At one time, this was to be the apparent final installment in the original Hellraiser film continuity, and there was a very real reason for that. Since the Weinstein’s have been unable to get their remake off the ground, they slap dashed another sequel together after this one which I will never see. Hellraiser: Hellworld is like The Matrix meets New Nightmare crossed with the worse entries in this franchise. Don’t be fooled by the presence of Lance Henriksen – he’s made plenty of bad movies. While it is nice to see Lance and Pinhead share a scene, it’s brief and doesn’t save the film one bit. In fact, it confuses the issue even further – what reality is this set in?
A young man named Adam (Stelian Urian) commits suicide after forging a deep obsession with the Hellraiser mythos and an internet game called Hellworld. His friends fail to act when Adam was spiraling out of control, aside from Jake (Christopher Jacot), who ultimately blames them for everything. This is all, supposedly, a reality where the films are real and everything else is fiction, but that’s not for certain. Adam’s friends grieve his death, and two years later, are invited to a mansion-filled Hellworld party by The Host (Lance Henriksen). They are greeted by the mysterious, cryptic gentleman, and are shown into his private, macabre collection to explore freely. Though, what they see and experience soon horrifies them. Somehow, they have entered into a manufactured hell, designed to take their sanity and their lives, but what is the true reality here?
What honestly drags the value of this film down into the dumps really is the story. Setting it in a world such as Wes Craven’s New Nightmare where Hellraiser is an actual film series and internet presence, and making it that the Cenobites, supposedly, are not real, they are just a device for which Henriksen’s character seeks revenge, sets itself up for failure. While New Nightmare was a very intelligent and effective film with a cleverly crafted premise, Hellworld just doesn’t have that ambition or creativity to coherently make the concept work. The story really has nothing to do with the mythology of the series, or anything of a personal hell. If this was produced as a film with no connection of any kind to Hellraiser, as it originally was written as, it might have been pretty decent, but you cannot follow this film’s logic. You cannot setup a world where the Cenobites, Leviathan, the Lament Configuration, and so forth are merely fictional creations, but then, turn around at the very end to show that they are completely real. New Nightmare handled it differently, and had actual explanations for how it was possible for Freddy, or a demon in the guise thereof, was able to transcend the realities. Hellworld’s ending has some satisfaction, but as I said, it’s too short-lived to make a real impact on the quality of the film.
Regardless of the plot or script, the film is as generally well-acted as any of the last few sequels – nothing spectacular, but just good enough. Henriksen, obviously, presents a strong performance that helps to gravitate the film’s events and characters. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from him in a villainous role. It is sad that Henriksen is such a damn good and very dedicated actor, but he continually stars in such poor quality films. I really think he should seek out new representation, and get himself back into better roles in better movies. Moving on, we still get faithful Doug Bradley in his usual role. Not much to say about it. Same old, reliable thing, as expected. Personally, I would have liked to see Doug Bradley have more to work with in this series, such as in the third film when the filmmakers were exploring Elliot Spenser. Give him somewhere new to go with the character and his acting talents. By this point, it felt like he was just playing it by-the-numbers, but at least he had enough sense to back out of Hellraiser: Revelations. The supporting cast of Hellworld is your usual horror film youngsters all looking pretty, and ready to get ripped to shreds. No one exceptional stands out, but they all hold their own well enough. I don’t mean to be cavalier about it, but it’s mostly your standard horror movie performances. There’s not a great deal of room for the actors to stretch their abilities, but it is comfortably above the cheap talent we’ve all occasionally endured in other horror films.
The effects here are about standard for the direct-to-video end of the series. There’s very little that will jump out and amaze you at its awesomeness. After watching all of these lower budgeted sequels, it’s difficult to conjure up anything substantive to say about the practical or visual effects. At times with Hellworld, there is fast cutting, trying to give the film a more disorienting experience, but I can’t say it’s all that favorable. It works as good as it can. Unfortunately, it does little but to confuse an audience. Computer generated imagery is, inevitably, made use of in this film. You can’t escape it, especially on the lower budgets of these direct-to-video films. It simply allows the filmmakers to do more while spending less, in comparison to practical, physical effects.
Now, despite the whole mixed bag of crap we have here, I do have to say that the cinematography and general look of the film is very good. It is probably one of the better entries to establish a visual self-identity. The use of dark and light along with a select color palette truly allow the imagery to pop out and be eye-catching. Granted, we’re not talking Blade Runner here, but it certainly lends itself towards a workable and generally effective atmosphere. While the production values are still rather sleek, the lighting helps to shadow almost anything that may, potentially, appear to be too cheap or fabricated. That’s something to credit director Rick Bota for since he has a solid career as a cinematographer, but the film’s actual director of photograph, Gabriel Kosuth, deserves the credit for realizing this style.
While I have left two prior sequels un-reviewed at this time, I might get around to them eventually for compeltist’s sake. In short, Inferno is one I’ve never liked at all, not one bit. It turns Pinhead into a figure of moral persecution in the extremely little screentime he has, and gives us a fully morally corrupt and unsympathetic character as a lead. I do own Hellraiser: Deader, but it’s been a long time since I’ve watched it. I do recall it being very surreal, but it manages to tie itself back into the mythology with connections back to Bloodline. I recall liking it enough to warrant a purchase when it was released, which was around the same time as Hellworld. The summation of this franchise seems to be that it started out with brilliance and progressively got diluted into a mess of inconsistency and frequent incoherence. It’s a very hit or miss franchise following Hellbound, but each entry, more or less, seems to have its fans. Perhaps, some sequels would have been better films apart from the Hellraiser name, or simply judged in a vacuum. However, it’s difficult to watch a lesser grade sequel knowing just how amazing and awe-inspiring its early predecessors were.
Taking all things into account with this sequel, there’s really too much going against it to make a recommendation for it. The franchise just fizzled out completely with Hellworld. Granted, there’s plenty of ways to rebound, but Dimension Films still seems like the wholly wrong studio to be controlling this franchise. They don’t seem to care about making the best movie they possibly can. They just want the most commercialized, wide appealing pile of incoherence they can put together. In any case, there are worthwhile qualities within this film, but the negatives bog it down far too much.