There are many subgenres of horror out there; psychological, slasher, supernatural, clown. But there’s perhaps none that I find harder to watch than body horror. The terror of watching the human form be manipulated in grotesque ways makes my stomach churn, and while there have been many franchises and films to focus on this, Hellraiser may just be the most popular. The original Hellraiser from 1987 was directed by Clive Barker, who happened to be the author of the book the film was based on, The Hellbound Heart. Often regarded as a horror classic, it spawned what feels like 100 sequels, tied together by the recurring characters in the Cenobites, agents of Hell that seek to inflict punishment under the guise of otherworldly pleasure. The group is led by the Hell Priest, unofficially named Pinhead by fans, who has since gone on to become the face of the series and a horror icon in his own right. While the original received a good amount of praise, the sequels seemed to range from forgettable to downright terrible.
2022’s Hellraiser marks the first film in the series since 2018, directed by David Bruckner who also helmed some pretty good horror films such as The Ritual and The Night House. Having a competent, experienced director at the reins certainly seems to have paid off, because the 11th film in the series is certainly a standout in the franchise, though it’s not exactly perfect. While neither a direct reboot or continuation of any previous stories, the film follows a recovering addict named Riley who comes into possession of a puzzle box that, when solved, requires a blood offering. When fulfilled, the Cenobites emerge and tear apart whomever’s blood was offered.
Even though the Cenobites were always the lead attraction in these films, they actually weren’t at the forefront of the story in the original. 2022’s Hellraiser is more or less the same, though their presence does increase throughout the film. The designs of the creatures lack the same pleather-centric appearance as the original film, opting for sleeker, almost cleaner looks that didn’t really have the same grotesque impact on me the way the originals did. While the concepts behind their designs are interesting and I like the idea behind a sexless, adrogenous take on the monsters, the final designs just didn’t feel as impactful. I will say Jamie Clayton does a pretty solid job as the new Priest aka Pinhead, bringing a chillingly subdued performance to a film that struggles to maintain its terror.
For a film centered around sadism, the movie is disappointingly tame for most of it. There are a few moments of genuine body horror towards the end, but the rest of the film can be a slow trudge towards anything exciting. The story is much more of an elevated horror approach this time around, centering around the themes of addiction. While not really all that original, I did like how it was tied into the story and eventual ending, highlighting the grief that many people who struggle with addiction will carry with them forever. It’s just a shame these themes didn’t make me like nearly any of the characters. This worked for the original Hellraiser, but this film seems like it wants me to actually have sympathy for these dumb assholes. Most of the performances are ok, but the writing certainly does them no favors.
Like I mentioned earlier, this film has a sloooow first hour with very little impactful scares. The film does pick up later on, bringing some much needed limb severing and flesh ripping. I just think it comes a little too late and would have worked to help bolster an often uninteresting, often convoluted story. The film does have some pretty solid visual moments, including a sequence in the back of a van that I thought was executed really well. Still, I feel like a Hellraiser film needs to at least attempt to go balls to the wall with its body horror, and I don’t even think I felt all that squeamish while watching this. I can’t even remember a single squeam.
I guess at the end of the day the film does at least have a solid message for the youth. Kids, don’t do Rubix cubes.
Pain & Pleasure
The Cenobites, the twisted runway models that inflict intense suffering on many victims, are defined by their inability to differentiate pleasure from pain. To them, they are one in the same. While I can’t exactly agree with that notion, I do think it could make a pretty interesting cocktail. The Pain and Pleasure is a balance between the sweet, refreshingness of strawberry, mixed with the impactful bite of chili peppers. Both these spectrums are balanced out rather nicely, bringing you as close to the sensation of finding comfort in needles shoved in your mouth as you’re gonna get.
- 2oz gin
- 1/2oz aperol
- 1/2oz lime juice
- 1/2oz chili pepper infused simple syrup
- 4 strawberries
- Rim: Black sugar
- Garnish: Strawberry
- Before building the drink, rim a coup glass with a lime wedge and coat it with black sugar. Place in fridge until needed.
- Add ingredients to a shaker.
- Muddle strawberries.
- Add ice and shake to chill.
- Double strain into prepared glass.
- Garnish with strawberry if desired.
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