Hellraiser (1987), is one of the most iconic horror movies ever made. Since then the franchise has gone through some serious ups and downs. Unfortunately, more downs than ups. However, as bad as some of the later films in the franchise were there was always enjoyable moments. At least you’d get to see Doug Bradley as Pinhead, doing what he does best. That changed in 2011 when Pinhead was recast with a truly awful replacement. After what was the 9th film in the franchise things went cold, which was for the best. Nobody knew what direction to take the once adored series in, until 2018. Hellraiser: Judgment is the 10th chapter in the seemingly never ending Hellraiser film series. It was released on February 13th, 2018 direct to video and via video on demand.
In the beginning we see a man named Karl Watkins strapped to a chair in a strange room. Across from him is another man behind a desk with a typewriter. However, he is oddly pale and his face and head have numerous slash marks on them. He questions Karl on the sins he has committed throughout his life. One specifically involving a young girl is focused upon. Karl soon notices that his confession is being typed with his own blood being used as the ink. To describe what takes place after this would be rather difficult. It is quite clear that Karl is going through some kind of judgment process. He is inevitably found guilty and he is punished by having his skin torn from his body.
I have to say, I was very impressed by this opening. The whole concept of a kind of twisted courtroom from hell is very interesting. Throughout the grotesque process you see Pinhead as the judge residing on a throne in a dimly lit room, it’s very well done.
Sadly, we must move on from that and get into what the film is really about. Three detectives — Sean Carter, David Carter, and Christine Egerton — investigate a serial killer, only to discover a much deeper threat of otherworldly proportions. That’s all I care to say about the main plot of Hellraiser: Judgment. There really isn’t much more to it than that anyway.
Let me just get right into my opinion on Paul T. Taylor as our new Pinhead. On the whole, I thought he was quite good. His makeup looks exactly as it should and his voice is quite similar to Doug Bradley. However, the way he is used in the film made him feel a bit like a generic Cenobite. He simply isn’t in the film long enough for me to have a complete opinion on his performance.
Also, while the mystique surrounding him is strong in the opening it is almost non-existent by the end. There have been 3 pinheads and this guy is undoubtedly the 2nd best of the 3. Still, that’s a very low bar. When Doug Bradley was on screen as Pinhead, he had a presence and an ability to command the audience with his every word. I know I’m being harsh but these are some big boots to fill.
One thing that nobody can deny about Hellraiser: Judgment is how impressive the makeup and gore effects are. You cannot forget that this is a direct to video movie. Still, this is a compliment that can be aimed at every Hellraiser film. As good as the practical effects are, it’s something that I have come to expect. That alone isn’t enough to make a great Hellraiser movie, it needs more. Yes, there are a number of disgusting, grotesque moments in the film that could be hard to witness for the squeamish.
You can have the effects but it’s more often than not the other half of these movies that suffer and Hellraiser: Judgment is no different. The storyline surrounding the Carter brothers and their investigation of a bunch of strange murders feels extremely generic. It isn’t unlike other storylines we have seen from previous entries in the franchise and it suffers in similar ways. They are trying to create something interesting but it ends up feeling rushed, clichéd and extremely forgettable. The whole movie has a Saw like vibe to it.
I found it quite funny that Heather Langenkamp is billed so highly in the cast listings. I am not lying when I tell you that she is in for maybe 15 seconds and that’s it. Yeah, I guess it’s cool that Nancy appeared in a Hellraiser movie but it’s ultimately pointless.
I was feeling quite positive about Hellraiser Judgment as it was coming to a close. Then, the ending happened. What were they thinking? It’s a bold move but one that I do not understand or approve of. It makes little sense to me and doesn’t align well with Pinheads origin.
I’m not sure if they expected to get a sequel but based on this, I certainly hope they never do. I know it must be tough to think up new ideas for the franchise but this is not the direction it should be headed. The ending leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and damaged my feelings on it overall, a huge shame. I feel the director should be stopped as the direction it is heading in will do more damage to a franchise that simply cannot take anymore abuse.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about Hellraiser: Judgment. I cannot deny that it is stronger than Revelations. I will go as far to say that it is a huge improvement over some of the other movies that released before that. However, it doesn’t come close to earlier films in the franchise. It has some interesting ideas and the effects are very impressive. Still, it’s let down by a rather mundane story that could have easily been something else altogether. The opening is the strongest part of Judgment, even if it feels like some kind of fan film.
It expands on the Hellraiser universe in a very intriguing way that we’ve never seen before. I would have liked to see more of that rather than what comes after it. Judgment confirms once and for all that Doug Bradley simply cannot be replaced, even if he is imitated well. That ending though, Jesus wept.
The Final Score - 6/10
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