SPOILERS FOR A RECENTLY RELEASED MOVIE
BUT IT’S REALLY GOOD SO MAYBE CHECK IT OUT FIRST
Last year for October I watched all the Hellraiser films as part of The Hellbound Halloween. That’s 10 movies about Pinhead and his fellow cenobites, with a brief break near the end because holy shit they somehow got progressively worse as time went on. So when I heard that the long-awaited Hellraiser reboot was dropping in October, I knew I had to talk about it. And so here we are on a Saturday while the weekdays are taken up by October of the Living Dead.
Living disaster Riley (Ms. Odessa A’zion) has burned just about every bridge in her life, so agrees to go with her skeezy boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) to break into an abandoned building and loot a safe. Inside is a strange puzzle box that just about everyone watchin should recognize: a Lament Configuration. Riley manages to twist it into its next shape, but is surprised when her brother (Brandon Flynn) gets cut by the box and subsequently disappears. This happens a few times and while researching what the fuck this box is, Riley, Trevor, and two others–including her brother’s boyfriend, Colin (Adam Faison)–end up at the weird mansion of a man named Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic) who was obsessed with the box and disappeared 6 years ago. Turns out the Configuration has six forms–all starting with L–and if a person goes through all six and makes a sacrifice each time, they get a wish granted by the cenobites. Oh, yeah, the cenobites are here led by the pinheaded Priest (trans actress Jamie Clayton giving a spooky non-binary performance) and they really, really want Riley to finish the box. Turns out Voight did get his wish of pleasure by choosing Liminal, but it involved a machine piercing his chest that constantly caused excruciating pain. So he hired Trevor to find a mark to activate the box for him so he can take his wish back. The Priest is a little disappointed that Voight refused their gift, but offers him a new chance of power–the Leviathan configuration–that involves him getting yanked up into the diamond-shaped god by a giant chain with the Priest saying the iconic line: “We have such sights to show you.” It fits the moment so it doesn’t feel shoe-horned in! Over with Riley, she’s made the sacrifices–including Chatterer in a smart move and Trevor in revenge–so she gets her wish. Realizing Lazarus–having her brother resurrected–is a trap, she chooses nothing. She’ll instead live her life knowing pain, loss, and regret–effectively choosing Lament. The film ends with Voight’s flesh being flayed as he’s turned into a cenobite, losing all sense of who he was under Leviathan’s light.
I really liked this! An ambiguously gendered High Priest of Hell is something straight from The Hellbound Heart, so this already wasn’t a careless cash grab like so many Hellraiser sequels were. And it is a reboot, adding completely new lore about the puzzle box and what rewards it can give. That was actually really intriguing, in part because it tied in why we call it the “Lament Configuration”–that’s just the first shape of the puzzle box. It is a little weird that you can trick a person into becoming a sacrifice–contradicting Hellbound: Hellraiser II saying it’s the intent not the hands–but it adds to the story in making the quest for power involve a person going through, well… Hell. Riley may have been a human disaster, but she made the absolute right choice at the end to not make a deal with the Priest. Certainly helped that Voight’s desires backfiring let her know that they’d be monkey’s paw wishes. Also, the new cenobites looked great with my favorites being the Priest and the Weeper, who I wish we could’ve seen better because holy shit was that design grotesque.
This really is one of the better Hellraiser films made. That’s not saying too much since this is the eleventh, but it’s… definitely in my top 5, and probably in my top 3. It’s that good.
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