Hellraiser: Judgement (2018)

Gary J. Tunnicliffe

Running Time: 81 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Heather Langenkamp, Paul T. Taylor, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, John Gulager

As the Hellraiser franchise grew in quantity, it was notable how many of the direct-to-video sequels were original scripts, only to become converted into a part of the series. Writer, director and cast-member Gary J. Tunnicliffe took a differing approach, intending this to be a part of the franchise from the start, which is reflected in how the human element takes centre stage, with the Cenobites serving to exacerbate things. After the franchise went to space and delved into an MMORPG, this is a welcome change of pace, even if the execution doesn't match the intention.

The story follows Sean Carter (Damon Carney), a detective who's suffering from marriage problems. Aided by his brother David Carter (Randy Wayne) and Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris), the detectives hunt for The Preceptor, a serial killer who commits murders based on the Ten Commandments. As the trio dig deeper into a spiralling maze of horror, they are drawn into Hell, where Pinhead and his Cenobite sect lay in wait.

In the opening moments, Pinhead states his intentions with a new character, named The Auditor. In a new age where pleasure can be found electronically, essentially rendering the Lament Configuration obsolete, Pinhead must adapt his methods, finding new ways to achieve his goals. As direct-to-video sequels transformed him into a Freddy Krueger-lite jokester, Paul T. Taylor's portrayal feels worlds away from that, delivering a much more ordered figure that's devoted to his work, feeling closer to early iterations.

What's most interesting is how the mythology becomes expanded upon. We now have separate factions, as the Stygian Inquisition is introduced, and bear witness to the politics of Heaven and Hell. When it comes to realising this on-screen, the low budget hampers things, leaving it all to occur in such drab locations. The Hellish elements are especially disappointing, as the grimy look doesn't cover up the lack of imagination, resembling an MTV music video more than a feature film.

There are intriguing avenues the story could go down, each one full of potential, and highlighting the unfortunate reality we're focused on a dull police procedural. Despite a gruesome moment involving a dog sewn inside a woman's stomach, this is largely a hub for dire dialogue and performances which are all over the place, put into flat characters. Most strange is how Heather Langenkamp is credited so prominently in the cast, yet her role amounts to a landlady that's on-screen for less than a minute. Much like the film itself, this is squandered potential.

Hellraiser: Judgement is available on Digital Download 22nd February, and on Blu-Ray and DVD from 1st March. Pre-order now from Amazon.