Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hellraiser: Judgement

He is an icon of horror, but “Pinhead” wasn’t even known as Pinhead in the original Hellraiser movie (it was an off-camera nickname the crew gave him, for obvious reasons). Known as “Hell Priest” and “Cold Man” in Clive Barker’s fiction, Pinhead and his fellow sadomasochistic Cenobites have undergone a bit of an identity crisis when Barker cut all formal ties with the film franchise, but at least he was still portrayed by the original actor, Doug Bradley, through the first eight movies. This is the tenth. Fans may question its canonical cred, but Pinhead still dishes out the pain and accessorizes like nobody’s business in Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s Hellraiser: Judgement (trailer here), which releases today on DVD.

Even if you know nothing about the franchise, it is obvious the sexual predator who was lured into to Cenobites’ realm is in a world of hurt. It turns out, Carl Watkins is, or rather was a tangential figure of interest in the “Preceptor” serial killer investigation. The Ten Commandments are his thing, but he is already on his fourteenth victim, so he must not mind repeating himself.  Detective brothers Sean and David Carter were nowhere near cracking the case, so Det. Christine Egerton was assigned to assist. She is also supposed to keep an eye on Sean, the older one, because he has started showing signs of stress—and that was before he followed Watkins’ trail directly into the Cenobites’ lair.

The good thing about direct-to-video sequels is nobody ever bothers sending them to focus groups. Boy, is that ever evident in the case of Judgement. Frankly, it seems like Tunnicliffe deliberately devotes the last twenty minutes to developing new and different ways to alienate and infuriate his audience. It gets to the point where it is downright impressive to watch him pile unsatisfying character revelations on top of questionable (a potentially offensive) theology, while undercutting series mythology, left and right. If he had just let it stand when the credits started to roll, it all would have been perversely amusing, but he invalidates the final twist with a truly pointless stinger. Face meet palm.

Judgement looks like it was produced with leftover sets and props from Naked Lunch and the Cenobite business feels problematically small in scale this time around. However, Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, and Alexandra Harris are all way better than anyone has a right to expect as the three investigating detectives. In fact, they are good enough to make us want to see team up again against another serial killer in a stand-alone film. Alas, Paul T. Taylor’s Pinhead is probably his dullest incarnation to date. In contrast, Tunnicliffe himself brings some much-needed villainous flair as the sinister and weirdly punctilious “Auditor.”

It should be noted, Heather Langenkamp, the original Nancy Thompson in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies is prominently billed, but she only appears briefly as the tough-talking landlady, who lets the cops paw through Watkins junk. Talk about a letdown. There really isn’t very much to recommend Judgement except to see how far it runs off the rails. It is a total mess, but defiantly so. However, if you’ve been waiting to see a super-model archangel tell the Cenobites “don’t make me have to come down there” like they are stoners in their parents’ basement than behold Hellraiser: Judgement when it releases today on DVD.