Cat Scratch Fever (Sleepwalkers, 1992)

Mary and Charles are the mysterious mother and son that have arrived in a local small town.Charles is handsome and charming, while his mother is ethereal and elegant. Quickly, Charles seems interested in local Tanya.

While she thinks his interest in her is romantic, it turns out that his real purpose is far more sinister. Charles and his mother are actually supernatural creatures…shapeshifters known as Sleepwalkers who go back centuries. They survive by feasting on the life force of young virginal women.

Sleepwalkers is an original idea from Stephen King’s mind. It is an interesting general concept. But the mystery quickly is sideline by comedy and gore. Featuring some decent digital morphing, the shapeshifting in the film is an okay effect. The film is never scary, but there are also some good practical effects.

This is more comedy than horror, with the Sleepwalkers having the weakness of being killable by cat scratches. There is a scene where a guy is killed by a corncob. There is a scene with cameos from Tobe Hooper, Clive Barker, John Landis, Joe Dante and Stephen King that is largely a comedy bit (but lacking…ahem, Wes Craven). The Sleepwalkers are given to hackey one liners, especially Charles.

I enjoy the film as a goofy horror film. And it has a really good cast. But my favorite thing is honestly the music. The soundtrack is punctuated by a really haunted theme that features a sad and ominous hum. It also features a terrific use of an older song called Sleepwalk.

Sleepwalkers is not a classic horror film…it is, however, a lot of schlocky fun to gather wisth some friends around the Halloween season for some laughs and fun jumps.

Sweet Suffering Pt 10 (Hellraiser: Judgement, 2018)

Hellraiser_Judgement_PosterWhile the studio had entertained the notion of a full reboot, they settled on a sequel instead, to be run by make up effects designer, writer and director Gary J. Tunnicliff.

Three detectives (two of whom are brothers) are tracking a gruesome serial killer. But asa they search for clues and information, they find that their killer may not be exclusively of this world. One of the brothers is haunted by nightmares after a terrifying experience in which he is brought before the Auditor.

The film adds an entirely new bit of mythology, that kind of ties Pinhead to an old school religious demon role. The Auditor sits and has those who open the box sit and confess their sins. They then feed the confessions to Assessor who then vomits them to the jury who give judgement…adding a whole trial process is kind of interesting. It is more gross than horrifying, and really, not the kind of grossness you would normally associate with the franchise. They also introduce an opposite to Pinhead in a

The Auditor is probably the most interesting addition. He types the confessions using the Confessor’s own blood. This creates quite a visual. However, at the same time, the color schemes for scenes involving Pinhead really dull the character down. While the Actor looks a little more like Bradley’s Pinhead in make-up, the dark blues and bright whites light Pinhead in a distinct and ominous way that Judgement fails to do. And this is just not Doug Bradley…and so it never really feels like Pinhead for me.

The final product is some interesting ideas, but nothing all that compelling to watch.

Sweet Suffering Pt 9 (Hellraiser: Revelations, 2011)

Hellraiser_Revelations_PosterWhen Dimension realized they were about to lose the rights to Hellraiser, well that called for a sequel.  Revelations is, admittedly, very clearly meant to be a Hellraiser sequel. It brings back a lot of the imagery and general atmosphere of the first few films. It is all a masquerade though.

The film begins with a found footage sequence in which Nico and his buddy Steven are on their way too Mexico to cut loose and left their oppressive rich lifestyle behind.  The footage leaps to Nico being terrorized by Pinhead. We cut to the boys families who are gathered together to pretend they do not remember their missing sons or some such thing.

Suddenly, Steven shows up, exhausted without Nico.  The film reveals the dark secrets of the family, and the truth behind where the boys have been.  This treads very similar ground to the original film, but done not quite as well.

One of the glaring problems is…well, this is the first Hellraiser film to not feature Doug Bradley in the role of Pinhead.  His performance was always a highlight in every Hellraiser film (save Hellworld). While the dialog for Pinhead is not amazing here, imagining it being delivered by Bradley instantly imagines it would have looked and sounded better. The actor chosen for Pinhead has such a different structure, with the makeup and costuming, he looks almost doughy. This is a little odd, because Stephan Smith Collins is not a heavyset man. But the end result is a Pinhead who looks almost goofy and lacks the gravitas of the original.

Maybe if the studio had managed to pay a proper wage and worked on the script with Bradley, this might have been a pretty decent quality sequel. Instead it is all surface and is just a grab to retain the rights to a property.

Sweet Suffering Pt 8 (Hellraiser: Hellworld, 2006)

Hellraiser_Hellworld_PosterHenry Cavill was in a Hellraiser movie, y’all.

Hellworld is the third film in the franchise from Director Rob Bota. A group of friends are invited to a party centered around a popular online game called Hellworld shortly after the suicide of a friend.  The party turns out to be trap for the group as they are killed one by one by Pinhead is remarkably un-Pinhead like ways.

Lance Henrickson is here to make things seem a bit classier when Bradley is away…but while this is the first film since Bloodlines to have actually been written for the franchise? It is the one that seems the most ignorant of the history of the franchise. When did this game pop up? Are the Cenobites now  urban legends of a sort? Why is Pinhead killing people with a meat cleaver? We get a convoluted twist that implies it was all a drug induced torture…and yet, the film then shows Pinhead is real and…this film is just terrible. Even Bradley cannot save it, because the script has Pinhead so drastically out of character.

It does not help that each of the three films by the same director do not feel remotely connected. The dialog for Pinhead does not feel right, the motives make no sense, even with a franchise where such things are all over the place.

Sweet Suffering Pt 7 (Hellraiser: Deader, 2005)

Hellraiser_Deader_PosterAmy is a hardened reporter who is provided with a shocking video tape of a cult in Romania in which young teens are committing suicide and then being brought back to life by their mysterious leader. She heads off to Bucharest to find the truth of the story.

Much like the prior two films, Deader was not part of the Hellraiser films originally. Once decided, they added a quick back story that tied the cult leader to the toymaker mythos established back in the fourth film.

Hellraiser: Deader is incredibly disjointed, with all of the Pinhead stuff feeling forced into the story.Bradley gets a few snappy moments towards the end, but largely, his presence feels very much like an afterthought.

I guess I would not declare the film as being outright terrible…but it is not all that interesting to watch either. And it certainly adds little to the franchise.

Sweet Suffering Pt 6 (Hellraiser: Hellseeker, 2002)

HellRaiser_Hellseeker_PosterDid you know that “Cenobite” means the member of a religious order? I did, because when I was looking up cast and crew on the IMDB, every Hellraiser film has this trivia fact.

Anyways, much like Inferno, Hellseeker was an unrelated script that got turned into a Hellraiser film. They retrofitted one of the characters to be Kirsty Cotton from the first two films and were able to get Ashley Laurence to return to the role. Allstate’s Mayhem is married to Kirsty, and he is a bit of a sleaze. The film focuses on Trevor (the aforementioned Mayhem, Dean Winters) after a car accident has claimed the life of his wife. As he works to piece it all together, the police seem to think the accident may not be an accident.

And there is a lot of evidence to suggest Trevor is less a victim and more of an…asshole. Selfish assholes are kind of the bread and butter of the Hellraiser franchise. Through flashbacks, it is revealed Trevor gave Kristy the Lament Configuration as a gift with sinister motives.

Truthfully, the film’s twist moment is not terrible…however… (big Spoiler ahead)

Continue reading “Sweet Suffering Pt 6 (Hellraiser: Hellseeker, 2002)”

Sweet Suffering Pt 5 (Hellraiser: Inferno, 2000)

Hellraiser_Inferno_PosterHelmed by director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister and Marvel’s Doctor Strange), in some ways, the Hellraiser: Inferno is both a departure and return to the ideas of the first film.

Homicide Detective Joseph Thorne is investigating a serial killer, but he is also dealing with his own vices, drawing him further and further away from his wife and daughter.

After finding the Lament Configuration puzzlebox at the scene of a crime involving one of Thorne’s informants, people in his life start to turn up mutilated.  Add to this hallucinations of strange bondage geared demons, Thorne finds the lines of reality becoming blurred.

I referenced that this film is both a departure and return to the early films of the franchise. The focus is unique, Inferno is about Thorne and his corrupt nature. The Cenobites seem almost incidental. And, in a way, they are. Inferno was a screenplay that Dimension films owned that was outside the franchise. It was not a Hellraiser film. The studio decided to turn it into a Hellraiser movie, thus requiring a script rewrite that added in Pinhead and his cenobites.  This actually works in the films favor, as Pinhead is back into his role as an impartial executor of someone else’s rules.

Bradley gives the role of Pinhead that other worldly regal ton, making this one of the better films of the post 2000 entries.

Sweet Suffering Pt 4 (Hellraiser: Bloodlines, 1996)

Hellraiser_BloodlineSo, Bloodlines was one of those cases of “This is the last one”. I mean, they did not actually make the mistake “the Final Chapter”…but this film seems to have been intended as a last hurrah for Pinhead and his band of merry cenobites. And they throw it all out there…the origin of the Lament Configuration is here.  It was made by a toy maker hired by man interested in dark magics.  The act has cursed his family line ever since, and the film is divided into three parts.

The film actually opens on a space station, where Dr. Paul Merchant is being held prisoner and is being interrogated. He has summoned Pinhead to finally bring an end to their feud once and for all. He was interrupted by security and finds himself having to tell the story of his family and their connection to the dark world of the Cenobites.  This of course goes back to the origin of the Lament Configuration. Pinhead makes no appearance in this sequence, so points for consistency.

In this story, a demoness is called forth in a spell that ties her to the Lament Configuration. Her summoner is betrayed by his power hungry protege Ben Wyatt. This moves us to the next story, set in the present day of 1996. Ben Wyatt is apparently still alive and has grown bored and complacent. The Demoness, named Angelique, wants to journey to America and find the toy maker’s descendent John. He is an architect and has designed a building that contains the visual inspiration of the Lament Configuration.

The attempt to build a coherent mythology within the series is an understandable move. But honestly, it never seems to feel like it fits all that nicely into the series. It ends up with a couple mentions down the road…but it is not really a game changer. On the other hand, since the finale is set in the future, it presents no trouble with Cenobites popping in and out of future films.

The film works with both practical and digital effects, and the digital effects are…well, okay.  The practical makeup looks nice though.  Bloodline is okay…but it also seems unsure with what it wants to do with Pinhead.  He is not the leader of hell or anything, defeating him might mean he is gone…but what greater evil are they really stopping? At the same time, Pinhead seems to be playing a role more like the first two films, where he is a guy doing a job. But this is certainly not the most exhausting film of the franchise.

Sweet Suffering Pt 3 (Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, 1992)

Hellraiser_Hell_On_Earth_PosterThe second film appeared to close the door on Julia, Kirsty and all the Cenobites. But New Line wanted to resurrect the semi-dormant franchise.

Waxwork director Anthony Hickox takes the reigns for this film. The film makes some leaps in which young rich brat JP finds the statue last seen in the prior film, now petrified. He is sold the statue for his night club.

We then meet frustrated reporter Joey and her cameraman Doc. They are waiting for a story to come through the door at the local emergency room, After Doc is called away for another story, Joey is witness to a patient being rushed into the emergency room covered in chains hooked to his flesh.

As Joey tries to piece together the mystery of the young man’s death and how it is connected to a strange little puzzle box, JP has awakened Pinhead, who is wanting to be freed.

Hellraiser III builds upon a Pinhead mythology, suggesting his evil had grown so powerful, death could not stop the evil. Joey is helped in her fight for the truth (leading her to trying to stop Pinhead) by Eliot, the human soul who had become Pinhead.

The film gives us a whole new batch of Cenobites, and when Pinhead suggests they are not quite the same caliber as his previous compatriots, he is not kidding. One Cenobite is a bartender who lobs bombs, another is a DJ who shoots CDs at people. There is a almost funny chase through…well, nearly empty streets (in a supposedly big city with an active nightlife).

I have, actually, always had a soft spot for this film.  Primarily because…honest to god? Pinhead has some incredibly good dialogue in the film. Sure, he has some jokes, but even a lot of those are delivered with style by Bradley.  Pinhead takes a central role here, and he is not merely doing someone else’s work. He has his own goals, as he works perfectly as a tempter.

Hell on Earth has great pinhead moments, but not a ton of other great stuff to support it. I mostly like Joey, Doc and Terri (a young woman who is in an abusive relationship with JP)…but really, without Doug Bradley’s Pinhead performance, this would be a far weaker film.

Sweet Suffering Pt 2 (Hellraiser: Hellbound, 1988)

Hellraiser_Hellbound_PosterHellraiser: Hellbound picks up right after the first film and we find Kirsty under psychiatric observation.

The police, of course, think she is…well, a bit crazy.  Doctor Channard is a famous psychiatrist (he runs the Channard Institute) and along with his protege Kyle, is overseeing Kirsty.

But Channard harbors a secret. The Institute’s basement is full of especially disturbed patients (it is reminiscent of the worst of the asylums that made the news in the 80’s). Kirsty has seen the skinless body of her father begging for her to help him, and she becomes obsessed with the notion. She convinces Kyle to investigate.  It turns out that Channard is obsessed with the Lament Configuration and has done a crazy amount of research. He has several of the boxes.  Kyle hides and witnesses Channard sacrificing a patient to bring Julia back from the first film.  This sets everything in motion.

One of the interesting things is that it is kind of clear that although the Cenobites were the most memorable aspect of the films, the filmmakers wanted Julia to be the central villain.  As Doug Bradley himself has noted, Pinhead and the Cenobites are more dispassionate observers. They are simply there to do their assigned duty.

The film delves deeper into the mythology of the Cenobites, or rather, it adds a mythology.  Bradley said he had been told by Barker that Pinhead had once been human, and the film establishes he was a soldier in the 1920’s. The film actually attempts to redeem the Cenobites, by having them fight the other threats of the film. It ends up not quite working, but again Bradley’s performance is terrific.

The film also has some really interesting visuals. Hell is a confusing and seemingly lonely place.  Pinhead warns Kirsty that everyone is in their own hell. She finds her uncle Frank and his hell is a constant teasing of his lust…beds slide out from the walls, women writhing under a sheet…but when Frank removes the sheet there is nothing their. He is facing an eternity of being unable to satiate his lust.

On the other hand, the film falls into the trap of a punning villain, which feels out of place next to the proper Pinhead.

Hellbound is kind of interesting, but also disappointing in how it deals with the Cenobites at the end of the film.

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