It’s been three years since the chains rattled last. Since the box was opened. Since they came. In this, the latest installment in the series, director Rick Bota proves that despite this being the seventh go-around for everyone’s favorite leatherclad demon, he still has “such sights to show you.”
The Hellraiser series has become a true oddity in our genre. Instead of focusing on its main character of Pinhead, it switched gears after the fourth film and has seemingly never looked back. For fans of the genre and the series, this is both a good and a bad thing. Most of our favorite movie villians end up getting over-exposed. Freddy went from an evil child murderer to a wisecracking clown. Michael went from being The Shape of our fears to fighting Busta Rhymes. Sometimes in our genre over-exposure can equal certain death. It was happening to Pinhead too. In Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth Pinhead began spouting a few one-liners here and there, and then of course, just like Jason and Leprechuan, he got launched into outer space. Yep kids, it looked like the party was just about over for our Cenobite and his pals.
Enter a new approach. Hellraiser: Inferno made the scene in 2000, and instead of seeing more of Pinhead, we saw a lot less. In fact, only a few minutes of screen time were granted to our dark protagonist. Some fans were outraged and still are. Others were kinda diggin’ this spin. Me? I dug it and still do.
The Hellraiser series has become anthology like. Instead of dealing with a running storyline, each film now plays as a separate installment with the only common thread being that of Pinhead himself.
Our latest journey into one person’s personal hell finds us following the footsteps of ballsy investigative reporter Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer). She takes the stories no one else has the nerve to. She sees the dark side of humanity and exploits it just to get the big headlines. Things get much darker for Amy when she ends up tracking down an underground cult named The Deaders, the leader of which is rumored to be able to cheat death by bringing his followers back once they have willingly killed themselves. As Amy immerses herself further into their world, she comes across the Lament Configuration and, despite a few warnings, decides to mess around with the box. Once summoned, Pinhead, as you can imagine, is not amused by the cult’s dabbling in his business and decides to take matters into his own hands –or– chains.
This movie works on several levels. Yes, there are a few of the cliche genre pitfalls you’d expect from a seventh film in a series, but the combination of Bota’s slick direction and Wuhrer’s way above and beyond the call of duty acting bring this one a cut above the rest. It’s apparent that everyone involved had a passion for what they were doing, and that passion comes across on the screen in a big way. Hellraiser: Deader is much better than it should be, but not perfect. A couple of scenes play on for a bit too long here and there, but honestly, you cannot expect much more from a direct to video film than what we get here, especially one with a shooting schedule of only 25 days.
On the extras side of things we get much more than we could have hoped for. This DVD is packing! It’s all here! Storyboard to film comparisons, deleted and extended scenes (which include more Pinhead and even a new Cenobite named Spike), a gag reel, a behind the scenes featurette, and not one but two commentary tracks. A truly impressive job by Dimension Home Video.
Fans of the films may still cry foul and demand more screen time for Pinhead, but for those of you willing to take the time and open the box, your explorations will lead you to a smartly written blood drenched scarefest that at times is truly creepy.
Next up is Hellraiser: Hellworld, and with Bota back at the helm, I think our puzzle box is in pretty capable hands.
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
(Dimension Home Video)
Directed by Rick Bota
Starring Doug Bradley, Kari Wuhrer, Paul Rhys
Deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary
The Making of Hellraiser: Deader featurette
Behind the Visual Effects of Hellraiser: Deader featurette
Practical Effects with Gary J. Tunnicliffe featurette
Storyboard to film comparisons
Location scouting featurette
Two feature commentaries
3 1/2 out of 5