Here we go again. Dimension Films, the neglectful owners of the cinematic rights to Hellraiser, waited until the last minute to renew the rights by making another Hellraiser flick. Unlike the last time, some folks involved knew it was coming, and decided to prepare.
From 2018, Hellraiser: Judgement is the latest film in the franchise. The good news is, this should be the last flick Dimension shits out just to secure rights, as the long-anticipated Hellraiser remake/reboot is in principal photography as of this writing. How about that?
Judgement is something of a magnum opus from its writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe. Having been involved in the previous film, Tunnicliffe knew about the rights situation, and he was prepared, pitching this movie well before the deadline to Dimension. They passed, later changed their minds as the deadline just refused to stop approaching, and seem to have handed him some large creative license. This looks to have been quite a coup for Tunnicliffe. He found a wayward property owned by people who didn’t care, and he leveraged his way into making his movie. And it very much is his movie.
Even though this is a Hellraiser flick from conception to release, Tunnicliffe still couldn’t shake off the neo-noir aspects of the previous bottom-feeding films. He does a lot of world-building, as well, making the afterlife, hell, and Pinhead’s role in it, more concrete. In the original film, it was never clear from where the Cenobites originate. It was never said that they were demons. The whole purpose behind opening the puzzle box was to open a new dimension of sensation. It can be said the Cenobites fulfill that. The tortures through which they put the human body can be considered hell-like, if one chooses to look upon it as punishment. But for what? Opening a puzzle box? That’s not something fit for punishment. The first film wasn’t about some Judeo-Christian conception of the punishments of hell. It was about sex. The Cenobites had pushed carnal sensation to such heights that all that was left were the extremes of pain and pleasure.
In this film, Damon Carney and Randy Wayne play brother police detectives Sean and David Carter. They are joined by fellow officer Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris) in a hunt for a serial killer dubbed the Preceptor, who is carrying out killings based on the Ten Commandments. How very Seven.
While investigating, Sean somehow ends up in front of the Auditor (Tunnicliffe, who just couldn’t resist being in his own movie), a slashed and scarred being who runs through a person’s life like a demonic St. Paul, and decides whose soul goes to Pinhead (Paul T. Taylor) or some such. The details are unimportant. All of this is just a way to get to the gory stuff, and this film delivers much of that. It approaches torture porn levels of gore, in fact, but pulls back just enough to make it more spectacle than something that must be endured.
Tunnicliffe’s story is the type of convoluted mess one gets when a director is allowed to go hog wild and under budget. No one seemed to step in at any point to rein in the story, and why would they? This film had a budget of somewhere around $350,000. For that little cash, the dailies must have looked like Citizen Kane. The film is stylish and polished like a 1990s music video, and about as deep.
Knowing how this film came to be, it’s not worth it for a viewer to be invested in any of it. That said, Tunnicliffe saw an opportunity to make a movie his way, and he took it. Good for him. It still stinks. Hellraiser: Judgement falls into the lower half of the Watchability Index, displacing Indian Paint at #234.