“Hellraiser: Hellworld”, the eighth in the Clive Barker created (but no longer vouched for) franchise about pain-loving demons called Cenobites and their leader, Pinhead (Doug Bradley), chooses to go the post-modern route for the nth sequel in a series that just won’t die, mostly because there’s still money to be made from its dried up bones. Post-modern twists on tired horror franchises is all the rave these days — Freddy Krueger did it in “New Nightmare”, then came back for seconds alongside Jason Voorhees in “Freddy vs. Jason”, the “Scream” films basically wallowed in post-modern hip, while Michael got himself a Reality TV show in “Resurrection”.
It used to be that if you wanted to make your latest redundant sequel stand out you’d set it in outer space or some such “far off” locale. Now it’s cyberspace, and this time there’s a game called Hellworld and kids who knows all about Pinhead, the Cenobites et al, but thinks it’s just an Internet game (a very lame and barely credible one at that). Two years after a fifth member of their gaming circle goes and gets himself killed, the four friends get invitations to a mansion on the outskirts of town holding a Hellworld rave party. The proprietor of said mansion is the always excellent Lance Henriksen, having a wicked ol time introducing the kids to the history of his mansion and its relation to the Cenobites. The kids are all “with it” until they start getting dead. Dumb bastards.
Leading the cast is lovely Canuck Katheryn Winnick, last seen fleeing “Satan’s Little Helper”. Winnick is an impossibly beautiful young woman, but alas her Chelsea has nothing on Kari Wuhrer’s go-for-broke reporter in “Deader”. And unfortunately for Winnick, the role is dead on arrival, relegating the actress to pointless walking about, running about, and getting locked in rooms. Really, the number of times this girl gets locked inside a room is ridiculous. The comedy relief is provided by Henry Cavill and Khary Payton, as the Obnoxious Jerk and the Token Black Guy, respectively. As expected, Payton’s character utters the line, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” at one point in the movie cause, you know, it’s a movie law that all black characters in movies dominated by white folk has to say that line. As if to throw the familiar teen group ensemble a curve, the fourth member is a British girl. Whoopee.
The script by co-writers Carl Dupre and Joel Soisson (aka The King of Mediocre Direct-to-Video Sequels Shot in Romania) tries much too hard to be cool and hip, tossing every “in” slang of the moment they can think of into the film. Seventy percent of the film’s attempts at being hip and funny falls flat, but the other thirty percent are mildly amusing. Director Rick Bota, who also helmed the previous two in the installment (“Hellseeker” and the surprisingly intriguing “Deader” starring the aforementioned Wuhrer) loads “Hellworld” with gore, sex, nudity, and more gore, sex, and nudity. It’s all done in a rather random nature, of course, but I’m not complaining.
Besides the “Hellraiser” as real-world Internet game, “Hellworld’s” stab at post-modernism includes a character at one point saying, “It’s like a bad horror movie, isn’t it?” when another character’s car refuses to start at the most inopportune time. “Hellworld” does, in fact, feel like a bad horror movie most of the time. The script is filled with horror movie clichés and Pinhead seems to be channeling machete-wielding maniac Jason Voorhees instead of, well, Pinhead. Where’s the poetry in the deaths? The sick irony? It’s all stab, stab, stab nowadays. Oh Pinhead, you were so much more fun when you had British snottiness and charm. Now you’re just another lame American slasher with, er, pins in his face.
Visually, Bota seems to have come down from the visceral high of “Deader” and “Hellseeker”. Again, I’m not complaining, because the film’s “lighter” look keeps it from being as depressingly nihilistic as the previous two installments. The movie’s story is supposedly set in New York, but anyone with eyes can see that the background is all Eastern European. At one point, “All American Girl” Chelsea (Winnick) is driving around in a car with obvious foreign license plates. And since when did New York City cops communicate with their dispatcher using their names instead of their car ID?
Nitpicks aside, “Hellworld” should satisfy genre fans, although I’m not sure what “Hellraiser” fans will think of the movie’s odd use of the Cenobites, particularly Pinhead. The blood, gore, and nudity are major pluses, and the movie rarely slows down except for the perfunctory “character” moments in the beginning. At around the 30 minute mark, the film quickly picks up speed, racing headfirst toward a final 15 minutes that you would be justified in calling muddled and extremely contrived. Nevertheless, “Hellworld” is more entertaining than not, and it definitely delivers on everything you want in your teen horror movie. And hey, watching Katheryn Winnick (in tight black leather pants, no less!) running around for most of the movie is a hell of a way to spend 90 minutes.
Rick Bota (director) / Carl V. Dupr’, Joel Soisson (screenplay)
CAST: Doug Bradley …. Pinhead
Katheryn Winnick …. Chelsea
Henry Cavill …. Mike
Lance Henriksen …. The Host
Christopher Jacot …. Jake
Khary Payton …. Derrick