Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trevor's Hellacious Adventure: "Hellraiser: Hellseeker" (2002)

A decade and a half after the original "Hellraiser" film, hero Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) returns to do battle with Pinhead one last time...or so the makers of this direct-to-video entry in the series would have you believe.

Kirsty and husband Trevor (Dean Winters) get into a car accident, with their vehicle being submerged in a river. Trevor watches Kirsty drown, and wakes up in a hospital only to discover Kirsty's body was never found. Weeks after the accident, Trevor falls under the suspicions of a good cop/bad cop duo of detectives (William S. Taylor and Michael Rogers), but this is the least of Trevor's often overwhelming problems. Trevor is having amnesiac moments and hallucinations thanks to a blow to the head and massive amounts of morphine for pain. He returns again and again to the hospital, but only resident Allison (Rachel Hayward) seems to want to help him. His squalid apartment still contains the missing Kirsty's belongings, but he also discovers he was canoodling with his boss Gwen (Sarah Jane Redmond), as well as some heavy flirting with oversexed neighbor Tawny (Jody Thompson).

At work, overly helpful Bret (Trevor White) tries to cover for Trevor, sending him to acupuncturist Sage (Kaaren De Silva). As Trevor battles the headaches and hallucinations, he begins to see things that may or may not have happened to him in his past. One of those events was his wedding anniversary, when he gave a horrified Kirsty a mysterious wooden puzzle box...

This is the sixth entry in the series, and after having watched them over the past couple of months, I have developed a keen sense of where the assorted screenwriters are going. However, this film does offer a climax full of...well, not surprises, but very clear explanations that save it from being a complete failure. The first thing I will mention is the set decoration and design. Just when I thought "Hellraiser: Inferno" was one of the ugliest films I had seen, this entry comes along and makes that film look like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Like the "Saw" series, the physical appearance is revolting, ugly, and grotesque. The camera wallows in the wet, dark settings, and the dim cinematography will actually lower your good mood. It's a triumph of appearance, but disappointing when put into this film.

I expected the film to revolve around Kirsty, finally tying up all the Pinhead loose ends that plague the series. Making her husband, who we have no emotional investment in, the focus is a bad choice. Don't get me wrong, Winters is certainly up for the role, a handsome leading man who is called on to clutch at his temples and stutter too often. However, if you can get another cast member from the first three films, then why not reverse the roles of Trevor and Kirsty and make her go through all this. Instead, the viewer will wait and wait, getting hopeful when Kirsty's family members are mentioned, but never shown, until the final revealing moments. The climax is the best part of the film, only because our suspicions about where the film makers are going are confirmed.

The screenwriters borrow too many scenes- from "Jacob's Ladder" to "Memento" to "Angel Heart" to other "Hellraiser" films, breathlessly careening from one hallucination or dream or memory or glimpse into hell to another without ever letting Trevor or the viewer find a grounding in reality. This leads to monotony, as each horrific episode ends with Trevor snapping awake (and the viewer rolling their eyes, after having figured out the scene is not real long before). The makeup effects match the set design- hideous.

Rick Bota's direction is capable, not ever distinguishing itself from other horror video films, but not being bad, either. The cast, mostly made up of Canadian television actors, are good in their underwritten roles. Bradley shows up for a couple of roles here, and does his usual fine job in both. The musical score is unobtrusive.

"Hellraiser: Hellseeker" comes at a point in the "Hellraiser" series where the overall story arc has hit a wall, and now we are just cranking out sequels to make some money. Clive Barker's name is nowhere to be seen in the credits any longer, except for a "based on characters by" acknowledgement. It's shame to see what has happened to his original monstrous creation. (* *) out of five stars.