Tuesday, February 13, 2018

HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT (2016) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Lionsgate 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 81 minutes
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Cast: Randy Wayne, Heather Langenkamp, Paul T. Taylor, Rheagan Wallace, Jon Gulager

Now if I am being honest the idea of a new Hellraiser sequel is about as appealing as the idea of chains with hooks appearing out of nowhere and tearing the skin from my body, I haven't enjoyed a Hellraiser film since the third one, and the one that came before this one was one of the worst to date, so when they announced it didn't even register on my radar, I've pretty much written of the series going forward. Many of the sequels to this beleaguered franchise never began life as scripts having nothing to do with the Hellraiser films, they were retro-fitted with an appearance from Pinhead to squeeze them into the series, and most of the times they have fallen pretty flat, after part three they all get a bit blurry to me. 

Which brings us to Hellraiser: Judgment (2016), which was sent for review. This is the tenth entry in the series, falling into the police procedural/torture vein, we have three detectives on the trail of a sin-based serial killer named The Preceptor, his MO very much along the lines of the villain in Se7en, elaborately murdering his victims he considers sinful, they're death somehow recalling the sin, in the case of one young woman who worships a false God - her precious dog - which the serial killer sews into the abdomen of his victim while it's alive. 

The gore and special effects are pretty decent in this entry, we have Pinhead played by Paul T. Taylor, and while he's no Doug Bradley he does bring a certain familiar cold charm to the pain-loving leader of the cenobites, and is several measures better than the last guy to fill the role. The Cenobites this time around are represented by The Auditor (played by director Tunnicliffe) whose job it is to catalog the sins of sinners, documenting them on his blood-inked steampunk typewriter, once he's done his job in comes the stomach-churning the Assessor (played by director Feast series Jon Gulager) who then eats the type-written pages, which he in turn vomits into a feed trough from which topless women... I don't know,  wash themselves in? After that another group of naked women with fucked-up faces arrive to lick and cleanse the sinners who are strapped down on a table, and then ...there are still more, this process is convoluted to say the least, enter The Butcher and his blade-wielding sidekick The Surgeon who deliver a the final reward for the sinners, usually flaying the skin from the sinners. Pinhead doesn't actually get that much screen time here, and that's not wholly unexpected given what most of the sequels have offered, but I will say again that I did like Pinhead this time around. 

It's strange stuff, the whole affair has a S/M fetish quality to it mixed in with some Saw-inspired visuals, but it certainly feels cheap, the budget is low but it does look like they put the money into the special effects and some of the lighting, the stuff with Pinhead and cenobites faring better as far as visuals, it's more stylized but it doesn't have the grand look of the first two films. 

The story itself is weak, a bad Se7en knock-off, basically a Hellraiser film squeezed out of a dark police procedural, there's some gore to be enjoyed but as a Hellraiser film it feels anemic and uninspired, the cenobites have definitely been added to an existing (and not particularly good) script, there's even some shenanigans about divine intervention, with an emissary from Heaven meddling in the affairs of Pinhead and the Cenobites on behalf of The Preceptor, who has come to be judged by The Assessor and the Cenobites, which angers Pinhead.  

Special Features:

- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Gag Reel 

Hellraiser: Judgment is at least a shallow attempt at doing something different with the past-it's-prime horror series, but none of it makes me want to see any of it continued in another entry. That said, I didn't loathe it the way I had anticipated, at just eighty minutes fast, but at the end of the day it is just another cash-in on a near-expired franchise. This one even stunt casts A Nightmare on Elm Street's Heather Langenkamp in a thankless role, which is kind of shameful, but that's for the course with this direct-to-home video franchise films.  If your brave enough to go into this one go in with low expectations, you might enjoy the gore and the surprisingly strong stomach-churning grue but it's not reviving the series by any means. 

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