All things must come to an end, and both the Hellbound Halloween event and the Hellraiser franchise count as part of “all things.” I’ve covered 9 movies about Hell and Pinhead (with a brief interlude of other stories by Mr. Clive Barker), and Hellraiser: Judgment is the last. It’s a bit of an over-exaggeration to say that the quality of the franchise decreased with every sequel, but the last half is more bad than good. Gary J Tunnicliffe–who also directed Hellraiser: Revelations–wanted to make a really good entry, and he ended up with two of the worst. Kind of like how Simon Kinberg wrote both X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Dark Phoenix! Nerd burn!
Cop brothers are investigating a serial killer called the Preceptor who kills according to the Ten Commandments. How very Se7en of you. A lady detective joins up not just to help catch this serial killer, but also so keep an eye on Sean, the rougher of the siblings. Sean follows a lead to Pinhead and… I guess I should explain how this movie treats Hell.
This is not Pinhead’s story. Sure, here’s certainly present and has a role in the climax, but the true main character from Hell is the Auditor, played by… Gary J Tunnicliffe. What are the odds. The new operation involves capturing a depraved person in an abandoned house, having the Auditor record all their sins–like physically record, because now Hell deals with paperwork–then the Assessor (John Gulager, the director of the Feast trilogy) eats the records. He vomits them into a tube where three naked ladies called the Jury squish it around in their hands to deliver their sentence, which I image is always guilty. Then the human is taken to surgery, where three more naked ladies called the Cleaners (one of whom is Diane Ayala Goldner, John Gulager’s wife) “clean” the person in a way that may involves eating their guts. Then the Butcher comes in, and he has the Surgeon on his back who slices into the person and rips off their skin. Sean’s sins make the Assessor choke, which in turns renders no judgment from the Jury. Before the Auditor can kill Sean just on principle, an angel shows up. Yup, Heaven not only exists, but they sent a messenger down to meet with the Auditor because they want Sean to keep on living. Okay. Sure.
Yadda yadda yadda, turns out Sean was the Preceptor. What a complete lack of shock. He corners his wife and brother because they’re adulterers and his final victims. How very, very Se7en of you. Sean forces them to solve the Lament Configuration he stole before escaping, trying to trade his life for theirs. But Pinhead has only ever taken that offer once, so he kills them and lays claim on Sean. But the angel comes back saying God wants him to keep killing people, thereby leading people frightened by his actions to seek solace in God. Why am I not surprised that God’s a total dick? Pinhead releases Sean, but made sure that the new detective kills him immediately. This pisses off the angel, who Pinhead decides to torture and… kill? He tears her apart, not fearing whatever punishment God has. Also her final words were “Jesus wept,” because why the fuck not at this point. Turns out she was the angel who kicked Adam and Eve out of Heaven, so the movie ends with Pinhead transformed into an apparently mentally ill human, cast out of Hell. I guess the Auditor got away, because the post-credits scene is him luring in two Mormons in Germany.
Like I said, this is the Auditor’s movie over Pinhead, which makes the Auditor played by the director looks incredibly self-indulgent. Pinhead spends the movie hanging out in a stone chair with the other cenobites and then showing up at the end to kill some people and an angel. The iconic Hell Priest looked better this time around, but I couldn’t help but think he really looked like an Engineer from Prometheus.
So this movie was… an attempt. It’s a very 21st century reading of Hellraiser, but it’s more misses than hits. When revealing his evil plan, Sean rants about how the modern world is a “plague of smartphone junkies.” Okay, boomer. The new Hellish process is antithetical to the Hell we’ve previously seen. What the fuck does Pinhead care about the exact nature of your sins? Why is the end result just being cut to pieces instead of something actually related to pleasure and/or pain? And while I’m asking questions, why was Heather Langenkamp–Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street–given listing in the opening credits for playing an unnamed landlady who was on screen for less than a minute? There’s even a scene where Sean is supposedly talking to her while she’s off screen, but she clearly wasn’t on set there. It’s all just a mess. I imagine the plan was to give this a sequel exploring Pinhead’s return to Hell, but no. Just stop. Gary, go back to writing Hellraiser/The Prophecy fanfiction–which he turned into a short creatively titled Hellraiser: Prophecy. Great, am I going to have to watch that at some point? UGH.
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