For those out of the loop on my self-imposed suffering: Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992), Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser V: Inferno (2000), and Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2002). Let’s get down to business.
Hellraiser: Deader is the seventh and worst titled sequel in the Hellraiser franchise. At this point, the franchise is past dead (you could say it’s deader?), with both this and its successor Hellraiser: Hellworld being released straight to TV in the same year. Rick Bota, often credited with singlehandedly destroying the Hellraiser name was directing this entry, as he did with the sixth and was going to do with the eighth. Again, this is a movie made from an unrelated horror script that Miramax and Dimension Films had laying around where they shoehorned Pinhead in and sprinkled the Hellraiser mythos over top.
This time, we follow Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer, Anaconda), a hardened guerrilla journalist for a British paper who often goes deep undercover to get her story. We’re introduced to her pretending to be a hard drug addict in a crack house, taking pictures and doing journalist stuff, not that the story she’s working on is ever explained, but whatever. When she returns to the paper that she writes for, her boss gives her a grisly new assignment: investigate the alleged suicides and resurrections that have been happening in an underground scene in Bucharest, Romania. The people who kill themselves are brought back to life by a cult leader type figure named Winter where they are new referred to as “Deaders”. I hope somebody got fired for writing that in the script. There’s been a leaked VHS tape of one of the necromantic rituals, and going off of only the return address on the package, Amy needs to track down this cult to expose them to the world.
Sounds like an alright DTV premise, right? Yeah, it totally does. Sounds like a Hellraiser movie? Nope. Not even a little bit. Obviously, as stated earlier, this movie didn’t begin as a Hellraiser movie, but it seems that Dimension Films is trying their hardest to not integrate elements from Hellraiser into their working scripts. The amount of time spent involving (whether on screen or off) Pinhead, Cenobites, the Lament Configuration, concepts hedonism, pleasure and pain, and Hell is minuscule here. Infinitesimally small. Even Hellseeker and Inferno touched upon those characters, objects, and themes a little bit. We’re pushing the envelope of how little of an existing IP you need to include in order to legally consider it a use of that IP with Hellraiser: Deader.
Barring the continued beating of a dead horse that is this franchise, Deader doesn’t even offer much else to the audience. The only character we have to latch on to is Amy Klein, who is meant to be layered and sympathetic but unfortunately comes across as bland and uninspired. Part of this is fault of Wuhrer, a quick look at her IMDb page is reason enough to believe she was chosen not for her talent, but most likely for her low price tag. Not all of the blame sits on Wuhrer’s shoulders here though, as the direction and editing offer absolutely nothing in the way of information on Klein’s character or backstory. Reading through Wikipedia in preparation to write this, I learned that Klein’s character was allegedly a victim of physical and possibly sexual abuse and that she murdered her own father when she was a child. None of that was apparent at all while watching Deader. I remember a couple black and white flashes coming onto the screen, and I can only assume those were meant to be Klein reliving her past trauma, but I honestly couldn’t tell what was happening during those segments at any time because of how poorly edited together they were.
My biggest gripe with Deader has to be the editing. It’s abhorrent. Deplorable. Nauseating. A couple scenes feel like the film reel was accidentally dropped into a blender and a blind person put it back together. Sometimes transitions between scenes are handled by inter-cutting the end of the first scene and the beginning of the second scene together. Let that sink in for a second there, and let me ask you a question.
Which of these two ways is the more efficient way to accurately give the audience the following information? Amy Klein accepts the Deader story from her boss. He hands her all the paperwork she’ll need to get to Bucharest. Amy takes a train to Bucharest and begins investigating right away.
- Amy Klein accepts the Deader story from her boss. He hands her all the paperwork she’ll need to get to Bucharest. CUT TO: Amy takes a train to Bucharest and begins investigating right away.
- Amy Klein accepts the Deader story from her boss. CUT TO: A man climbs onto a train and pours something down its exhaust. CUT TO: Amy’s boss hands her paperwork. CUT TO: Amy walks down a train station. CUT TO: Amy’s boss explains the paperwork will help her get to and work in Bucharest. CUT TO: Amy boards a train. CUT TO: Amy arrives in Bucharest and begins investigating right away. CUT TO: Amy rides the train. CUT TO: Amy continues investigating.
Now, which of these two ways do you think Deader handled a simple transition between scenes? The bad editing in itself is really just that: bad editing, but it’s within the context of this film that the bad editing irks me. Somebody made a decision to cut a scene transition like that. To put effort in to make a decision and actually perform the edit to do that. Sure, it’s bad, but that’s not the point. The point is in a movie that nobody cared about working on, a sequence like that or the incoherent flashbacks are the ones that seemingly were given the most effort. If that effort was directed towards revising the script, then this might’ve been a serviceable direct-to-TV movie.
Hellraiser VII: Deader. The only good thing about it is that it marks the beginning of the end in my Hellraiser saga. I’ve only got two more to go before I’m free from the stiff, deathly grasp of this expired series.
Movie Pairing: Hellraiser VIII: Hellworld. I haven’t seen it yet, but considering they were shot back-to-back and released in the same year, I view them as companion pieces. Think of a much shittier movie version of System of a Down’s Hypnotize and Mezmerize.
Drink Pairing: Home distilled Romanian Rakia. Occasionally sitting at a hefty 90% ABV, you won’t have to worry about missing plot from the terrible editing because you’ll just be dead instead.