Having ten films in a franchise may seem impressive at a glance but if said franchise is in the horror genre that’s not necessarily the case, as one successful film can launch countless low budget sequels, and a perfect example of this would be the Hellraiser series as they went direct-to-video after the third installment. With Hellraiser: Judgement writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe gives us a tenth chapter in a series that started way back 1987 with Clive Barker’s adaptation of his own books, and where once the villainous cenobites were a terror to be reckoned with they are now at about the same level of terror one may feel towards a visit to the dentist, but maybe with a little extra nausea.
The film Hellraiser: Judgement posits the question “With the advances in technology and mankind’s ever lessening morality how can a simple puzzle box gateway to Hell compete?” The answer apparently is to set-up shop in an abandoned building and invite pedophiles and murderers to be audited, maybe the IRS could look into this model, but in the case of this movie the Auditor (Gary J. Tunnicliffe) would type up your sins on paper made of human flesh, then The Assessor (John Gulager) would eat the pages and then vomit up it back up and down a tube where three naked mutilated women would play with the vomit before passing their “findings” to The Surgeon (Jillyan Blundell) who would then skin the sinner alive. Come to think of it that does sound like an average IRS audit. Because we are in a Hellraiser movie we find out that this Stygian Inquisition is overseen by Pinhead (Paul T. Taylor) who not only looks vastly bored but is also about as threatening as birthday clown with a bizarre leather fetish.
The film’s plot centers on brother detectives Sean (Damon Carney) and David Carter (Randy Wayne) as they try and track down a serial killer known as The Preceptor, a murderous bastard who commits his atrocities based on The Ten Commandments, each victim being brutally murdered and displayed for the police to find often in an orgy of gore. It was at this point I realized that the director was not just a fan of David Fincher’s thriller Se7en but actually had no original ideas of his own so he just grafted some Hellraiser arcana onto his rip-off of Fincher’s film with the hope that this would disguise his blatant plagiarism.
The studio forced Tunnicliffe to add a third detective to the movie to give us a trio of protagonists, I’m assuming this was done to further distance its comparisons to Se7en, but Detective Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris) is so ham-fisted into the script that her purpose is all too clear. And in one of the bizarrest moments to ever appear in a police procedural she admits out of the blue to David that her primary goal isn’t to find the serial killer but to assess if Sean is fit for duty. It turns out that Sean is an Iraq veteran who seems to be suffering from PTSD and she asks David if his brother is drinking and taking drugs. Couple of big question here, “Do people in Internal Affairs normally out themselves like this?” and secondly “Does she have any reason to believe that David would not immediately alert his brother to the fact that he is being investigated?” And this leads to third bigger question, “Is pairing up brothers as partners a thing a police department would ever do?”
I will not get into spoilers here but if you don’t easily figure the “Big Twist” the film is setting up for the final act I’d be very much surprised, and when that big reveal does happen none of the actors involved are really able to sell it all that well. I will say this and that is Hellraiser: Judgement does at least include some additional stuff to the Hellraiser mythology that was at least somewhat intriguing and that would be the introduction of the angel Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald) who has her own agenda concerning The Preceptor which does not coincide with that of Pinhead and his fellow cenobites. Sadly this conflict between Heaven and Hell consisted of maybe ten minutes of screen time and so instead of dealing with that potentially interesting bailiwick we are stuck spending way too much time with the clichéd cop drama that is trying to pass itself off as dark and edgy, when really what it’s mostly guilty of is simple blatant theft. The only real positive thing I can say about this movie is that at eighty minutes in length the suffering of the viewer is at least short, but certainly nothing I could recommend to even fans of the series.
Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)
The disappointing thing here is that the idea of cops investigating the deaths surrounding the actions of the cenobites could have led the series in a nice direction, though this idea had already been similarly dealt with in the film Hellraiser: Inferno so even there it wasn’t all that original, but director Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s blatant rip-off of Fincher’s Se7en is too painful and not in a good way.