Hellraiser: Judgment Review (No Spoilers)
“Let’s dive right in, shall we?” – The Auditor
Yes, let’s do!
I want to get it out of the way very early so there’s no confusion: I really enjoyed Hellraiser: Judgment. Is it a perfect film? No, but for a film that cost less than five-hundred thousand dollars to make, I was sucked into its world from the opening shot. The first ten minutes are better than Inferno-Revelations combined. A bold statement? Perhaps, but that’s how I feel. Director Gary J. Tunnicliffe has made a sequel that pays tribute to the first two films but adds some interesting new elements to the mythology as well.
I know a lot of fans were fearful that Judgment seemed a lot like Hellraiser: Inferno, but let me put you all at ease, that’s simply not the case. The story is “heavily” influenced by David Fincher’s Se7en with three detectives hot on the trail of a serial killer called The Preceptor, a madman who’s basing his killings off the teachings of the Ten Commandants. He’s down to the last two and law enforcement is desperate to catch him.
So how does Hellraiser play into all of this? A lot. Make no mistake this is a Hellraiser film first and foremost, even though on the surface it might not appear like one. It reminded me of the first film’s structure where underneath the main story line there’s something much bigger going on.
The opening scene introduces the Hell Priest talking to a new character known as the Auditor about how the Lament Configuration has become obsolete in an age where lust and desire can easily be accessed electronically. A simple wooden box just doesn’t work anymore, but now a new mechanism has been created that welcomes all sinners, so they can torment their souls.
The best thing about this new film are the (as Gary calls them) Stygian Inquisition. That’s not officially used in anyway during the movie, but I like the name and I’m going to use it here. They’re made up of the Auditor, the Assessor, the Jury, the Cleaners, the Butcher, and finally the Surgeon. Their ways of dealing with the flesh are different than anything we’ve seen before. Each plays their own role in a ritualistic ceremony of passing down guilty verdicts to all sinners. And folks, it’s not pretty. Having the most fun out of this motley crew is the Auditor. The scene between him and Watkins is both funny and frightening thanks to Tunnicliffe’s creepy portrayal. He’s very matter of fact about it all and that made the scenes with him very uncomfortable. Also, the character holds his own just fine against the Hell Priest. You get the feeling that Pinhead has a lot of respect for this guy.
Speaking of the Hell Priest, I must confess that Paul T. Taylor did an admirable job as Pinhead. There were even a couple of moments with how he moved that reminded me of Doug Bradley. Gary also gave him some decent lines for a change. The makeup is the best looking since Hellraiser: Bloodline and I even welcomed the changes to the costume. They looked more like robes this time around rather than the one piece gown we’re used to. It was also good to see the regular cenobites as well. The Stitch Twins (always sexy) have a scene with actor Damon Carney that was unsettling. I do wish they would’ve shown up more.
The ending really pissed me off the first time, but after watching it some more, it’s grown on me. The material added to the mythology is good and there’s a couple nice nods to Hellbound: Hellraiser II that I hope fans will enjoy.
Now to some things I had a problem with.
Gary and Co. did a wonderful job of stretching the budget here, but still there was something missing. There really was a lack of atmosphere when it came to the serial killer story line. A lot of the investigation scenes suffered because of this. Where were all the other cops? It was hard for me to buy into this real world story line because the movie didn’t create the tense atmosphere that accompanies such a situation. Thankfully, the performances by the three main leads are enough to keep things interesting.
I also wish there would’ve been more of the classic Clive Barker/Hellraiser themes. I wanted my lust for flesh and desire damn it! But sadly, I’ve come to accept that these concepts aren’t coming back anytime soon if Dimension Films continues to hold the rights. To be frank, I’m surprised they allowed Gary to get away with so much here.
I really enjoyed this movie. I proudly put it between Bloodline and Hell on Earth on my top ten list of Hellraiser movies. I’m sure it’s going to be mixed among the fans. I wish it would’ve been made earlier. It deserved a bigger budget and lot more respect than to be made as rights place holder film.
Until then, I hope we get to see more of the Stygian Inquisition and The Order of the Gash together in another sequel that hopefully will do the concept more justice.