Hellraiser: We Couldn’t Think of a Title so We Just Called It Revelations
Directed by Victor Garcia
Starring Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Tracey Fairaway, Sebastien Roberts, Devon Sorvari, Sanny Van Heteren, Daniel Buran, Jay Gillespie, Stephan Smith Collins / Fred Tatasciore
Released on March 18, 2011
Running time: 1h 15m
The original Hellraiser is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. You’ve already seen me gush about it in an earlier review. I gave it a perfect 5 out of 5.
But the franchise as a whole leaves a lot to be desired.
However, the second movie, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, was pretty good. It’s one of the rare horror sequels that has any thought to it whatsoever. It was great to see Kirsty’s story continue. It was great to see more of the Cenobites, learn more about them, and even spend much of the movie in their Hell. It was great to meet new and interesting characters, and even see a few faces from the first one. And for the most part, it matches the original’s mythology, though it was markedly different in tone and scope. Though it wasn’t quite as amazing as the first, it was still damn good, and I’d give it either a 4 or a 4.5 out of 5.
Unfortunately, the third one, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, is where the franchise starts to suck. This is where the character of Pinhead the Hell Priest became radically different, becoming a slasher villain. He loses his morals (if you could call them that). Gone is everything that made him an interesting and legitimately scary character. And get a load of Camera-Head Cenobite, CD-Head Cenobite, Fire-Breathing Cenobite, Smoker Cenobite That Has the Ability to Dream, and their puns. Screw that noise. I’d give Hellraiser III a 1 out of 5, because it’s not entirely awful.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline gives us the Hell Priest iiiiiiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaaace! This one is too short for its own good, and is extremely light on character and plot as it tries to tell three stories in eighty-five minutes. The only pro of this one is that we get to go back into the past and see the origins of the Lament Configuration, and its creation by Philip Lemarchand. But even that story doesn’t work, and the film overall is a total mess. I’d give it a .5 or a 1 out of 5.
Starting with Hellraiser: Inferno, the rest of the franchise’s installments were all released direct-to-video. I’m amazed that Hellraiser III and IV were actual theatrical releases. Well, so was Norm of the North. I should also say that the scripts of Hellraiser V-VIII were not originally intended to be Hellraiser movies, but the studios demanded that they be the next installments in the franchise.
At least they started off well, because Hellraiser: Inferno is freaking fantastic. While it was never intended to be a Hellraiser movie, it actually works very well as one. While Hellraiser and Hellbound focused mostly on the physical and sexual torture that the Cenobites would inflict, Inferno focused on an entirely new aspect: psychological torture. Add to that an increasingly disturbing story, an ever-evolving main character, pretty good acting, and you have yourself a damn good movie. I’d give this one a 4.5 if not a perfect 5 out of 5. This was the directorial debut of Scott Derrickson, who would go on to direct the decent The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the underwhelming and needlessly environmentalist remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, the fantastic and terrifying Sinister, and the underrated Deliver Us from Evil, and he’s even directing the upcoming Doctor Strange.
The next sequel was Hellraiser: Hellseeker. This is the first of three Hellraiser movies to be directed by Rick Bota. And this one really wants to be Inferno, but doesn’t exactly understand what made Inferno so good. It really does not work, and is really forgettable. I’d give it a 1.5 out of 5.
The next of Rick Bota’s films was Hellraiser: Deader. Now that Bota wasn’t trying to redo Inferno, he had free reign with Deader. And this one’s pretty okay. The ideas are interesting and the story is decently told, but it really should not have been a Hellraiser movie. I’d give this one a 2.5 out of 5.
The last of Bota’s films was Hellraiser: Hellworld. I don’t know what Bota was thinking with this one’s idea: making an online game based on the Hellraiser series (even though barely any gameplay is shown), throwing a party among the players, and summoning the Hell Priest (his name is not Pinhead, Clive Barker said so) through the game to kill the partiers. LAME. This is one of the earliest roles of Henry Cavill, making his death in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that much sweeter. Hellworld gets a .5 out of 5. It is the worst of the series.
At least, I thought it was.
Then came Hellraiser: Revelations. Upon its release in 2011, there were three major things that made me think, This has bad written all over it. First, it was made solely so that Dimension Films and the Weinstein Company could keep the rights to the franchise from reverting back to Clive Barker because a Hellraiser remake was in development hell. Second, upon learning of the ungodly short turnaround time and his miniscule paycheck, Doug Bradley, who has played the Hell Priest (not Pinhead) since the franchise’s beginning, declined to reprise his iconic role. Third, and most important, Clive Barker hated the film. He condemned it, saying, “I want to put on the record that the flic [sic] out there using the word Hellraiser IS NO F-CKIN’ CHILD OF MINE! I have NOTHING to do with the f-ckin’ thing. If they claim its [sic] from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.” That’s bad press if ever I saw it. Wow. So obviously, I had to see it. I found it on Netflix. And I watched it.
And it was a slap in the face to me as a Hellraiser fanboy, because I love the original Hellraiser. And even if you didn’t see the original, you cannot deny that Revelations is a terrible effing movie. And those who actually saw the original will realize that this is a slapped-together, slipshod retread of the original.
The film begins with two guys named Nico Bradley and Steven Craven (GET IT?!) filming themselves as they drive to Tijuana to get away from their families. Get used to found-footage BS on a crappy camera – it takes up about thirty percent of the movie. Well, we only get five minutes of it at the beginning, but we get more sections of it later in the movie. But seriously, is this found-footage, or just awful camerawork? What’s even the difference? And these first five minutes are filled with cringey dialogue, cringey acting, and vomit-inducing camerawork. DO THESE FILMMAKERS EVEN KNOW HOW TO MOVIE?! Insert a ten-second shot of Nico and Steven freaking out after their car gets jacked. Then cut to Steven filming Nico, who is surrounded by candles and trying to open the Lament Configuration. WHERE THE EFF DID THEY GET THAT? Worse, this time around, the box looks more like a prop than the actual puzzle box. Even the original Hellraiser got that right. From here on out, I will call it the Prop Box. Nico opens the Prop Box, which emits a terrible CGI blue glow. Rather than show a creepy shot of blue light coming through the walls, just show a blue glow because the movie’s budget was only three hundred grand. Steven turns the camera and suddenly sees – THAT’S NOT THE HELL PRIEST! Seriously, who the hell are these filmmakers trying to fool? That is not the Hell Priest! Also, YOU ACTUALLY CAUGHT HIM ON CAMERA?! This Hell Priest is awful. The makeup is all wrong, and the costume has clearly been bought from a Halloween store, both contributing to making the goofy-looking Hell Priest look like he’s been eating way too many human steaks. Steven and Nico freak out as the actual moviemaking camera pulls back from the viewscreen on a camcorder.
The camcorder is being held by Steven’s mother, who is sitting in Steven’s room watching the footage sometime after Steven and Nico’s disappearance. HOW WAS THAT CAMERA RECOVERED? HOW WAS THE FOOTAGE NOT DELETED OR CORRUPTED? But now, as I moved into the actual movie, I found myself unable to tell the difference between the found-footage and the actual professional camerawork, because it is awful. I’ve seen student films shot on standard-def camcorders that look better than this and are significantly less shaky. Seriously, when your camerawork is as bad as a really bad found-footage movie, you need to get a better cameraman. Tripods are not expensive. You can get one for as cheap as fifteen bucks.
The families of Steven and Nico meet every year after the two’s disappearance. They engage in unnatural exchanges, bad acting that mistakes awkward yelling for showing emotion, and letting the teenage boys in the audience ogle over Steven’s sister Emma’s body in a revealing top that shows a ton of cleavage. Oh, and toss in the occasional brief shot of the Hell Priest grimacing and looking around while standing in his domain. Oh, and the Chatterer is female this time.
About five minutes after the change into the actual movie, Emma takes the camcorder into Steven’s room and watches the footage for herself. The footage we see is of Steven and Nico getting blasted drunk and attempting to pick up a chick who doesn’t speak English. AND THIS SCENE IS SO AGGRAVATING! Convincingly obnoxious does not equal convincingly drunk. I mean, wow. The acting in this scene is so freaking bad. Plus, I have no idea why this chick doesn’t run off at the sign of two dumbass American boys who oh so obviously want to screw her to their hearts’ content. In fact, they do. Yes; Nico somehow convinces the Mexican puta to have sex with him in a dirty, empty restroom. I’m amazed that none of caught an STD from screwing in that dirty of a bathroom. In the real world, Emma is unconvincingly shocked at this. Apparently Nico was her boyfriend, and it hurts Emma to see him being unfaithful. I put that in italics because it wasn’t exactly conveyed very well through acting. Ha – she can’t make herself cry on cue. Come on; even I can do that (kind of – it takes me a minute). Emma reaches into the bag in which Steven’s camera was recovered in, and pulls out the Prop Box. WHAT?! WHERE THE EFF DID THE AUTHORITIES GET THAT?! Though in the original Hellraiser, how Frank got the box when he escaped the Cenobites was never explained either.
Insert a random shot of the Hell Priest standing in his domain, grimacing. Gotta give him screentime somehow; ths s a Helrsaer mvoie!
Out in the living room, the two families discuss the circumstances of the disappearances of Steven and Nico. These four adults are easily the best actors in the movie, though that’s not saying much.
Emma goes outside and solves the Prop Box. WHAT?! DID SHE SEE THE FOOTAGE OF NICO SOLVING THE PROP BOX AND SUMMONING THE HELL PRIEST?! YOU MORON! And then Steven appears out of nowhere. WHAT?! WHERE DID HE COME FROM?! Emma brings Steven inside, where both families are happy to see him but are horrified at his mental instability. Emma goes to dial 911, but when she dials, she only presses a single digit. MORON. But the phones don’t work. How convenient. There’s no cell signal. How convenient. And when Nico’s dad goes outside to bring his car to the entrance to take Steven to the hospital, he discovers that all of the cars are gone. How effing convenient. Steven’s dad goes to get his gun, and apparently Steven’s mom is initially shocked that Steven’s dad would dare to have a gun. Well, as far as I can tell, this movie is set in southern California, which is little more than a liberal hellhole, so I am also surprised that Steven’s dad owns a gun. Seriously, the inordinate number of legal hoops you have to jump through to get a gun in California is ridiculous. But seriously, regardless of where you live in the United States, I urge you to buy at least one gun.
Insert another shot of the Hell Priest in his domain. But this time, he’s putting nails into another Cenobite’s head. Wait, so there are TWO HELL PRIESTS NOW?! Fine – I’ll call the new Hell Priest Pinhead.
The family begins thinking that they are under siege. Emma has no idea what’s happening, even though she’s seen the footage of Nico opening the Prop Box and summoning the Hell Priest. She should know that opening the Prop Box summons the Cenobites. Steven disappears, but the group finds him outside, where he attemptedly ominously tells the families that the Cenobites are coming. I love how the acting from everyone else doesn’t deviate from “slightly concerned” or “bored”.
Cut back to Steven and Nico pre-disappearance, though thankfully we are not dealing with any found footage. The Mexican puta is dead, having hit her head on the toilet hard enough to kill her, according to Nico. Steven is troubled over the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the puta, though Nico keeps attempting to defuse Steven’s attitude. Some vagrant comes up to them, looking suspiciously like the vagrant from the original Hellraiser, and offers them the Prop Box, telling them of the pleasures within. How did this vagrant come across the Prop Box, let alone learn all about what’s inside? The vagrant starts rambling, and within a few seconds, he’s not even talking about the Prop Box anymore. Nico asks how much the vagrant wants for the Prop Box, but the vagrant says
VAGRANT: It’s yours, Nico. It always was.
ME: AAAAAAGGGGGGHHH! *slams keyboard on desk*
This vagrant’s performance is terrible. He speaks in a fake gravelly voice, trying to use his presence and demeanor to disturb, but comes across as silly and almost funny.
Cut to Nico and Steven in the scene in which Nico opens the Prop Box. But this time, the footage (it constantly cuts between camcorder and professional footage) is extended. Nico tells Steven to film him opening the Prop Box, but Steven refuses. After a bit of pushing, Steven agrees. Jeez, you could tell him he was a grilled cheese sandwich and he’d probably believe it. Anyway, hooked chains reach out and snag Nico. And the movie sees fit to cut away as the chains whoosh through the air, and cut back once the chains are already hooked into flesh. Oh my gosh, could this movie not figure out how to do the “chains whooshing through the air effect”? Clive Barker did that in the original Hellraiser…in 1987!
After the Hell Priest takes Nico, Steven is spared. Depressed, he walks down an alley that’s an obvious set and picks up an inexplicably Asian puta. While they make with the sexies in a hotel room, Steven hears Nico’s voice in his head, telling him to kill the puta. Steven does so, using the Prop Box (HOW DOES HE STILL HAVE THAT) as a bludgeoning implement. Out of the pool of blood climbs a skinless Nico, whose skinless effects cannot hope to match the ones in the original Hellraiser.
NICO: Steven! The blood brought me back! Bring me more.
ME: AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHH! *slams head against wall*
First, that’s not where Nico was taken. You can’t just spill blood anywhere and expect someone held captive by the Cenobites to just show up. The reason that Larry’s spilt blood brought Frank back in the original Hellraiser is because that’s where Frank was taken.
Second, the return of Frank was accompanied by one of the best displays of practical effects in history. In Revelations, the skinless Nico rises out of the pool of blood. To be fair, Julia’s return in Hellbound was the same.
Third, Nico’s explanation for his return is the most blunt, banal thing ever.
Fourth, Nico telling Steven to bring him more blood is again like the original Hellraiser, with Steven now killing people for Nico like Julia did for Frank, albeit without any of the emotional reasons and without Clare Higgins’s brilliant acting.
It’s as if the only research on Hellraiser was the plot on its Wikipedia page.
Cut back to the two families, where Steven again tells them that the Cenobites are coming. Steven is taken to his bedroom to rest. In the kitchen, Emma talks to Nico’s dad. But then this happens: Emma bites her lip in a sexual manner. She starts breathing heavily and speaking in a sultry manner. She also starts rubbing the circle on the Prop Box in a sexual manner (she’s fingering its circle!). Uh, Emma? What are you doing? Uh, are you secretly sexually attracted to Nico’s dad? This is incredibly awkward, considering that Nico is Emma’s boyfriend. This continues for about a minute before Emma’s mother asks her to carry a bowl of soup to Steven. Emma takes the soup and walks away, touching Nico’s dad’s shoulder as she goes. Dude, I’ve seen the scene in Sleepaway Camp in which Meg (a teen) seduces Mel (a man in his fifties), and yet this scene in Revelations made me go “EEEEWWW!” And then the movie sees fit to top that scene! Emma goes into Steven’s room and sits down on his bed. She gives Steven his soup, which he is unable to finish. He offers the rest to Emma. She takes a few sips and puts the bowl down. Steven notices that she has a bit of soup still on her lip, wipes it away with his finger, puts his finger in his mouth, and sucks off the drop of soup. And then, as if the scene couldn’t get any more uncomfortable, Steven and Emma start making out. Full-on making out, tonguing included. Steven even slips his hand under Emma’s dress and cups her boob. Oh! Oh, ew ew ew ew ew! No! No! No no no no no! Stop it! That’s disgusting! You two are siblings! That’s so effing gross! Stop! EWW! Dude, I’ve seen the bj scene in The Human Centipede 3, and yet this scene in Revelations made me go “EEEEEEWWWW!” Seriously, WHAT THE EFF IS GOING ON?! Just as incestuous making with the sexies might actually become a possibility, Emma stops herself and awkwardly leaves the room. Thank God.
The affair between Frank and Julia was not only important to the plot, but was handled in a tasteful manner. Plus, they were two actual thirtysomething adults. Steven and Emma are probably in their late teens, considering that Steven is older than Emma and he still lives with his family. Worse, this incestuous scene has no bearing on the plot whatsoever, making this scene…entirely pointless.
The vagrant shows up skulking around the outside of the house. Steven and Nico’s dads go outside with the gun to confront him. Nico’s dad takes the gun from Steven’s dad and blows the vagrant away, much to Steven’s dad’s protest. But the vagrant gets up and, with a knife that looks like it came out of the Hell Priest’s domain, cuts off a big chunk of Nico’s dad’s face. I don’t remember if Nico’s dad dies or not, as I can’t be bothered to do so. Back inside, Steven inexplicably goes ballistic, taking the gun and waving it around, threatening his family, SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUUUUUUUUNGS! His attempts at “showing emotion” by screaming are the exact opposite of intimidating, and are either slightly funny or painfully dull. This actor is trying so hard to evoke trigger-happy psychosis, waving around the gun in his hand as the women of the family weep uncontrollably, but he’s about as threatening as a slice of plain, unbuttered wheat toast. It is one of the most embarrassing showcases of crappy acting I have ever seen, and it goes on for minutes. He starts being a whiny baby about how he hated his home life and hated his parents and hated living in a prosperous family that he refers to as hicks, gloating about how Nico took Emma’s virginity (as if she ever actually had any to begin with), and even pointing out that his dad and Nico’s mom had an affair. Oh, a subplot about cheating amongst the parents. Oooooooooh. Steven even shoots his dad in the stomach. And his dad somehow manages to remain coherent, despite the fact that he should be choking on blood right now. But hey, The Matrix Revolutions did the same thing with the death of Trinity, except with impalement instead of a gunshot.
Steven explains more of what happened in Tijuana. He killed two more putas for Nico to regenerate. The next time he’s ready to kill another puta, he chickens out when he learns that this puta has a baby. After Steven puts on the Chicken Hat from Metal Gear Solid V, Nico does the killing himself, choking the puta to death. But this choking is not realistic – when you’re getting choked, you cannot breathe or make any guttural sounds, you stupid puta. And oh, how edgy – Nico even kills the baby. Back at Steven’s hotel room, Steven refuses to continue helping Nico. Nico responds by saying that he only needs a skin, and takes out his switchblade (like Frank. *slams head against wall*). After skinning Steven, he leaves, leaving the Prop Box for a still-alive Steven. THEN HOW DID THE PROPER AUTHORITIES FIND THE BOX AND RETURN IT TO STEVEN’S FAMILY ALONG WITH THE CAMCORDER?!
So, if you didn’t catch on to the twist, Steven in the present is actually Nico wearing Steven’s skin. It was about now that I noticed that I was starting to nod off. This movie is so lethargic. So Nico forces Emma to open the Prop Box at gunpoint. She does so, summoning the Cenobites, which includes the female Chatterer (eff) and Steven, who was the guy that the Hell Priest was making into a Pinhead. Nico is restrained by the hooked chains. The Hell Priest, seeing that Emma opened the box, prepares to take her, taunting her with innuendo. Nico’s mom says that Nico forced Emma to open the box, but the Hell Priest, completely breaking his own rules, kills Nico’s mom outright with two hooks that rip the skin off her trachea. Steven’s dad, still somehow coherent, grabs the gun and shoots Nico. Nico thanks Steven’s dad as he dies. The Hell Priest berates Steven’s dad, telling him that Nico suffering in the Cenobites’ realm would have been revenge enough, and that he now owes them a soul. The Cenobites take Steven’s mom and leave, leaving Emma alone with her dad, who dies. Emma, seeing the Prop Box still there, reaches toward it. Oh, so she’s going for the Prop Box now? What exactly do you think you can do with it, Emma? It’s not as if you will be able to rescue your mother. In fact, the most likely outcome will be you at the mercy of the Cenobites and being forced to endure an eternity of torture. Emma takes the box and – DON’T LOOK AT THE CAMERA!
And then, credits. Uh … is that supposed to be a cliffhanger? And the movie ends at a criminally short seventy-five minutes. Wow.
Let’s face it – even Clive Barker has produced some stinkers. Transmutations, RawHead Rex, The Plague, and Saint Sinner come to mind, and, personally, Candyman wasn’t my thing. But when even Clive Barker condemns a Hellraiser movie, you know it sucks.
This film is dead on arrival.
It’s one thing if a filmmaker makes a bad film with honest intentions. Tommy Wiseau made The Room out of his passion to tell his story about the consequences of infidelity. Ed Wood himself made Glen or Glenda to plead for the acceptance of transvestites in the 1950s, and later made Plan 9 from Outer Space to urge the people of Earth to stop the nuclear arms race before we ended up without a planet to live on. The fact that these messages in all three of these movies were lost in the unintentional comedy and sheer ineptitude is beside the point, because we know that Wiseau and Wood had more in mind than money, and I respect them for that. However, in the case of the makers of Hellraiser: Revelations, the polar opposite was the case. This film was made purely and completely out of greed, and it shows.
To cut this movie slack because of its low budget does not work. Clive Barker directed the original Hellraiser having only a one million dollar budget, and he made a goddamn masterpiece that is to this day considered an essential staple in the horror genre. It comes down to talent, both in front of and behind the camera.
When the first draft of a screenplay is written, its author will read through it and see a ton of mistakes that need to be corrected. Characters and their actions may need to be modified. Sequences of events may not make sense. Yet none of this seemed to occur to the screenwriters of Revelations; one of the co-writers was the director.
I haven’t seen any of these actors before; the low budget keeps this film from hiring any actors with actual talent. And all of them suck. Every emotion is forced, and the results are either unintentionally comedic or obnoxious and aggravating. Steven and Nico’s performances are as believable as me trying to pass myself off as a Mormon (even though I actually am). Emma was entirely there to pout her lips and show her cleavage. They cannot act. I have no idea how they passed any sort of audition process.
Victor Garcia directed this movie. His shot choices are so bland and so boring that the film looks worse than a student film. I’ve seen plenty of student films that were shot on student-issue camcorders that look not only better than this, but actually look damn impressive for student films. And any film, whether theatrical, direct-to-video, or made-for-TV, should at least look better than a student film. There are too many facial closeups. I already mentioned the shaky cam, but I did not scream about I nearly enough, because there’s shaky cam here, shaky cam there, shaky cam everyeffingwhere! The cinematographer for this was David Armstrong, who recently proved himself a decent director of photography on almost every Saw film, as well as plenty of other films. But here, the shots are poorly lit and look very slapdash and clumsy. It’s almost as if Armstrong either didn’t have time to strategically set up each shot because of the ungodly short shooting schedule, or he really didn’t feel motivated to do his job and just wanted his paycheck. I completely understand.
I can only describe the special effects as penny-pinching. The gore is all phoned in, and the prosthetics are made obvious whenever flesh is ripped away. Considering just how grisly the first film was, Revelations is outdone by a mile by Saw, which isn’t anywhere near as violent as the first Hellraiser. The few CGI effects in the film look facepalmingly cheap.
Revelations can even warp time and space. Though it’s only a criminally short seventy-five minutes, it feels like five hours. It can also serve as a sedative, as I almost fell asleep while watching.
Even the set design is ungodly bland. The sets in the Cenobite realm haven’t been updated since the original. It’s still just swinging chains and swiveling pillars lit with blue light. It worked in the original film due to the fact that we hadn’t seen anything like it before, and the fact that Clive Barker’s cameraman shot the scenes in the Cenobite realm brilliantly. But that was done in 1987 on a one million dollar budget. That is tiny; and for Revelations to not even try to update the look is just silly and cheap. Worse, the Cenobite realm in Revelations looks like a tiny, cramped studio apartment rather than what would eventually become a labyrinthine Hell limited only by imagination in Hellbound.
The plot overall is a lazy, slapped-together retread of the original film disguised as just another sloppily made insta-sequel. It’s different enough so as to fall under fair use, but that does not make it any less ridiculous. It took the basic plot of the original film and shoehorned it into a drama about two dysfunctional families. It’s as if the only research done on the original’s plot was on the Wikipedia page. Revelations is a slap in the face to fans of the franchise, who have remained by its side as the sequels continued to get worse following Hellbound. Beginning with the third film, the franchise plummeted toward rock bottom quickly, though Inferno was damn good. Revelations, however, is not only the worst of the bunch, but it clearly fails miserably at replicating the formula of the original. Gone is the legitimately unique experience. Gone is its intelligent take on moral and emotional complexities. Gone are its themes of treachery, deception, blind love, situations better left alone, the darkest parts of the human psyche, and pure, reckless desire. Gone is the sick and remorseless attitude and its refusal to pander. Gone is the purely character-focused story. Gone are the expertly crafted characters. Gone are the Cenobites’ cryptic nature, the rules that they live by, and their metaphorical representation as the end result of blind desire and ambition gone wrong. Gone is the structured, reasonable, and restrained violence and gore. Gone are some of the greatest practical effects I’ve ever seen. Gone are the creative, inspired costumes and makeup. Gone is the well-written dialogue and its convincing delivery by fantastic actors. Gone is the outstanding, eerily beautiful, atmospheric cinematography and sound, its dark feel, soft focus, slightly washed out look, and its use of sensual and nightmarish imagery. Gone is Christopher Young’s fantastic soundtrack. Everything that made the original a goddamn masterpiece is gone. Even Lemarchand’s iconic Lament Configuration.
Even the Hell Priest himself. Doug Bradley was right to bail while he still could. His replacement is Stephan Smith Collins, with voicework by Fred Tatasciore. And I honestly feel sorry for these two. Tatasciore is a pretty talented voice actor. I’ve seen him in a lot of stuff. But regardless of his acting ability, he does unbelievably poorly in this movie. He is so dull and lifeless. Gone is Doug Bradley’s booming voice that has been in the franchise since the beginning. Now, he sounds the European-accented love child of Don LaFontaine and Raiden from Mortal Kombat. It hurts to listen to. But I can’t blame Tatasciore – the script gives him nothing to work with. It doesn’t help that the Hell Priest is barely in the film, his screentime amounting to two or three minutes. Tatasciore was brought in to give the Hell Priest an intensity that Collins clearly lacked. Though hearing Tatasciore’s voice rather than Collins’s voice is arguably a plus, just how much of a consolation it is is negligible. It’s not like he could have made the film palatable singlehandedly anyway. But Collins is awful too. This poor bastard is in over his head trying to live up to Doug Bradley’s gravitas as the Hell Priest in every possible way. He’s clearly trying, but he’s fighting a losing battle. Much like Jackie Earle Haley replacing Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street and Andrew Bryniarski replacing Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface in the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the viewers will inevitably compare and contrast the new with the old. The producers sneakily tried to reduce Collins’s role in the film to prevent these comparisons, but they failed miserably. They even put black contacts in his eyes to try to make him look more threatening. He clearly doesn’t look the part. With his head shape, he looks like a professional wrestler. His body language cannot hope to mimic any of Doug Bradley’s. He lacks everything that made Bradley so iconic. He clearly looks like he had no rehearsal or prep time, and is being quietly, timidly told what to do by the director offscreen. The new makeup for Collins’s head doesn’t work at all. There’s too much shadow work around his nails and his cut-grid on his head, making him look ungodly goofy when compared to the stark white makeup of the past films. I could forgive that if Collins’s and Tatasciore’s performances were good, but they aren’t. The Cenobites in general are poorly designed, as their makeup is awful and their costumes look like they were bought at a Halloween store.
The Hell Priest was once one of the most feared villains of the horror genre. He took the ultimate pleasure in torturing others and making people’s lives hell. But he now stands there in his poorly constructed realm making duck-faced looks. I’m so sorry that this happened to him.
The inevitable remake is still going to happen eventually, but after this abomination, continuing with the remake is not a wise choice. Lay the Hell Priest to rest, and let the franchise die quietly.
But the remake is taking too long to be made, and Dimension Films and the Weinstein Company are almost out of time. The rights to the Hellraiser franchise will soon be reverting back to Clive Barker.
And because of this, believe it or not, next year, there’s going to be another sequel. And Hellraiser: Judgment is being made for the same reasons that Revelations was.
Final verdict: 0 out of 5 stars.