CONTENT WARNING: CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ASSAULT IS A PLOT POINT
There’s something about franchises–particularly big horror franchises–where it sure seems like each one has a film that just refuses to stick in my head. I wrote about Children of the Corn: The Gathering just last year, but even then I still only remember the barest of details without looking at the post. Something about a fever…? In that same vein, was it Leprechaun 2 or Leprechaun 3 where he was at a pawn shop? And A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is just a total blank to me. The point being I’ve seen all 10 Hellraiser films before, but had no memory of what the hell Hellraiser: Deader was about. But now I’ve rewatched it and can safely say that I’ll most likely forget every detail of this boring movie–again–by next month, if not next week.
Deader follows Amy Kline (Mrs. Kari Wuhrer), a reporter who gets embeds herself in order to write articles like “How to Be a Crack Whore.” Classy. Her boss shows her a video of a cult leader bringing a girl back to life after her suicide, then he asks Amy to go to Bucharest to investigate. She finds the Lament Configuration in the hands of a dead girl who may not actually be dead, because it turns out the cult members can’t die (which makes their name “deaders” sort of ironic). Amy of course opens the box, starting a recurring theme of her not knowing what’s real and what isn’t. After getting information from a poor man’s Evan Peters, she meets Winter (Paul Rhys), a descendant of LeMarchand, maker of the puzzle box (even though I’m pretty sure the family name is never spoken). He’s pulling (spoilers for Doctor Strange) an “Ancient One” where he taps into Hell to steal power while not suffering most of the consequences. Pinhead takes umbrage at this and wants Amy to open the box again so he can punish Winter, while Winter wants her to open it so he can… rule Hell, or something. After Amy comes to grips with the memory of her as a little child killing the man–presumably her father or step-father–who repeatedly sexually assaulted her, she resists Winter and lets Pinhead kill the previously unkillable deaders. But before the cenobite can grab Amy, she makes the building she’s in implode. It doesn’t really matter how because it didn’t make sense even in context. With everyone dead, Amy’s boss finds a new female reporter and gives her the same assignment.
The biggest sin Deader makes, to me, is that I found it incredibly boring. This is yet another obvious script where Pinhead and the cenobites were tacked on. How many scripts like this are there? We’ve had Hellraiser: Inferno, Hellraiser: Hellseeker, and now Deader all exploring a person falling down an evil rabbit hole and mentally suffering the entire time. Were all these writers really just riding the wave started by Se7en, because to one extent or another, all of these movies feel like they wouldn’t exist without that movie. They just feel boring after a while, never doing anything worth watching.
This movie also thinks its an edgelord. Look at how dark you are, movie. Ooh, you’re going to have the protagonist be a victim of sexual assault, even if it doesn’t fit into the narrative well at all and feels clumsily tacked on. Ooh, you have a lot of blood and nudity. You’re actively avoiding showing any dicks or vaginas, but sure, I guess that’d be too much of an R-rating for this R-rated film. I normally wouldn’t care about the nudity, but the Even Peters knockoff resides on a subway car of debauchery, filled with
naked topless women and kinky sex people grinding on each other. So what exactly is the limits to a film like this? You can have Amy lose a gallon of blood from a knife wound in her chest that won’t heal–also briefly showing her breasts during that sequence–but you have to make sure everyone in the orgy pile is wearing underwear? One moment that really stuck with me for some reason was when two girls in the foreground of one scene go in for a kiss, but the scene immediately switches to some other people before their lips can connect. Later on girls are actively making out with each other in the background, so why have such a dramatic cut before? And the naked topless woman chained up and wearing an animal skull shows you don’t necessarily have an issue with nudity in general, but just specific iterations? It all just feels performative, edgy for the sake of looking edgy when the film is otherwise devoid of any substance.
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