Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker

Hellraiser V: Inferno, the neo-noir psychological horror script turned into an ersatz direct-to-video Hellraiser flick, must have been a success for Miramax and Dimension Films, because they chose to squeeze blood from a stone once more.

Written as a standalone film by Carl V. Dupré and Tim Day, some light rewrites were done to shove in Hellraiser staple bad guy Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and original series heroine Kirsty (Ashley Laurence). Then the package was handed off to Rick Bota to direct.

Taking an unrelated screenplay and working it into a franchise property is nothing new in Hollywood, but it is a movie sin. It’s a lazy and disingenuous way to make a film. When it’s done so obviously, like with this film and its predecessor, it lets a viewer know right away how much respect the producers have for the audience and fans of the franchise. In other words, none. The producers couldn’t be bothered with putting any effort into the story — into crafting a film true to its characters and its legacy. It’s nothing more than a quick buck. Since the people behind this film had no respect for the material or the audience, it follows that the viewer owes none in return.

Television veteran and future insurance pitchman Dean Winters plays Trevor, an office cubicle numbers cruncher who was recently widowed when the car he was driving plunged off a bridge into a river. Trevor managed to escape the sinking vehicle with little trouble, but his wife, the aforementioned Kirsty, was not so lucky.

Trevor suffered some head trauma during the accident, and has been having trouble with headaches, loss of concentration, and the occasional brutal hallucination. On top of that, every woman he knows wants to have sex with him.

That’s right. Trevor’s wife has been dead for less than a month, and his boss (Sarah-Jane Redmond), neighbor (Jody Thompson), and acupuncturist (Kaaren de Zilva) can’t keep their hands off him. The man is grieving, dealing with the aftermath of a head Hellraiser: Hellseeker movie posterinjury, and, oh yeah, being investigated for possible homicide, and these ladies want nothing more than to ravage his body. That makes for a silly and absurd series of events, but what the hell? It’s a shitty movie. Have at it. My only real criticism is that all this sexy stuff never goes all-in on the sleaze. What could the filmmakers have been holding back for? Artistic integrity? A sense of modesty? In a direct-to-video cheapie? Please. Direct-to-video is a medium free of the prudes at the MPAA. Bota and company should have seized the opportunity to operate outside the bounds of censorship.

In between all the sexual advances, Trevor’s condition continues to deteriorate, and supporting characters meet grisly ends. Little snapshots of memory keep emerging that contradict his immediate recall of the accident that killed Kirsty. What he remembered at first as a happy anniversary gets darker and darker as the film goes along. On occasion, in order to keep this a Hellraiser flick, Pinhead shows up to throw some mysterious dialogue Trevor’s way, and then it’s back to the main plot.

Like the previous film in the series, Hellseeker is a psychological horror flick where the main protagonist is trying to piece together events he has forgotten. Like the previous film, the story telegraphs a twist and final comeuppance for our hero, involving some of the staple tortures of the Hellraiser series.

This film is a poor watch. The production quality is a huge step backwards when compared with the first two films in the franchise, and it’s not like those films were lavished with big budgets. The production quality of this film, in fact, is on par with an episode of contemporary network television. That level of mediocrity pervades everything about this film, from screenplay to cast.

With these last two films, the Hellraiser series has been treated very poorly by its owners. They aren’t the worst direct-to-video flicks in the world, but viewers, and especially Hellraiser fans, would do well to avoid them. Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker, lands far down in the Index, taking over the #315 spot from Road Wars.

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