Watch the history of the puzzlebox in this shambling corpse of a film that turns an interesting franchise into demons in space.
It really is impressive that this film can somehow look worse in this one than the one they did in 1987.
This time around we discover the creation of the puzzlebox, and the cursed bloodline that follows. The film is broken into three parts—the eighteenth century, contemporary, and the future. Each chunk of the narrative is given more or less equal treatment, and this is a large part of the problem here.
The same actor plays the protagonist in all three, and this is a bit distracting. However, Bruce Ramsay is a better actor than just about everyone else in the film, so it kind of makes sense. The film is directed by Alan Smithee, who is a fake name given when the director wishes to distance themselves from a project.
The bummer here is that the film is clearly trying something new. We are examining debauchery, desire, and the bloodline that damned so many. I would be curious to see the original script, as excessive reshoots and edits caused the director to walk away. It seems that Hellraiser as a franchise is a constant victim to studio interference and bullshit. Who knows what the first one would have looked like if Barker had been given 100% freedom. Perhaps this fourth installment would have situated the franchise back on the right track. Unfortunately, this is going to remain one of horror genres great what-if games.
The dialogue is better this time around. We have more of a sexualized, poetic, occult, and archaic formula from many of the characters. The grandiose language fits in with the original theme, and when this film does work it can make you reminisce about the feeling of the original.
The problem is that these moments are fleeting. The movie works as a horror film for the first chunk in the past. This one could have actually been stretched into a full story—and that is the case with these sections. Each one might have worked, or perhaps is the film was more than 85 minutes (including a lengthy credit sequence at the start or end).
Our new villain is a demon named Angelique, who appears as human instead of a Cenobite. She isn’t a bad villain, but her sequences with Pinhead are just kind of weird. Seeing Pinhead as someone who has relationships further dismantles the mystique around his character. This issue makes the 1996 section perhaps the most imbalanced. Now, don’t get me wrong—the future segment the most out of place, but this one is imbalanced.
Angelique presents a different type of demon then what we are used to. Having a seductress makes sense from a lore standpoint, but it seems removed at the same time as the Cenobites are usually terrifying and weird. Further, after the campy third entry it is hard to know what to expect when Pinhead does show up. Also, Pinhead knows about Angelique from the past, but according to the lore he didn’t exist then—so it all just seems a little messed up. It is hard to enjoy a film where you actively have to ignore established narrative.
Oh yeah, this time around Pinhead has a stupid dog. I feel like I should mention that, but I got nothing to really say about it. I can bitch about the fact that Pinhead can kill at will, where he used to have to follow rules, and he wouldn’t just slaughter for no reason. I guess they thought this made him scarier, but it actually just standardizes him in the horror genre. Great, another diabolic murderer. The fact that one had to pursue the unknown to see him made it more fitting. Now, it just seems kind of silly.
The future segment just feels out of place for me. I have never liked when series jump ahead in time, and this one is no exception. It plays like a slasher flick in space.
The created Cenobite (made from twins) is better than any of them in the third entry, but none ring as interesting as the original crew.
The three storylines do make sense when put together, but I can’t get over how much of the film feels choppy (due to reshoots). I had never watched this one before, and I think it is probably better than third as a whole. With this one the director clearly cared about the story, at least the effort was there. 4.5/10