Hellraiser: Deader is the 7th instalment in the much loved Hellraiser franchise and it’s another straight to DVD addition much like the 4 sequels preceding it. It has been admitted by director Rick Bota that Deader’s script was a previously existing screenplay that had elements of the Hellraiser lore thrown in at the last moment. This became a common trend for Dimension over the last couple of entries and it’s very difficult not to notice; you can almost spot the exact moment that these films went from being one movie to suddenly somehow weaving Pinhead into the plot, it’s very lazy. In my opinion this is most prevalent in Deader in which Pinhead’s appearances feel very much tacked on and you can definitely tell that this was another quick and easy pay cheque for Doug Bradley who appears in around 3 very short scenes throughout the 88 minute runtime.
It’s fair to say that Hellraiser has gathered something of a hard core fan base over the years and Dimension Films are fully aware of this. Even though I did enjoy some of the sequels following Hellbound it is undeniable that these sequels are almost completely opposite to what we were introduced to in those first two films. It begs the question why? Many place the blame on Dimension films shoulders stating that they released movie after movie hoping to cash in on the Hellraiser name and the popularity of Pinhead. I just wonder why by the 7th film in the franchise they haven’t listened to the fans and given them something remotely similar to the movies that built the foundations of the series. Why spend $4million making a movie that you know will deeply disappoint fans hoping to see a return to the dark, blood soaked horror’s that Hellraiser and Hellbound were.
The truth is that Dimension Films couldn’t care less what the hard core fans want and are fully aware that regardless of the quality of the sequels that they put out the Barker-ites will probably buy anything with the Hellraiser name on it because they’re that loyal to the franchise.
Anyway, back to Deader. The movie centres around the character of Amy Klein; a news reporter who’s willing to go the extra mile to get the hot scoop. The movie attempts to make this character arc believable after the opening scene in which we see that Amy has infiltrated a crack den and disguised herself as a crack whore all for a news article on the lives of crack whores. When she arrives for work the next day she is congratulated for her work by her boss Charles who then shows Amy a tape of a girl who blows her brains out and is mysteriously brought back to life by a man who we later find is named Winter. I have to say that I actually really enjoyed this scene; it certainly made me intrigued to see where this was going. Charles wants Amy to investigate this cult and see if there is any real legitimacy to the footage.
Amy arrives in Romania and her first stop off is the address of the girl who mailed Charles the tape but she arrives to find that the girl has hung herself in the bathroom. Being the stop at nothing kind of girl that Amy is she attempts to investigate the area in hopes of finding any clues to the tape and why the girl would want to kill herself over it. She finds another tape in the bathroom and notices that the supposed corpse is clinging to a certain object; yes it is indeed the famous Lament Configuration. Again, I have to give credit to the director for the tension and morbid atmosphere that this scene creates; it’s certainly one of the creepiest scenes in recent Hellraiser movie memory.
Amy returns to her hotel room and plays the tape immediately; she watches a recording of the girl who explains how miserable she is but then warns Amy not to open the box. In quite laughable fashion Amy almost right away begins playing with the box; I know there’s meant to be something enticing about opening the box but come on. It opens easier than ever which only makes Dr Channard (Hellbound) look really retarded since he had numerous people working on opening the box but couldn’t seem to figure it out. Anyway, chains quickly burst out of the box and rip into Amy’s flesh….The end. Actually that’s not the end, Pinhead makes his first appearance and basically tells her that she shouldn’t trust anything she sees beyond that point; you have to give credit to the guy, he’s trying to make it as simple as possible for her.
As the audience we’re simply along for the ride now as Amy attempts to understand what’s happening. There are a lot of slow scenes including one on a train that really has no impact on the overall plot. Eventually Amy discovers the location of Winter and his cult now known only as “Deaders” he explains to her that he is the keeper of the box as it is in his bloodline; you see Winter is a descendent of a long line of toy-makers. This is a fine example of something that was clearly thrown in at the last second in an attempt at continuing the story arc that Hellraiser: Bloodline created, it’s just lame.
I touched on this above but how is it possible that a movie that came out in 2005 can have worse effects than a movie that had a small percentage of its budget and came out 20 years earlier; there are some awful CGI effects in Deader. Winter attempts to persuade Amy to join the Deader’s; it’s explained that they are somewhere between life and Pinheads domain and it is Winter’s desire to enter Hell for whatever reason, it’s very confusing. Anyway, the only way he can complete this is through convincing Amy who is some kind of chosen; why? Who knows? You see Amy was badly abused as a child by her father and Winter promises her that she will no longer feel the pain of her memories if she becomes a deader, got that? I sure don’t.
Amy is quite reluctant to take up his offer so refuses to go through with it; Winter takes this badly and attempts to force Amy to join them. She then wakes up in a bathtub in her hotel and we get a very nasty, blood filled scene in which Amy attempts to pull a knife from her back. More pointless scenes ensue and honestly I’m not even sure if Amy is meant to be a Deader at this point or not or if anything we’re seeing is actually happening, it’s never really clarified.
Finally Pinhead shows up and cleans house in standard Pinhead fashion, it meets the Hellraiser requirements of awesome one liners, chains and blood and that’s pretty much it for Hellraiser: Deader.
There’s no doubt that you’re unlikely to find many straight to DVD movies which come even close to Deader in terms of budget and quality and if you can find it cheap then it’s worth viewing if you’re a fan of the series. The biggest issue with the movie is how blatantly obvious it is that it was never written to be a Hellraiser movie and in some ways the addition of the Lament Configuration and Pinhead actually hinder the movie somewhat and make it much more confusing than it was clearly ever designed to be. The first half of the movie is very dark and atmospheric and quite intriguing but I think it’s the moment that Pinhead arrives that it actually falls apart which is rather strange to say the least.
There are far too many slow, pointless scenes that lead to nothing and if you took them out the film wouldn’t be any different. Also, some of the acting is questionable especially in the scene with the hung corpse as you can clearly see the actress exhale at one point.
What can I say about Doug Bradley that I haven’t already said in other Hellraiser reviews? The man is and will always be Pinhead; and when he shows up (which isn’t often here), you sit up and listen. Even if what he has to say here is 90% exposition. A huge disappointment for me is the end, we get glimpses of Cenobites which include a mix of familiar faces like Chatterer, a male version of Hellseeker’s Bound Cenobite, as well as Hellseeker’s Stitch Cenobite but they are probably the most useless to date. They do nothing but stand in the background and watch and are completely wasted, I feel bad for the makeup artists who wasted their time.
Hellraiser: Deader is by no means a bad movie but as the viewer it’s hard not to notice the two movies fighting it out to decide which is more dominant which only leads to confusing the audience. As a straight to DVD movie it’s not that bad but when you really sit back and think of it as a Hellraiser movie you only see lost potential, shame on you Dimension Films.
Hellraiser VII: Deader