Monday, October 31, 2011

Hell Week: 'Hellraiser: Hellworld' (2005)

Yes, you read that right: Hellraiser: Hellworld, the eighth installment in the series and the last to feature Doug Bradley as Pinhead, was released the same year as Hellraiser: Deader; the two came out on DVD just three months apart in 2005, and were filmed back to back. It's strange, then, that they share no characters (other than Pinhead, of course) or thematic concerns, and the only real continuity between the two is that both were obviously shot in Romania, although Hellworld awkwardly takes place in the U.S. Director Rick Bota did a semi-decent job of creating a dark, subdued atmosphere for Deader and Hellseeker, but Hellworld is pure cheese, a lame slasher movie dressed up with Hellraiser connections that turn out to be almost entirely specious.

Hellworld starts out seeming like it's going to engage with the series mythology far more than the other post-Bloodline installments, giving it a bit of a meta twist along the lines of Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Although it doesn't take place in the "real" world where Pinhead is a movie character, Hellworld does feature the Hellraiser mythology as something people are generally aware of; the main characters play an online game called Hellworld that features Cenobites and the puzzle box as key elements, and they discuss the concepts of the series openly (this is the first movie since Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth to feature someone actually saying the word "Pinhead"). But that turns out to be window dressing for a rote slasher movie, as those characters (all vapid, pretty teenagers) get invited to a Hellworld party at a creepy, secluded mansion overseen by a mysterious host (Lance Henriksen, seriously phoning it in, sometimes literally) and started getting killed one by one.

We don't even get to see anyone playing Hellworld for more than a few seconds (possibly because there wasn't a budget to create a virtual-reality world), so I'm not sure what the point of the party is; it's a video-game party at which no one plays any video games. Anyway, Henriksen's creepy host has sinister motives for wanting to off all the annoying characters (although they don't really make much sense), and Pinhead's brief appearances are explained away as hallucinations, so he's not even responsible for any of the carnage (although he shows up at the very end to give the villain his comeuppance). Henriksen's performance is incredibly lazy, and the teens are pretty much interchangeable. After a bit of creativity (even if seriously compromised) in Hellseeker and Deader, Hellworld is a step backward into generic horror nonsense, and a sad way for Bradley to end his tenure as Pinhead.

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