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John’s Horror Corner: Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2002), a decent direct-to-DVD horror film and an “okay” Hellraiser film.

March 28, 2016

pc1hzt0qMY CALL: Overall, I was pleased with this as a direct-to-DVD horror film, but maybe disappointed as a major Hellraiser fan. In either case, I’d still recommend it. But only AFTER seeing all of its predecessors in order. MORE MOVIES LIKE Hellseeker: Be sure to see Hellraiser (1987) and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) first, of course. Then maybe Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992) and Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996). Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) is more of a standalone film.

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***************How it fits in the franchise***************

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Directed by Rick Bota (Haven, Hellraiser VII-VIII), this sixth installment to the Hellraiser franchise follows in Inferno‘s (2000) footsteps by presenting another stand-alone story. Hellraiser was a dark chamber thriller fueled by lustful desire, Hellbound more of a curious exploration of Barker’s Hell-ish Labyrinth and his Cenobites, Hell on Earth was a troped-up action/horror movie chronicling Pinhead’s own escape from Hell, Bloodline was an anthology story illustrating the creation and lineage of the Puzzle Box, Inferno a crime thriller neatly packaged in the dark trappings of the Puzzle Box, and now we find yet another murder-mystery crime thriller. There is an admittedly significant drop in quality in the third and fourth films from the original two, and yet another such drop for the fifth and this sixth direct-to-video installments, but it remains comforting that we never seem to find the same story recycled and retold with different victims.

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A major fault of Hell on Earth and Bloodline was the nuisance of over-exposition. I didn’t find that to be a problem here.  But the most noticeable flaw was that this sixth franchise story is the first not to expand the Hellraiser mythology, rather operating on the same theme as Inferno. Whereas parts 1-4 revolve around the Box or Pinhead (Doug Bradley), parts 5-6 are illustrative of what experiences befall those damned souls who open the Box. As a result, we see much less of Pinhead and focus more on our curious and potentially damned soul. Trevor’s journey begins as a rational investigation fogged by amnesia, shifts to something supernatural and psychologically pervasive, and ultimately steers us into what feels like a surreal dreamscape of his life.

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Parts 1-3 of this franchise should be watched in order. After seeing them, there seems to be no consequence to 4-6 out of order aside from the fact that Bloodline is much better than 5 or 6. This film is nothing special, nor is it even a “good” Hellraiser story. But I take it for what it is and appreciate of it what I can. I didn’t regret watching it.

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***************Review***************

After suffering a car accident and losing his wife Kirsty (Ashley Laurence; Hellraiser I-II, Lurking Fear), Trevor (Dean Winters; John Wick) awakens in a hospital mostly amnesiac and, for what he can remember, his story strangely doesn’t match the police.

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That’s right. Dean Winters is the Allstate Commercial guy.

As if a mix of post-traumatic stress and disorientation, flashbacks and hallucinations occur in the form of brutally macabre surgical scenes, fond memories of his wife, scenes of infidelity and nightmare-like fever dream sequences of vomiting live lampreys, brutal beatings, murder scenes and electrocutions.

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Pleasure and lust have always had a place in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser canon but much as we saw in Inferno (2000), director Rick Bota (Haven, Hellraiser VII-VIII) takes a less inspired path to include such content in the form of affairs and intra-office trysts. It’s as if Trevor was being haunted by his mistresses although he has no memory of their exploits or drive to continue them. Voyeurism becomes a new theme as well, and long-drawn creep factors have been replaced by loud noisy jump scares that abound in the form of barking pitbulls and drowning specters in vending machines. None of them with any sense of context or build-up.

Our reintroduction to Pinhead (Doug Bradley; Exorcismus, Hellraiser I-V) is pretty fun. He emerges from an anatomy poster, pulls a pin from his head which elongates, and “acupunctures” his relaxed victim. It has an air of 90s badness to it, but 90s badness done right! And when Pinhead properly meets Trevor, the scene is a distinct throwback to the original Hellraiser (1987). Nice touch.

This sixth franchise installment links back directly to the original Hellraiser (1987) when we learn that Trevor, among his amnesia-lost past, had given a Puzzle Box to Kirsty as a gift.

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And much like part 1, Kirsty makes a deal with Pinhead to spare her. Also borrowing the style of part 1 is that in this film we see much less of the Cenobites than we did in parts 2-5, making this more about Trevor’s journey of infernal self-discovery. We only find Pinhead, a brief appearance by Chatterbox, and his four new infernal monks –one with coils of wire, one plus-sized woman, one with flash stretched over its face, one without eyelids. Only two of them are named in IMDB as , Stitch and Bound. But the Cenobites seem to hardly matter in parts 5-6 outside of Pinhead himself. <<sigh>>

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An unfortunate trend in this franchise is that the effects go from “Holy Shit Awesome” (for their 80s era and even today) in parts 1-2, to pretty good in 3-4, to typical direct-to-DVD in 5-6. But fret not, it’s all still quite entertaining and Pinhead’s tissue-rending hooked chains get their pound of flesh.

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Overall, I was pleased with this film as a direct-to-DVD horror film, but maaaaybe a tad disappointed as a major Hellraiser fan. In either case, I’d still recommend it. But only AFTER seeing all of its predecessors in order (at least 1-4).

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