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What The Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Are Saying About Hellraiser

Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" franchise is one of pain, suffering, and occasionally good reviews. Suppose that is bound to happen, though, when a franchise starts in 1987 and manages to churn out several different movies that can contradict themselves, both in terms of quality and tone. Some "Hellraiser" movies take its horror and sadism very seriously, while others may see the hellish Cenobites summoned to a space station in the future. Needless to say, some "Hellraiser" movies are good, and others ... not so much.

The latest movie, simply called "Hellraiser," is the eleventh in the series, and it has decided to take a new and fresh look at Pinhead, and their retinue of thematically designed former humans turned acolytes of pain and nightmares. Releasing in early October 2022, this new "Hellraiser" stars Jamie Clayton as everybody's favorite latex-bound sadomasochist, and she is joined by Odessa A'zion, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, and several others. The trailer for the new "Hellraiser" certainly got people talking, and now that early reviews have come out, what is the condition of this new iteration? Is it a glorious monument to suffering or one that requires us to conserve our collective tears?

Hellraiser currently has an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes

As of the time of this writing, the overall critical response on Rotten Tomatoes is hovering around 82%, and it seems as if the critics themselves have plenty to say about the new film, both in terms of strengths and weaknesses. In its review of "Hellraiser," the AV Club said that this new film is different in subtext from the original and added, "As decades of rights-preserving sequels can attest, that choice is nothing new for the 'Hellraiser' franchise, but fans of Barker's queer proclivities may be disappointed that this 2022 version marks another propagation rather than a return to its roots. That said, Bruckner, Collins, and Piotrowski plant their vision in fields that are no less rich, terrifying, or gorily violent than the hellbound story that started it all."

Variety offered a slightly more nuanced take, saying that the movie works best when it puts the Hell Priest (Clayton) and their demonic allies front and center and that the film tends to drag when they aren't on screen. The site also noted that the new "Hellraiser" takes its time getting to where it wants to be in terms of story and presentation, but when it does, the horror and spectacle tend to dominate as flesh is torn and manipulated. They finished by saying that the film works as a metaphor and added, "Yet it doesn't quite work as a story. And maybe that's because there's something dated about the film's vision of pain-freak sensuality as a one-way ticket to the inferno. The film wants to take you to hell and back, but nowadays, that sounds like something you'd find on a hookup app."

Reviewers have found plenty to love about the new Hellraiser

In its review, The Hollywood Reporter said that "Hellraiser" looks absolutely terrific and that Jamie Clayton's Hell Priest strikes a suitably scary villain. It then stated that the movie feels a bit overlong at two hours and that they have some issues with the writing, noting that some parts are less interesting since the plot never fully fleshes out some characters, but that isn't necessarily a major issue because of said characters' ultimate fates. The review finished by saying, "Fans will be relieved to know that this 'Hellraiser' definitely doesn't skimp on the gore, providing enough viscera and flayed skin to satisfy the most bloodthirsty viewers. When a pin pierces someone's flesh, you even occasionally see the damage from inside the body, as if to provide an educational anatomical experience for young viewers looking to enter the medical profession."

Nerdist also offered a combination of kind words and mild criticisms for "Hellraiser" and said that the special effects are fantastic, although the movie can be somewhat dimly lit at times. They added that even though the Cenobites are usually the biggest draw of any of the "Hellraiser" films, the human characters are worthy of being rooted for and that the writers did a fine job of creating believable characters. Nerdist's biggest issue was the ending by a very strange stinger but added, "Even with that, though, this is still a really great addition to the 'Hellraiser' series that sits comfortably as just another chapter in the sprawling legend of the Lament Configuration rather than diminishing what came before."

Not all Hellraiser reviews are glowing

However, not all reviews for "Hellraiser" heaped praise on the Cenobite's latest excursion into our world. Slant Magazine isn't the biggest fan of this new movie and described it as generally toothless and retrograde. The publication continued and said that the film feels like a generic slasher flick, with a group of attractive twenty-somethings that spout quips like they are in a 1990s sitcom, and that the mysteries of the Lament Configuration are too easily unlocked. The review then went on to say that there were some interesting subplots in the film that aren't fully explored and that previous "Hellraiser" films featured the Cenobites killing people with a purpose, but this new film reduces them to killers with little rhyme or reason.

Their review concluded by saying, "'Hellraiser' trudges through its interminable two-hour runtime until the remaining protagonists finally confront the wealthy prior owner of the puzzle box, Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic), at his ornate rural mansion. Pinhead and the Cenobites wreak some havoc in this final stretch, yet Bruckner shoots in such a murky aesthetic that it's sometimes hard to make out, let alone get excited by, the ensuing carnage. By the time Voight spews some more world-building exposition, it's impossible to see this 'Hellraiser' reboot as anything more than craven brand extension."

Hellraiser has received more praise than detraction

Others also felt the same way regarding "Hellraiser," like Next Best Picture, which complained that the movie is plagued by modern horror tropes, like incompetent protagonists, explanatory writing, and subpar visuals. They continued and explained that even though the actors do what they can with what they are given, the writing isn't all that good. However, the site does mention that Clayton's version of Pinhead is a worthy successor to Doug Bradley but complained that the main antagonist and their comrades are so dimly lit that it is hard to know what one is supposed to be afraid of. The review ended by saying, "Hopefully, 'Hellraiser' inspires another generation of young horror viewers who may stumble upon its scary poster on their streaming app. But unfortunately, this thematically shallow adaptation of Barker's brilliant work of gothic, erotic horror doesn't live up to its damnable title."

Considering the above reviews, one can see several reoccurring trends. Many of the comments have said that Clayton's Hell Priest is fantastic and that the acting is relatively good, considering the writing and horror format. There are also some of the same complaints that popped up in several reviews, namely that the film itself is dark, which can make viewing the scenes somewhat of a struggle. Ultimately though, "Hellraiser" seems to have more proponents than opponents, so feel free to save those tears. We wouldn't want to waste such sweet suffering.