hour and a half. Also, SPOILER, he was dead the whole time, so nothing actually happened and this whole movie was pointless (damn you Rick Bota!).

There is a solitary good line in this movie, and it’s “you’re creeping me out… and I’m a coroner.” I just saved you an hour and a half.

5. Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth

This is the first movie that steps away from Kristy, Frank, and company… and these characters are not nearly as well rounded. Of the new crew, Terri is the *most* interesting, and she gets completely wasted. It’s all new cenobites as well, except for Pinhead himself.

These dumb new Cenobites are way too “of their time” compared to the classic look of the others… especially the CD throwing one. Although “missile from camera lens in eye” guy isn’t much better.

Interestingly, it seems that the effects are somehow worse than the older movies.

As far as actual characterization, I understand that the human side of Pinhead and the “evil-ness” portion of him split in the previous entry, but I wish it was still about the line between pleasure and pain instead of “we’re evil and just want to kill people”. This sort of departure from what makes the originals interesting is what dooms a lot of horror franchises. The reason Friday the 13th is so consistent is because it’s the same shtick. Kids show up at Camp Crystal Lake, they get killed. Only when they try something else (it’s not Jason, they’re on a boat this time, Jason is possessing people) do they start to get worse. But I digress.

I thought this one was a bit of a misfire, even with an honestly solid soundtrack. That said, it’s not nearly as bad as some of the later entries… and a word of advice, 100% of the time don’t listen if a statue starts talking to you.

4. Hellraiser 4: Bloodline

We’re in space! Barely though, which is disappointing. We’re also in 1796 France, with Adam Scott no less! This movie follows the same actor playing his own ancestor/descendant in three different time periods, and going into the backstory of the Lament Configuration itself is an interesting concept. I also liked giving Pinhead an antagonist from Hell in the form of Angelique.

However, starting at Hellraiser 3 and continuing in 4, the movies just aren’t as disturbing and kind of fly in the face of core plot points. The cenobites weren’t just crazy blood crazed demons; they were summoned to explore the line between pleasure and pain, and per Pinhead himself “It is not hands that call us, but desire”. This one works better for me than 3 though.

The design choices didn’t work great for me, there’s a hellhound trying to rip-off Chatterer (#NotMyChatterer), and the lore is getting all tangled up… but this one still might be worth a watch for “what could have been.”

3. Hellraiser: Inferno

No one was more surprised than me that Hellraiser: Inferno is so high on the list. As the 5th entry, I had already resigned myself to not enjoying the rest of the series after 3 and 4 didn’t really work for me. But there it was… a bright spot in what was one of the quickest quality plummets I’ve ever seen from a franchise.

Inferno gets going with some actually creepy design work, and there’s some solid acting in it from a handful of B-list actors. It’s clear (as is true of many of the later Hellraisers) that this didn’t start out as a Hellraiser script, but the additions don’t feel forced. The camera work is trippy, the characters are interesting, and the story, while a little obvious, still really works.

It’s not perfect, with some lame voiceover and fairly predictable plot points, but it’s still very well done. In fact, I would say that while a decent Hellraiser movie, this is a GREAT Silent Hill movie, and would recommend it as such.

They also include a new chatterer with no legs (still #NotMyChatterer).

2. Hellraiser 2: Hellbound

Hellraiser 2 picks up right where Hellraiser ends, both in terms of story and fucked-up imagery.

There’s a scene with Browning and a razor that’s really hard to watch, and Dr. Channard literally makes out with a flayed corpse. Also, Uncle Frank sure is intent on sleeping with his niece.

Julia is much better in this one than the first, both in terms of characterization and actual acting. I also liked the callback with “come to mother” instead of “come to daddy”. Conversely, Kirsty is very passive in this movie… I would have liked her to have done more, instead of just having things happen at/to her.

All in all, this was a pretty solid sequel and my one real complaint is that I wish the Cenobites had put up more of a fight at the end of the movie. Definitely worth a watch!

1. Hellraiser

Can’t top the original in this franchise. This movie does an incredible job of putting you on edge with effects that could carry the movie on its own. It starts small with cool effects like the blood seeping into the wood, and then immediately one-upping themselves with Frank’s body reconstructing itself, and more.

Costuming was also awesome… The Chatterer is definitely my favorite cenobite, although they were all in it a lot less than I anticipated. Little touches like being able to see blood on the back of “Larry’s” neck when he’s talking to Kirsty at the end also add a lot to the movie.

The camera work itself is impressive as well, and they’re constantly creating really awesome shots like the silhouette of Frank’s face in the darkness… plus, get ready for intense close ups to show agony, like when Julia uses a hammer on some poor schmuck.

Speaking of Julia, I didn’t really love either the actress or the character, but I have to show some respect for her commitment because a literal pile of flesh says “I want to touch you” AND SHE DOES IT, SHE PUTS HIS GROSS FLESH FINGER IN HER MOUTH. Can’t have been fun.

There’s a satisfying and suitably grotesque ending, I like that the Cenobites turn on Kristy, and honestly this is a great, disturbing movie that left a serious imprint.

BONUS- Hellbound Heart (Novella)

Clive Barker’s novella is fairly similar to the first movie, which makes sense as it was basically written as an outline. An interesting change is that instead of Kirsty being Larry’s daughter, she’s a 3rd party who’s attracted to him. This really changes the motivation. I also liked getting more in-depth description of how the cenobites primed Frank by making his memories and senses super intense. It’s short and on the internet, so if you enjoy the movie, it’s worth reading.

This was a pretty tough franchise to get through. Except for Inferno, all the direct to video sequels are quite bad, especially the Rick Bota ones, and I feel like there’s a specific change I can point to where they went wrong.

A major part of the novella and first two movies was the difficulty of opening the Lament Configuration. In the book, we see that “Only after several hours of trial and error did a chance juxtaposition of thumbs, middle and last fingers bear fruit…” and after that, we get another “several hours had gone by.”

It gets easier and easier to open as this franchise goes on because they get further and further from the point of the originals. It’s not about a spooky demon… it’s about crazy shit people do for pleasure and experience. Frank is bored of life, and spends hours and hours working on this puzzle to show his obsession with finding more. In Hellbound it’s opened by a person who is in a psych ward for being obsessed with puzzles, and it still takes her a while.

Conversely, by the time we get to Deader, the main character picks up the Lament Configuration and spends about five seconds before she gets it open… then later opens it again just by throwing it. The effort and time spent opening the box was part of what made the cenobites and the people who opened it interesting.

The first two movies are great, and Inferno is also very good. Beyond those? Leave these movies in Hell where they belong.

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