Monday, August 5, 2013

Hellraiser: Revelations

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Dir: Victor Garcia
Written by: Gary Tunnicliffe
Starring nobody. Literally nobody.

So it’s come to this. The 9th film in the series (and so far, mercifully, the last) has one thing going for it that we haven’t seen in this series for awhile: It was actually written as a HELLRAISER sequel. The last time that happened was wa-a-a-a-a-y back in HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINES, which, I know, not exactly a high-water mark of the series itself, but hey, at least it’s gotta be better than these generically dull mystery flicks where Pinhead shows up for five minutes at the end that they’ve been doing since HELLRAISER V: INFERNO, NO NOT THAT INFERNO THIS IS A DIFFERENT ONE AND ALSO THERE’S NO INFERNO IN THE MOVIE SO I CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR CONFUSION. I mean, if someone is actually intentionally writing this as a HELLRAISER movie, surely we’ll at least get some genuine cenobite action, a little extra Pinhead, maybe a skin-wearing scene or two, some fun incesty types, you know, the good stuff. And best of all, maybe we’ll finally get a Pinhead who’s not a sidekick (HELLRAISER IV), or trying to teach someone a lesson about being a nicer person (V, VI) or trying to prevent humans from defying death’s will(?!) (VII) or actually a character in a virtual reality simulation but at the end it turns out he’s real for some reason (VIII). So part IX definitely has that factor going for it.

What it’s got going against it is that it is, by a large margin, the cheapest, laziest, most tedious and amateurish HELLRAISER so far, an outing so rote and needless that even Doug Bradley refused to participate. Doug Bradley, who was in the SyFy channel PUMPKINHEAD 3. Doug Bradley, from WRONG TURN V. The same Doug Bradley who was in HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD. What does it take to get this guy to say no? Well, it turns out it takes making a movie in two weeks due to contractual obligations that required Dimension films to make a sequel or risk losing the rights to the franchise (a franchise which, obviously, was deeply important to them). Scraped together in a matter of weeks for under $300,000, this has every hallmark of a movie made for the wrong reasons by people who don’t really have any intention of making an effort. Hell, I suspect the only reason they wrote an original script was that it was quicker to just type up this piece of crap in an evening than it would have been to actually read through existing scripts and find one they might be able to retrofit with some Hellraiser trappings*.

Puzzlebox now available in Robin's Egg Blue.

Here’s the plot: two teenage buddies, Nico and Steven, vanish while vacationing in Mexico. They leave behind a camcorder (oh good, another found-footage horror movie) but no trace of their bodies or whereabout. Cut to an indeterminate time in the future, when their respective sets of parents have gotten together for the evening. Not to talk about the boys, of course, but to have a nice meal together in their isolated modernist home which is clearly owned by one of the producers. But their evening of red wine and awkward small talk is ruined by their daughter Emma, who wants to know why no one has apparently ever talked about this little mystery of the missing teens before now. Seriously, it appears that even though these two sets of parents know each other and regularly dine together, this subject just never came up. Emma was Steven’s sister and boyfriend to Nico (in clear violation of man law) so you can sort of understand why she’d like to, you know, address this issue, but the parents seem confused and uncomfortable and act as if asking what happened to their missing children is some kind of needless breach of decorum. They’re so suspiciously off-put by the whole subject that you have to suspect they’re hiding something, but no, it seems like it just never occurred to them to ask about it or look through the missing teens’ effects.

Yeah, a lot of the movie looks like this. Geez, how did no one ever think to make a horror ripoff of THE BIG CHILL before now? Pinhead really does have to do everything himself.

Emma’s a tough, no-bullshit kind of gal who wears a dress with a neckline that plunges literally to her belt while having dinner at home with her own parents, so she’s not buying this crap.** She watches the video from the camcorder that no one else ever bothered to take a look at, and whaddayaknow, turns out they got involved with some kind of mystery puzzlebox, a skinned guy, and the fakest lightning effects this side of HIGHLANDER. Well, that doesn’t tell us anything helpful without actually getting to look at that puzzlebox, but that’s impossible because they must have left it... oh wait, here it is. A couple gentle caresses later and bam! Steven’s back, though too traumatized to tell his story. But what’s this, is something lurking outside in the bushes? And why is everyone’s car gone? And the telephone lines cut? And also there’s no cell phone reception out here, sorry, should have mentioned that.

In keeping with the fact that they want to spend no money, this is essentially a single-set home intruder movie eventually ripping off, of all fools things, FUNNY GAMES. Pretty soon, a shotgun comes into play and people are forced to reveal their darkest secrets, which actually don’t turn out to be particularly dark because this is a DTV HELLRAISER sequel and they’re damn sure not going to waste any genuinely good ideas on it. I have to admit, though, that there is one semi-clever twist which comes along for the last act. It’s sort of stupid, but I’ll admit that I didn’t see it coming and it actually nicely pays homage to/rips off a trope of the original HELLRAISER which has long been absent from the series. Unfortunately there’s zero character development of any kind, so despite my modicrum of respect for the twist itself nothing whatsoever comes of it, it just means we shift to ripping off a different movie. I suppose it does qualify as revealing unknown information to the characters, though, which at least explains the “Revelations” subtitle, I guess. I wonder if they decided on the title first and then wrote the script around explaining it? Or does every writer of shitty horror sequels just independently realize that their film is all about revealin’ shit?

Who would have thought this tiny device had the power to ruin genre film making forever?

I dunno, man, shitty movies have been a staple of genre sequels since the dawn of cinema (remember when the people of the world came together and agreed to lose that BIRTH OF A NATION sequel?) but honestly this new era of shitty DTV sequels just seems so lifeless they barely even exist. I know I’ve complained about this before, but jesus, shitty movies were better when they were worse. It’s so easy for any jackass to put a film together now that you don’t have that baffling, inscrutable incompetence that used to add a little color there. Everything about this film looks like it was made by professionals -- I mean, the scenes are in focus, it’s edited properly, it’s lit OK, most of the story generally makes sense, the actors seem like they understand what acting is. But rather than improving things, that just makes it seem entirely bland, plastic, and disposable. Give me the days of obsessed maniacs doing mountains of blow, spending every dime on one crazy practical effects shot, and then piecing the rest of the movie together using outtakes and footage from other movies. That was an experience. That was unpredictable. There was something quixotic and intoxicating about being in the hands of such obviously irresponsible degenerates. This movie would not allow those guys on the set. This was put together on the advice of a major corporation's lawyers by a team of responsible college graduates whose main concern was coming in under budget and pleasing their bosses, just like the career councilor told them to. 

Even Kevin "Alan Smithee" Yagher, in making his horrible part IV, cared enough to fight for his idiotic vision to the point of taking his name off the compromised final product. I don't think the producers of this movie would even understand that sentence, let alone the sentiment. No one here has a personal stake, they're just doing a job. And it feels about as exciting as a well-managed PR campaign for Right Guard. Nobody wants to do anything interesting or ambitious because somebody might notice and make fun of them. Well, don’t worry guys, there’s nothing to make fun of here because there literally is nothing new here, period.

I don’t mind derivative. I’m on my 9th HELLRAISER for fuck’s sake. But REVELATIONS’ problem isn’t that it’s derivative, it’s that it’s boring. Simply put, it has no good scenes. Even the nearly-unwatchable HELLWORLD at least had a few fun set pieces, a couple decent kills, and Lance Henriksen. This one has none of that. It’s mostly exposition, or scenes of actors who are bad enough to be unwatchable but not amateurish enough to be funny talking past each other about nothing interesting. The cenobites barely appear more than they do in any other sequel, and they didn’t even bother to make any new ones. At least part VI has that doctor one with the exposed brain; this one just settles for doing sidekicks (a female Chatterer alongside our old buddy, and a son-of-pinhead who has nails instead of pins, ooh, scary). You know the series has finally run itself down when they can’t even be bothered to put some effort into a new cenobite with a dick stitched on its face or something. The makeup looks fine, but Jesus, could you possibly coast any more than giving us female Chatterer? Wait! Don’t answer that question yet. Instead, let’s look:

The face of failure.

Yup, it’s an off-brand Pinhead. Doug Bradley said no, and rather than taking the hint and just bringing back princess Angelika or something, they apparently decided Pinhead was like James Bond and you could just bring any asshole in to play him and we’d never notice. Why they picked this particular baby-faced weasel I’ll never know, maybe they always secretly wished that Pinhead looked more like a doughy Chandler from Friends.*** But yeah, if that isn’t the final insult, I don’t know what is. This puzzlebox is broken man, all I’m getting is pain, no pleasure whatsoever. I know what you’re thinking, it’s because this is an experience beyond limits where pleasure and pain are indivisible, but I’m telling you right now it ain’t. This is a clearly limited experience and it’s just pain, and not even a very interesting pain. More like an annoying pain that just won’t go away, like what I imagine period cramps are, or maybe like if you have to shit real bad. Must this experience be so aggressively humdrum? It’s as if they took the words of Pinhead in the original HELLRAISER a bit too literally: “The box. You opened it. We came.”

Yeah guys, but after he came, they did interesting stuff. Please don’t forget that part next time. How bout we focus on a different line for the next sequel: “We have such sights to show you!”

Or, if not that, then let’s just do “This isn’t for your eyes.”

This guy is a good summary for this turkey. Kinda tacked together.

1: HELLRAISER (1987)
*I Should mention that writer Gary Tunnicliffe is actually a makeup artist who's been doing the Pinhead makeup since part III. I can only assume that after all this time he's fucking sick of it and wants to kill the whole series once and for all just so he'll never have to work with all those pins again.

**The project details for the production tell us: “Emma - 18. Daughter of Ross and Sarah. She is lovely and inquisitive and on the verge of her own womanhood”

***Has anyone ever stopped to think about how fantastically meaningless that title is? Friends? Why not just call it “Show with People.”


  1. The very man who made THE BIG CHILL made a horror movie version of it: DREAMCATCHER

  2. I guess Kasdan always regretted chickening out on his original ending for BIG CHILL, where it turns out Tom Berenger was a retarded alien all along.

  3. "Hewwo, Middah Gay"
    Turns into alien, listens to old soul music.