Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oh, Hell, the Box is Back: "Hellraiser: Revelations" (2011)



When your option on continuing a once mildly successful horror film franchise is running out, do you let the series die a quiet death, since you haven't contributed anything to it in five years, or do you come up with a quickie entry that might make a buck or two on the video and streaming market? If you are Dimension, you crank out the garbage that is this film.

Nico (Jay Gillepsie, who looks a lot like a young Val Kilmer) and Steven (Nick Eversman, who does not look like Val Kilmer) are two buddies who escape their privileged lives to Tijuana with a video camera along to record their adventures. The film begins jumping back and forth in time as we find out the boys end up missing and presumed dead, but their luggage made it back along with the video camera (which wasn't kept by any authorities as evidence, despite footage of a possible murder) and a strange puzzle box. Nico's parents (Sebastien Roberts and Sanny Van Heteren) come over to dine with Steven's parents (Steven Brand and Devon Sorvari), and Steven's sister, and Nico's girlfriend, Emma (Tracey Fairaway). Got all that? In my notes, I had to construct a crude pedigree chart to keep the characters straight, especially since the parents all acted the same.

Dinner is tense since the parents ignore what happened to their sons until finally the ice is broken on the exact same night that Steven comes back home, bloodied and in a state of shock. The group is trapped in the isolated mansion, their cars mysteriously disappear and there is no phone service, and the viewer is treated to double doses of mayhem and murder as the story switches back and forth between what happened to Nico and Steven in Mexico, and what happens to their families now.

In this era of reboots and reimaginings, I wish someone would get Clive Barker on the phone, pony up some dough, and let him have his creation back. It has been over a quarter of a century since the original "Hellraiser", and despite a couple of better than average direct to video sequels, the overall series turned into a convoluted mess where some screenplays were injected with Pinhead and his Cenobites just to put them into a film and make it part of the "Hellraiser" canon. Even Doug Bradley, who portrayed Pinhead in the preceding eight films, didn't see fit to return here...which isn't saying much, I guess, considering he did appear in the worst of the series before this film, as well as the best.

The film is dark and ugly. The screenwriter goes overboard (this is from the Dimension EXTREME label), and we get lots of gore, shootings, incest, murdered prostitutes, a baby killed offscreen, tequila shots, and bad story structure. The film runs only 75 minutes, with five minutes of that being opening and closing credits, yet the DVD's bonus is almost ten minutes of deleted scenes, which I couldn't bring myself to watch.

Victor Garcia's direction is alright, after a stomach churning opening involving the two friends filming themselves on the trip. I didn't get sick from any gore, just the jolting camera movements that had me wishing I bought Dramamine the last time I was outside. The majority of the action takes place around Steven's parents' house, with a dirty disgusting set standing in for Tijuana, which seems to be oddly populated by Asian hookers.

The performances here are all pretty bad, but I am blaming the script. What used to sound so scary coming out of the mouth of Douglas Bradley sounds ridiculous coming out of Stephan Smith Collins'. There is a voice credit for Pinhead, and it sounds like Bradley a little, but Collins is stuck in this iconic role with nothing to do. The story pops in a vagrant character (Daniel Buran) who happens to have the puzzle box that unleashes the demons, drops the vagrant character, then brings him back...and literally drops him again. No explanation of Pinhead and the Cenobites is ever offered, and while having some mystery in a film is nice, even hardcore viewers like me have forgotten their origins. Simple questions like how long were the boys missing, and who actually controls the puzzle box and the summoning of the demons are left unanswered.

This makes nine films in the franchise now, and I have reviewed them all (aside from some short fan films out there). "Hellraiser: Revelations," the Roman numeral sequel numbering was dropped way back at Part III, is probably the worst of the series...NOW can we let this character rest in peace until our big budget reboot? Has anyone called Rob Zombie yet? (*) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Hellraiser: Revelations