Hulu’s ‘Hellraiser’ drops the puzzle box

Eliott Edge
3 min readOct 10, 2022

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Hulu’s much anticipated new Hellraiser reboot is as boring as it is gross. Going into it I was hoping for some fresh hell indeed, but ended up getting more of a dull purgatory instead. Sadder still, its the kind of movie you can fast forward through and still not miss anything important or interesting. More of a waiting room than a scary movie.

After a franchise butchered by the Weinsteins, who created ashcan sequel after ashcan sequel, David Bruckner’s attempt to resuscitate a franchise who’s last eight films were produced simply to hold on to the rights and weren’t meant to even be seen (that’s what an ashcan film is) Hulu’s Hellraiser comes not quite dead on arrival but it does arrive unresponsive — even comatose. With a bar this low, you’d expect a director like Bruckner, who made a great little horror film in 2017 called The Ritual (it was even in my 31 Films for October list this year) should be able to walk over the proverbial limbo bar. Instead, Hulu’s Hellraiser stands on it, wobbles, and tries to hold up a balancing act for its duration. It doesn’t fall flat on its pin-filled face because it doesn’t go anywhere or do anything outside of the creep-out gore and empty comments on pain that one should expect in a later Hellraiser picture.

The Cenobite monsters and their hellscapes are naturally the major draw of the film, but it is not enough to carry the full two hours of gridlock to a satisfying destination. The main characters are twenty somethings that constantly yell at each other, asking, “What are you doing!?“ and “What is that!?” as if after eleven installments since the first film in 1987 didn’t explain this enough times already. No, we’re supposed to fein ignorance, or have some kind of interest, but it simply just doesn’t happen. How can you explain the internal mechanics of a film eleven times in eleven films over the course of 35 years and expect your audience to be even remotely curious about it is beyond me. That’s like teaching the same two-hour long class the same two-hour long lesson eleven times and expecting your students not to die of boredom.

Our underdeveloped leads stumble through the film yelling, looking pretty, having bad relationships with each other, and exist solely to be killed gruesomely — and worse — tiredly.

When I think about Clive Barker’s original film about a middle age woman in a boring marriage who is having an affair with her husband’s brother, I think about the original intent behind the creation of Hellraiser and the Cenobite monsters — to dive into human sexuality, addiction, sensation, and desire in a horror genre setting. This film doesn’t come close to approaching these issues meaningfully. Hellraiser has become little more than another monster movie, rather than a psychosexual phantasmagoric exploration of the human psyche. Our monsters after all do wear BDSM gear, sure, (at least they did in the ten previous films) but all they do is tear people apart after a few seconds of barf bag pain. Talk about premature. No dom would ever be able to get away with this (I guess that goes without saying.)

Here we should consider American films and literature as opposed to European — Americans are far more comfortable with stories about gory violence and far off adventure than they are about their own sexuality and relationships (my wonderful fiancee pointed this out to me years ago.) A European movie like Possession (also on my 31 Films list) does the kind of thing that Hellraiser, and indeed Barker himself, wishes could be done. But since Americans aren’t interested in sexuality outside of pornography (or at least that’s what studios think — and maybe they’re right), this is unlikely to ever happen.

If Hellraiser were a European film it might actually do the kind of thing that Hellraiser was always intended to do and not be just another by-the-numbers monster movie.

I give Hulu’s Hellraiser a generous C to the un-scary, unfunny, unoriginal film, only because I am stacking it up against its last seven ashcan installments. That’s a nice way to say that I left Hellraiser with a mild lament configuration of my own. At least it wasn’t as confusing as the one in the film, nor as painful.

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Eliott Edge

Author of '3 Essays on Virtual Reality', global speaker, artist, humorist, futurist, netizen, critic & psychonaut Patreon.com/OddEdges EliottEdge.com IEET.org