Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hell Week: 'Hellraiser: Hellseeker' (2002)

After the completely unrelated story of Hellraiser: Inferno, the franchise brings back Ashley Laurence as Kirsty for the first time since Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth for the sixth installment, Hellraiser: Hellseeker. But despite having a more substantial role than her brief cameo in Hell on Earth, Laurence isn't exactly as prominent as her second billing in the opening credits would attest; Kirsty dies (or appears to die) in the first five minutes of the movie, and up until the climax she appears only in brief flashbacks, as the real main character is her grieving, tortured husband Trevor (Dean Winters). Like Inferno, Hellseeker is essentially about one man's descent into his own personal hell, aided by Pinhead and the Cenobites, although it's more restrained and modulated (at least for a Hellraiser movie), with a much better lead performance.

While Craig Sheffer overacted every moment of his character's anguish in Inferno, Winters plays things a little more internally, emphasizing the confusion and helplessness that Trevor feels after recovering from a car crash that seems to have killed his wife. Trevor experiences painful headaches and what appear to be hallucinations, which include flashbacks to his troubled marriage to Kirsty and the discovery of a certain familiar puzzle box. The women in his life are constantly seducing him and then turning violent (or becoming victims of his violence against them), and the cops are hounding him with suspicions that he deliberately killed Kirsty in the accident. He can never tell what's real and what isn't, which gets a little tedious and repetitive after a while since it's impossible to piece together an actual story (I've never seen a movie with so many scenes of a character waking up suddenly from a nightmare).

Although Winters does a decent job of making Trevor both sympathetic and sort of slimy (something Sheffer was never able to do in Inferno), the confusion and mental torture get old pretty quickly, and Pinhead's periodic appearances (more than in Inferno, but still pretty minimal) aren't enough to carry it along. It's fairly obvious early on that the movie is doing a riff on the whole "he was dead the whole time" device, and the only question is how and why Trevor got that way. Just as the movie seems to have entirely wasted Laurence on a role that could have been a completely different character with no relation to the franchise (there's a brief mention of Kirsty having an inheritance from her late father and uncle, but that's about it), the ending ties together Kirsty and Pinhead's history with Trevor's fate in a way that is almost sort of satisfying. Hellseeker is too drawn-out and dull to be a worthy successor to the early Hellraiser movies, but as a second-rate follow-up, it at least makes a semi-respectable showing.

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