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The reimagined 'Hellraiser' is just another horror film slapped together from a bunch of other horror films

Jamie Clayton as Pinhead HELLRAISER.
Spyglass Media Group/Courtesy of Spyglass Media Group
Jamie Clayton as Pinhead HELLRAISER.

Making a movie out of an already existing idea is an interesting proposition these days. We’ve had sequels forever, of course, and remakes, too. Prequels have gotten popular over the last 25 years or so, as have reboots, which I understand are not the same as remakes.

One approach that seems quite fraught is the “reimagining,” mostly because this implies some amount of imagination is involved, which may be overpromising. At least this is the case with the new Hellraiser, an embarrassingly uninspired reimagined version of Clive Barker’s 1987 film.

Like that one, this has a mysterious puzzle box that can summon the Cenobites, horrifying creatures that inflict all manner of pain on the people who summon them. Or, in this case, not so much all manner of pain as mostly just sticking hooks on chains into the people over and over. Our hero, Riley, accidentally unleashes the box on her friends, and the movie becomes more like a typical slasher film, in that the box keeps stabbing people in the hand, which summons the Cenobites to drop by and stick some more hooks into the poor sap who got stabbed, knocking people off one by one.

There’s an unnecessary amount of mythology and lore tossed around, and the movie uses the word “liminal” a lot, which I’ve discovered is the word du jour for people who are trying to sound like they’re saying something important. I don’t really believe director David Bruckner thinks he’s saying something important, but it’s certainly as self-serious as the first film was, which is something I’d have hoped a reimagining might address. It’s a bit surprising, given Bruckner’s last film, The Night House, did have a good bit of creativity, but it also appears he may have decided “night” was the most important part of that film’s success because he makes much of Hellraiser so dark we can’t even tell what’s going on, much less see the frightening Cenobites.

Ultimately this is just another horror film slapped together from a bunch of other horror films, and while the murders are gross, they’re also repetitive. We’ve seen it before, we’ve seen it all before, and I’m not sure the Cenobites themselves could have made it much more painful.

Hellraiser is on Hulu October 7th.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.