“Technology may have advanced but sin remains unchanged.” So says the Lord of Hell, informally known as Pinhead, to his scarred associate designated the Auditor, and he is not mistaken, but as humanity becomes more self obsessed and insular those who once were the “bringers of pain and delight” are in danger of becoming sidelined, obsolete.
So it is that they must consume a new paradigm of sin and suffering in order to comprehend what humanity has become in this new age, drawing sinners to them, interrogating them and digesting their confessions so they may be judged, and equally Hellraiser: Judgement should be a reflection on how cinema and horror has evolved since Clive Barker’s original Hellraiser was released over thirty years ago.
Written and directed by Gary J Tunnicliffe who also wrote 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations and is additionally credited here as a makeup effects designer, a costume designer, a producer and appears in the role of the Auditor, Hellraiser: Judgement is not without ideas which should set it above the generic bottom-shelf straight to video fodder the franchise became synonymous with long before this, its tenth exploration.
Instead, while the appearance of the Cenobites, their prosthetics and their accoutrements, are immaculate in their refined grotesquerie, beyond this every moment of the film screams not in exquisite agony but of budgetary compromise, the levels of Hell less a vast labyrinth of chambers carved over the centuries and lit by flickering shadows and echoing with the voices of the damned as a grubby brick basement.
Above, a serial killer is being investigated by detectives Sean and David Carter (Damon Carney and Randy Wayne), fellow detective Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris) recently assigned to the case to help the brothers crack the case of the Preceptor but covertly assessing their performance.
A tedious sub-Seven ripoff of ropey dialogue which does the cast no favours even as it hammers home the clues for those at the back of the class struggling to keep up, unable to afford any supporting players to line up as witnesses, suspects or fellow police officers there is little surprise in either the identity of the killer, their religious inclinations or their habit of underlining significant passages in books.
Beyond the trite efforts to signify depth through literary references, the strongest images of the film are lifted directly from previous entries in the series and any attempts to push boundaries, to be as shocking and transgressive as the first film was three decades ago, feel as mundane and grubby as jets of blood piped over the breasts of the topless women in hell, suspiciously nubile when the male cast members have pointedly not been cast for their looks.
In his first appearance of in the role, Paul T Taylor’s Pinhead is by far the best thing in Hellraiser: Judgement which is perhaps why Tunnicliffe chose to open with him, but by reducing Hell to a bureaucracy of fussing administrators struggling with change it undermines any hope what follows can evoke any atmosphere of threat or horror, and regrettably it is further evidence that Hellraiser should be permanently laid to rest.