‘Hellraiser’ (2022) Is A Gloriously Nasty and Sensual Spectacle [Review]

Hellraiser Pinhead

In some ways, David Bruckner’s 2020 film The Night House was a concept film for his eventual take on Hellraiser. He even confirmed this in an interview with The Playlist, specifically explaining how its script, written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski who also penned the Hellraiser script, was based on a rejected pitch they had for a reboot. Now, the trio’s vision has finally come to fruition with their Hellraiser, which comes to Hulu on October 7, 2022. And what a glorious vision it is. Their take on Clive Barker’s seminal queer text defines a new twisted idea of beauty, one made of intricately carved flesh and defined by archaic ritual.

Odessa A’Zion stars in the film as Riley, a recovering addict who lives with her caring yet overbearing brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), his partner Colin (Adam Faison), and their roommate Nora (Aoife Hinds). In a desperate attempt at making some fast cash, Riley joins new boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) in a job that involves stealing a strange puzzle box from a shipping container. Unaware of the power this box holds, Riley solves the first puzzle and sets off a violent chain of events that leads her to the strange mansion of eccentric art collector and occultist Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic).

As Riley arrives at the seemingly abandoned mansion of the missing millionaire, the horror truly begins to unfold. She digs through the journals and sketches left behind in Voight’s office, documenting the existence of higher beings known as cenobites, or twisted priests and disciples of a God of pain. Here, Bruckner’s imaginings of the classic horror creatures fully reveal themselves in their fleshy, beautiful, and disgusting glory. The back half of Hellraiser is a home invasion/haunted house movie with whispers of Thirteen Ghosts, without the full throttle push into camp.

With this deliberate structure of drastically shifting locations, Bruckner can truly fall into madness and nightmare logic. However, what is lost in such a dramatic shift is forging a deeper relationship with these characters and having a stronger investment in their journey. It’s not that these characters aren’t well-developed; Collins and Piotrowski are able to create these individual personalities quickly and give them identities. However, Riley’s own experience with addiction gets lost in the shuffle, falling to the wayside in the name of ushering in the horror.

And yet once these cenobites, especially Jamie Clayton’s Pinhead, walk on screen, all is forgiven. While Bruckner is delivering us the familiar Pinhead, he also gives us a series of new cenobites made of flayed flesh and twisted organs. An incredible aesthetic choice that unites all the cenobites is the use of body piercings and needles topped with a single shining pearl. The addition of pearls is so simple, but adds a stunning layer of perverse elegance to these interdimensional beings. It makes these ominous, terrifying figures beautiful, creating a fascinating tension between terror and awe.

Clayton embodies that tension with her Pinhead. Underneath stunning make-up and a gorgeous neck contraption, Clayton carries herself with a stunning air of both sensuality and cruelty. Her voice is chilling, a domineering whisper full of quiet excitement at the prospect of pain. She never moves faster than a powerful strut, and yet she’s scarier than any fast-moving creature. Just her presence invokes fear.

Where the original Hellraiser leans into more explicit sex and grimy aesthetic, Bruckner’s Hellraiser aims for a sleeker yet somehow more gruesome vibe. Sensuality here isn’t shown through copulation, but through the power that oozes from the cenobites. Flesh is ripped, bones are broken, and yet each death is an act of beauty. Think of those moments from Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series where Hannibal cooking human meat was somehow the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen. As hooks and chains appear to rend apart flesh, there’s an artistry to it. It feels more meticulous than the original cenobite gang, which may divide viewers. If you’re looking for a gritty new Hellraiser, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a contemporary take on beauty, horror, and the divine, this is what your dreams are made of.

Overall, David Bruckner’s take on Hellraiser is a glorious return to the sensual franchise. While not as transgressive as the original film, Bruckner, Collins, and Piotrowski still capture the dreadful, charged atmosphere in a bottle made out of human flesh. They bring the pain, they bring the pleasure, and they bring us a terrifyingly exciting vision of the high Hell priestess herself. I simply cannot wait for what other sights this team may have to show us.



David Bruckner’s take on ‘Hellraiser’ is a glorious return to form for the franchise, led by an iconic Jamie Clayton as our new Pinhead. What it lacks in grit and sexuality it makes up for in pure dread.



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