Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
(18) Running time: 75 minutes
Director: Victor Garcia
Writer: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Starring: Stephan Smith Collins, Steven Brand, Tracey Fairaway, Sebastian Roberts, Nick Eversman, Jay Gillespie, Sanny Van Heteren
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
OK, so Hellraiser: Revelations comes along with already a bad reputation, fans are up in arms at the new Pinhead and the fact that Doug Bradley is not playing the iconic role, a poorly made film, an insult to fans and even creator Clive Barker having some harsh words to say and removing any connection between him and this ninth instalment of the franchise. So the question is, does it really deserve this reputation as not only the worst of the Hellraiser films, but one of the worst films ever made? My answer is no, and although I suppose I can appreciate Barker’s anger over this film, where I get confused is how he allowed films like Hellraiser: Deader, Hellworld or Hellseeker to be OK with him. Revelations is certainly not the worst Hellraiser film out there, I promise you that, if anything it is one of the few since the Bloodline that actually sticks to what the original story was all about. Like it or not, this felt like a Hellraiser film, but there are bad points, many many bad points so let’s get cracking!
Let’s get the main frustration out of the way first, the main reason this film falls into the realms of pretty bloody awful, and that is poor old Stephan Smith Collins, he is the new Pinhead and I cannot even begin to explain how embarrassing it is to watch him try and fill Doug Bradley’s shoes. He looks daft, too much girly make up, his eyes have nowhere near the creepiness or intensity of Bradleys, and when he speaks, oh my word, I actually wanted to lock myself in a cupboard somewhere until he stopped. My God it is awful, a terrible terrible creation and yes, an insult to both Barker and Bradley’s legacy. I swear as well that when this new Pinhead spoke he was miming, with a badly out of sync voiceover added. I can see why Hellraiser fans are angry, Hell, I love Hellraiser and I was angry, very angry. The other Cenobites were just as bad, in fact Pinhead and his Cenobites look more like they’re dressed up for a fancy dress party than bringing pain to people, it is a little too over done in their costumes and they have lost all feelings of coming from somewhere evil and horrible, and feel far too cartoonish.
If (and this is a big if) you can get past the dreadful new Cenobites, then actually there is quite a bit to like about Victor Garcia’s film. It looks good, take away the silly costumes of the Cenobites, and the actual darkness of them arriving, the chains and the lighting, all look like true Hellraiser. The production is very crisp and this looks like the most expensive Hellraiser film in quite some time. Granted Hellraiser films were meant to look gritty, but so does this, just on a more expensive scale. The sound effects are handled very well indeed, and the special effects and numerous scenes of violence look good, and at times become quite disturbing. In fact, this is one of the bloodiest Hellraiser’s I have seen for a while. The acting, however, has a lot to answer for. Clearly Garcia was more focused on the look of the film, and forgot to get his cast to actually act, and granted some is OK, but the majority is just awful. The two young lads who cause all the mayhem are the worst, and when one of them tries to act as if he has lost his mind, well, I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for him or not, but in this evidence it is highly unlikely he will ever act again! And then there’s the camera work, which at times works, but Garcia has opted for the shaky cam approach for much of the film, even incorporating some ‘found footage’ to deliver the films main back story. Scenes involving the Cenobites dishing out pain, or even stood in a room, are met with a camera that simply will not stay the fuck still, it’s like the cameraman was being bitten by ants or something, and it proves very very irritating!
However, saying all this and talking about Revelations’ bad points you’d think all hope is lost, but it isn’t. The actual plot and eventual story to the film is actually vintage Hellraiser and the first real, true Hellraiser story since probably Bloodline. Granted Inferno was a superb Hellraiser film, but it was the start of the franchise branching off into new directions where the ‘Box’ itself became an instrument simply added to the story, and not the main focus. Here it is all about the Box, and Revelations is the first Hellraiser film since Hell on Earth that focuses on a character using the box as the films main story, and not something which simply connects to plot twists. In fact, Revelations becomes dangerously close to being a little too much like the first Hellraiser film in part of its story, although is a million miles away from its greatness.
We learn, through handheld camera footage, that two best friends have gone missing while partying in Mexico. The parents of the two lads are friends and meet regularly, Hell, the sexy daughter of one family is girlfriend to the other family’s son. One gaping plot hole exists here though, the lads have not returned home, the families don’t mention it, but the Mother has her son’s video camera which she watches over and over again, and this is the found footage we see. Big question, how the fuck did that camera make its way back to them??? Anyway, turns out they are not the nicest of lads, they like to drink, sleep with prostitutes and are simply bored with suburban life and need something more. A stranger approaches them in a bar, offers them The Box and, as you’d expect, Pinhead and his Cenobites appear, ripping one of the lads to pieces and taking him away. The other friend, disturbed and upset, sleeps with another prostitute and then his dead friend whispers to him to kill her so he can drink her blood and repair himself to come back (sound familiar?), and so the lad goes ahead with it, and this then carries on for a while leading to one upsetting scene which is all done by sound effects rather than actually witnessing it.
The parents grieve, and one night they finally decide to talk about their sons and the family’s breakdown, until one of the sons returns and we are then greeted to a good forty odd minutes of some god stuff, and some filler stuff, but the dark intentions of the Cenobites looms over the final act in a good way as each family member begin to show dark tendencies, especially the daughter who treats us to a lovely scene where she erotically plays with The Box. You can see where this film will go, nothing is really explained about the characters past so you don’t know why they start to behave in the way they do, and things suddenly feel rushed come the end. It is a shame as the film quite literally falls apart, but it is NOT as bad as the reviews have been saying. In fact, had Doug Bradley played the role of Pinhead here, this could have been a worthy inclusion to the Hellraiser series, but sadly here is proof of how bad casting can ruin a film. All that can really be learned from this is that if and when the Hellraiser remake does get made, Doug Bradley simply MUST be cast as Pinhead or you just may as well not bother!