Hellraiser: Judgement (2018)
Review by Thad Timothy; writer, Cult Classic Horror
Review Rating: Three out of five stars
Starring: Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Paul Taylor, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, & Heather Langenkamp (cameo)
Directed by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Written by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
About the Film
“Pain and suffering,” “suffering and pain!” The Hellraiser franchise continues with its tenth offering “Hellraiser: Judgement.” After four consecutive, ill-received sequels, the latest of which being the perceived travesty Hellraiser: Revelations (2011), it’s no surprise that Hellraiser fans had thrown in the towel and could therefore careless about the upcoming Hellraiser: Judgement. Expectations fell even lower once it was announced that Doug Bradley would not be reprising his role as the legendary cenobite, Pinhead. CCH fans surely hoped this was one of Pinhead’s infamous pranks (speaking of which…has anyone seen my car keys?), but sadly it wasn’t and the coveted role was once again up for grabs. Bradley’s absence from Revelations caused immediate backlash from fans and critics and the film itself received harsh criticism, most of which was directed at actor Stephan Smith Collins for his portrayal of Pinhead. That’s not to say Collins is a bad actor, he isn’t and before we blame it all on him let’s remember why Bradley turned down the film in the first place – a poor script, he just wasn’t right as Pinhead. But enough about the Hellraiser debacle, we are here to discuss the Hellraiser hopeful…Judgement. Written and directed by special effects award winner Gary J. Tunnicliffe (who has been involved with the series since Hell on Earth), Hellraiser: Judgement has received positive reviews by critics and mixed reviews by fans. Overall, the film has been well received and appears to have regenerated interest from fans who had more or less given up on the franchise.
The film opens to a scene with Pinhead, played by Paul Taylor, and a new character called The Auditor played by writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe. During this scene the two characters are having what appears to be a formal brainstorming session on how to effectively lure souls into torment in today’s technologically advanced world. That concept may seem a bit far-fetched but stick with it, things get better and will eventually, believe it or not, make sense. As the story continues we are introduced to detectives, and brothers, Sean Carter (Carney) and David Carter (Wayne) who are on the hunt for a vicious serial killer known only as “The Preceptor.” As the bodies pile up and the case begins to stall, Detective Christine Egerton (Harris) is assigned to assist the brothers with finding the Preceptor before his biblical mission concludes. What they find however is a puzzling maze of horror that may not be of this world and a demon who may very well tear their souls apart.
My Review (without spoilers)
I must admit, I stopped expecting too much from the Hellraiser series about the time part six, Hellseeker, rolled around. While I still enjoyed watching the series, it became painfully obvious that the character of Pinhead was being inserted into otherwise unrelated film projects and scripts to gain notoriety. Though his screen time seemed to diminish more with each film, the scenes with Doug Bradley as Pinhead were enough to make the movie well worth watching. Then along came Revelations, another unrelated story but this time without Bradley. Suffice it to say I was not too excited for Judgement and I can’t really tell you what finally drove me to watch it. Perhaps it was so I could legitimately warn my CCH brothers and sisters to steer clear of it so that they may spend their time and money on better films. After all, Hellraiser is a series covered by the podcast and often discussed in the CCH group. But maybe, just maybe, another part of me wanted to see an attempt at redemption being made for a series I’ve followed since childhood. For better or worse, the Hellraiser series kept going and became something horror fans could rely on, even look forward to. No matter how bad the film was, we still got what we came for…Pinhead. While I may personally prefer a good story, you could send my favorite characters to space, hell, or Manhattan and I’d still watch it - with a big smile on my face. If you take that character away however you better have a damn decent story to make up for it. Hellraiser: Judgement may not have had Bradley but the character of Pinhead was thankfully played well this time around. While no one will EVER fill Doug Bradley’s shoes, Paul Taylor did as well as I believe anyone could and I would be ok with seeing him in the role again, should Bradley not be willing to return of course.
It has been rumored, but not substantiated, that the original script for this film also had nothing to do with the Hellraiser story. Regardless, my hat’s off to Tunnicliffe for giving us a Hellraiser film that actually feels like a Hellraiser film, a feeling lost since Bloodline in my opinion. I also commend him for doing so much with so little. The low budget (estimated $350,000) is apparent upon viewing but it often lends itself well to the overall feeling of the film. Gritty. Dirty. Discomforting.
Although a bit sluggish at first, Hellraiser: Judgement builds towards a satisfying conclusion which ties everything together in a way that makes sense. Yeah, you heard me “it makes sense.” When is that last time you recall that happening in a Hellraiser film? Has it ever really happened? Hellraiser: Judgement is being touted as “return to form.” At the very least, it is a step in the right direction.
I recommend this movie for fans of the Hellraiser series and encourage them to give it a watch. It’s important to know that this movie fits in, and stands out, better amongst the straight to video releases (5-10) rather than the theatrical releases (1-4). The effects, gore, and acting are all good and the cameo by genre favorite Heather Langenkamp is quite humerous.
Additional Trivia (spoilers)
- The producers of the film secretly contacted Damon Carney’s wife to obtain stories of intense moments from his past that were used, much to Carney’s surprise, during his scene where he is “audited.” Once the take ended, Carney yelled out “What the f**k just happened?” He later claimed to be genuinely freaked out by it.
- Director Gary Tunnicliffe played the role of The Auditor.
- The film was shot in my home state of Oklahoma. Alexandra Harris, who plays Christine Egerton, is an Oklahoma native as is Heather Langenkamp who appears for a cameo in the film.
- The makeup design for The Auditor was originally intended to be pitched as a re-imagined look for Pinhead when Hellraiser was under option for a reboot. When it was decided to be a direct sequel, they chose to keep Pinhead’s look the same and use the idea for the The Auditor’s character.
- When asked about his absence from this film, Doug Bradley has several times pointed the finger at director Gary J. Tunnicliffe. According to Bradley, Tunnicliffe demanded he sign a questionable non-disclosure agreement which would hold him liable for any leaked information about the upcoming film. Tunnicliffe allegedly began recasting Bradley’s role the day after he refused to sign the agreement.