hellraiser judgment trailer

It seems like every horror series dies young or lives long enough to descend into the depths of direct-to-video trash. The Hellraiser movies, which began in 1987, achieved that transition in record time and have been disappointing horror buffs for several decades now. You know a horror franchise is in trouble when it sends its characters to outer space and Hellraiser did just that with its fourth film.

Anyway, the tenth film, Hellraiser: Judgment, arrives next month. As you’d expect, it’s going straight to Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD and the trailer makes it perfectly clear why.

Hellraiser Judgment Trailer

I’m not going to stand here and wail about the mighty having fallen, because Hellraiser was only mighty for about two years. The original film, written and directed by horror novelist and artist Clive Barker, is an icky, gooey, slimy, bloody, gory little nightmare of a movie, a blend of religious horror and deranged fantasy that lingers in the back of the mind like a sick dream, something you’d be ashamed to talk about. That’s been the key to so much of Barker’s horror on the page – he operates from a place that feels genuinely inhuman and Hellraiser is one of the few film adaptations of his work that captures that.

(Bonus thought: the lead Cenobite, the demon who would later be named “Pinhead,” exists as a neutral force, albeit a hellish one, in the first movie. The decision to maneuver him into a starring role as the chief villain in the sequels remains an unfortunate and catastrophic decision that robs him of his casual, by-the-books terror. The first movie is very much about people, good and evil, who meddle in forces they do not understand and come face-to-face with monsters who obey a strict set of guidelines, petty human morals and ethics be damned. That’s so much more interesting than anything the later sequels cooked up.)

The first sequel came one year later in 1988 and while Hellbound: Hellraiser II isn’t nearly as good as the first film, it’s still a twisted and outrageous experience that swings for the fences in every possible way. There’s an ambition to it that’s lacking in part three. And part four. Maybe not the surprisingly solid part five, but certainly part six. And part seven. And part eight. And part nine.

Part ten, Hellraiser: Judgment, seems especially unambitious, looking like a Saw sequel with a supernatural element rather than a proper Hellraiser movie. Then again, “a proper Hellraiser movie” at this point is low-budget junk that vanishes straight to video because only a handful of people care about these movies anymore. So maybe it is a proper Hellraiser movie? Anyway, Judgment can’t possibly be worse than 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations, a film that was literally produced on a microscopic budget so Dimension Films could hold on to the franchise rights as part of a plan to remake the original. Seven years later, they still haven’t remade the original.

Hellraiser: Judgment is written and directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe and arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD on February 13, 2018. It looks bad. I know I’ll eventually see it because I’m an unhealthy person. Here’s the official synopsis:

The dreaded Pinhead returns in the next terrifying chapter of the classic Hellraiser series. Three detectives trying to stop a diabolical serial killer are sucked into a maze of otherworldly horror, where hellish denizens including the Auditor, the Assessor, and the Jury await to pass judgment.

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