Hellraiser: Revelations (Blu-ray / DVD)
Starring Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Tracey Fairway, Stephan Smith Collins
Directed by Victor Garcia
Distributed by ARC Entertainment
I don’t know why, but I like Hellraiser Revelations. Not in the traditional sense, and certainly not as a sequel to Clive Barker’s 1987 innovator, but when a film goes this far off the rails, it’s hard to feel any sort of outrage over what Dimension has done to their franchise. After sixteen years of disappointments (longer if you didn’t like Hellraiser III), who was expecting the Hellraiser movie they shot in two weeks to be any good?
To its credit, Revelations feels more in step with Barker’s original creation. At least in principle. Its focal point surrounds a family that has torn itself apart with all sorts of petty jealousies and sins of the flesh. Cheating spouses and estranged relationships have forced two teenagers to head out into the world in search of something more. They wind up in Mexico where the infamous puzzle box rears its ugly head amidst an evening of debauchery and, ahem, hell is inadvertently raised.
The bulk of the story picks up one year later, after the friends have vanished and their parents are left wondering what became of them. They gather at what looks to be some producer’s house in the Hollywood hills for some kind of remembrance dinner when, lo and behold, one of them shows up on the doorstep. Battered and bloodied, he has quite a story to tell …
Revelations is the kind of movie where tallying all of the poor story decisions, bad performances and general half-assery quickly becomes impossible. What begins as another found footage movie (two kids on a road trip) is quickly discarded in favor of a more traditional narrative. The film reverts back to its cinema vérité roots once it’s revealed that a private investigator has inexplicably recovered both their camera and the puzzle box, but it can’t even be bothered to follow through on this, toggling back and forth between first person and third person throughout these flashbacks. It’s confusing for we the audience as we’re supposed to be seeing what happened through the eyes of the family members watching this footage. If the filmmakers weren’t interested in following through on their found footage Hellraiser, why’d they bother including this element at all?
It’s widely known that Bob Weinstein wanted this movie made in order to hold on to the franchise rights. But what’s odd is that with a lot of story tinkering (preferably an all-out rewrite) and a bit more production value, this story might’ve served as the basis for a decent Hellraiser remake. Its main characters are young and could’ve been cast straight from the CW, and the “truthful cinema” gimmick would’ve been right at home in the middle of this current cinematic trend. Instead they cut virtually every corner imaginable and came up with a movie so sedentary that it feels less like Hellraiser 9 and more like Hellraiser: The High School Stage Play.
FX guru and Neo Art & Logic go-to guy Gary J. Tunnicliffe is responsible for a baffling screenplay that supposes our characters are trapped in their Beverly Hills home because their modes of transportation have all been destroyed (off camera). There’s some additional nonsense about it being better to wait for morning to move the injured boy, but you’d think there’d be a greater sense of urgency on behalf of the kid who randomly turns up on their doorstep half dead. Instead there’s more bickering, in-fighting and heavy drinking – all of it meant to show exactly why these kids flew the coop in the first place. Hellraiser: The After School Special?
Director Victor Garcia (Mirrors 2) must’ve known he was getting into a bad situation, and it’s hard to fault him entirely for this mess. Honestly, what can you do in two weeks? He doesn’t manage a single good performance from this horrendous troupe, each of them coming off as second tier soap opera actors. It’s a movie where someone takes a point blank shotgun blast to the gut and survives the remainder of the movie, miraculously recouping enough strength to fight off one of the villains while retaining enough sense of humor to spout off a one-liner while doing so. Garcia stages a baffling moment of incest between brother and sister over a bowl of soup – every bit as awkward as it sounds. This is a film where Pinhead first appears and the kids hurl expletives at him rather than expressing any real fear or disbelief. Even worse, Garcia shoots Pinhead as if he were Barbra Eden. In Revelations, he’s like a genie in a bottle just waiting to be released. When characters interact with the box, Garcia cuts to Pinhead reacting, as if the Cenobites are actually just sitting inside it waiting to come out. This Hellraiser’s mythos aren’t just confused, they’re flat-out stupid. It’s nothing but clunky – all over Garcia’s rushed production.
Poor Pinhead. Everything you’ve heard about him is true. Stephan Smith Collins steps into pretty big and iconic shoes…and does absolutely nothing with the part. The worst Hellraisers enjoyed a touch of class (however miniscule) thanks to the continued presence of Doug Bradley, but this is just awful stuff. From the chunky look of the character (Collins would’ve been better suited for Butterball), the slipshod costume (looking like a Halloween knockoff of the real thing) to the dreadful performance. This was the best actor they could find to fill those shoes? When I saw this theatrically, my audience (myself, a friend of mine and one stranger) erupted into laughter the first time he spoke. Subsequent line deliveries are no better, either. Granted, the script doesn’t give the character anything good to say, which makes it seem like Bradley himself played a direct role in sprucing up his character’s dialogue. Collins goes through the motions garnering only one reaction: laughter.
Oddly enough, Revelations offers some nice (if limited) practical FX work. The last few entries in the series suffered from embarrassing morphing FX and lame CGI chains and gore so it’s refreshing to see this one get back to basics. The “new” Cenobite here is pseudo-Pinhead and it illustrates just how lazy the idea men were behind this ninth entry. Pseudo-Pinhead is a silly design but the work that brings him to life is contradictorily solid. Revelations also resurrects other Hellraiser mainstays such as the iconic pillar and skinless bodies. It’s all brought convincingly to life by Tunnicliffe’s people and this honest to goodness FX magic helps make this sucker feel more like Hellraiser than the last few sequels.
Clocking in at 70 minutes (with five additional minutes of credits), this is hardly a chore to sit through. Hellraiser Revelations is loaded with so much unintentional hilarity that I found myself having a good time with the rancid material. Couple that with some genuinely good gore work and you’ve got a terrible movie that manages to be more enjoyable than the last three or four movies in this loosely connected franchise. The picture quality on the Blu-ray is quite nice, with fine detail and rich black levels. Audio is strong, with dialogue being perfectly clear. The only extra material here is a handful of weak deleted scenes. Yes, Revelations is an awful movie, but it’s a fascinating disaster. One that I have no problem recommending to those of you who feel like you may enjoy this sort of thing.
1 1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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