Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hell Week: 'Hellraiser: Deader' (2005)

With its seventh installment, Hellraiser: Deader, the Hellraiser franchise reaches the "starring Kari Wuhrer" phase of its straight-to-video existence, surely a notable low point. The former MTV VJ and star of Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (which I totally saw in theaters) unconvincingly plays a hardened, chain-smoking journalist for an "edgy" London newspaper, who specializes in stories like the firsthand account of a crack den that she's working on as the movie opens. Wuhrer's Amy Klein gets a hot tip from her editor about a sort of death cult in Bucharest, whose creepy leader has people kill themselves and then seemingly brings them back to life. Amy heads to Romania to investigate, and she's quickly caught up in the cult's madness, which vaguely connects to the puzzle box and Pinhead.

Based on an unrelated horror script that was rewritten to fit into the Hellraiser franchise, Deader continues the psychological-thriller approach of the previous two sequels, again focusing on one main character's descent into a personal hell. Amy's situation isn't quite the same as the circumstances faced by the main characters in Inferno and Hellseeker, and the cult angle and foreign setting give it more active momentum, but tonally it follows the same template (it helps that director Rick Bota was also behind Hellseeker). The problem is that Wuhrer is clearly out of her depth with the serious material, and the plot itself doesn't really make sense. The ability to resurrect the dead has never been a part of the series mythology, and it's never clear how cult leader Winter (Paul Rhys) has acquired this ability, or why Pinhead's so mad about it.

The movie's final act picks up on some ideas from Bloodline but never clarifies them enough to be meaningful. Winter is posited as a descendant of Lemarchand, the original designer of the puzzle box, although it's sort of tossed off in a couple of lines by Pinhead and never fully explored. And there's no real reason other than throwing a bone to fans for Winter to have any relation to Lemarchand, since what he does has never been a function of the box or its makers. In the end Pinhead just does his standard thing and shoots hooks into everybody, dismembers them and calls it a day. Amy doesn't actually defeat him, but she seemingly avoids his grasp, although even that is left unclear. As he did in Hellseeker, Bota brings a welcome stylistic restraint to the movie, and there are even a few creepy moments. But those occasional effective scares don't mean much amid the nonsensical plotting and indifferent acting.

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