Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

hellseeker film review

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002) Directed by Rick Bota

More of the same but at least it has the decency to want to be a film with a cohesive language and has enough confidence to harmonize the indomitable flawed looseness of Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) into a thriller much more aware of its shortcomings. Although contrary to what that commentary may assert, let’s not forget that this is still a direct-to-video sequel from the early 2000’s, and thus its standards are still quite low; per se, there is no abysmally noticeable improvement, but when performing a comparative exercise between the inept and soporific jumble dreck of its predecessors, starting with Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser: Hellseeker is that refreshing cinematic anomaly that comes along when you need it most to at least give you a breather after so much pillar of garbage you consumed previously. It doesn’t restore my faith in the Hellraiser franchise but at least it feels like an escapism from the miserable misfires that were the sequels released in the 90’s and Inferno which was the first Hellraiser film released direct to video.

As the second direct-to-video installment, it not only confirms that we are an astronomical distance away from the fascinating forbidden lust and surreal grotesquerie of the first two legendary sequels that catapulted the creativity of Clive Barker’s hellish worlds as authentic pieces in the medium, but also that it is already obvious that the sequels are completely divorced from the original conception of the story. However, I think we can all agree that this literary and cinematic remoteness and forgetting its origins is the best thing for our mental health; I really see it unattainable to repeat what those glorious years of Hellraiser in the late 80’s could conceive, and it is better to let it rest in peace. Authenticity has an expiration date, if it never expires is because it was never really that authentic, so unlike many who clamor to resurrect the Barkeresque philosophy in the sequels I prefer the opposite, to continue to deviate from that path.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker is the closest a post-Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 sequel came to being a validly good movie. But better to recap everything again and in a more readable way, let’s go back to the stupid nonsense that was Hellraiser: Inferno, the first direct-to-video sequel in the franchise. Hellraiser: Hellseeker is usually accused of being like a filmic reheat of Inferno, narratively they are spiritually Siamese twins, both opting for anthropocentrism instead of the supernatural approach of the infernal cosmology that surrounds their characters, however here there is a kind of ad hominem fallacy (if you can judge a movie as if it were a person), because it is wrongly criticized for being an uglier copy of Inferno. It’s partially true, so where’s the fallacy? Well, the fact that for some indecipherable reason these two productions have chosen to incompetently replicate David Fincher’s thrillers doesn’t mean that they are superficially the same. On the one hand, Hellraiser: Inferno operates within an elementary 90s thriller dynamic, in which it follows certain patterns similar to those of Se7en (1995), on the other hand, Hellraiser: Hellseeker operates within an atmosphere also fundamentally dynamic with the popular tools of thriller filmmaking but with a structural model blatantly similar to that of Memento (2000).

It is both curious and woefully embarrassing to see how the Hellraiser sequels became banal transcriptions of successful movies. The new director of this sixth Hellraiser sequel would become the next director of two more sequels, a vicious cycle that Rick Bota was more than happy to follow. You could say that this film has some pretty promising preconceived ideas for a direct-to-video movie, not only do they bring back Ashley Laurence to reprise her classic role as Kirsty but they also assiduously seek to want to have an identity within their photocopied form of filmmaking. Paradoxical or not, I think the admittedly flawed result deserves at least some credit for making it feel like a new sequel that materializes a diversity of idiocies that carry small traces of originality in their directional form. Hellraiser meets Memento, a sum that equals an amorphous reminiscence of Jacob’s Ladder.

The story opens when Trevor played by Dean Winters and Kirsty Cotton (protagonist of the first two films of the saga), recently married, are driving down the road talking affectionately. Suddenly, Trevor makes an abrupt maneuver to avoid hitting a pickup truck and the car falls into a lake. Trevor tries to save Kirsty but is unsuccessful, from this moment the police begin to consider him a suspect in her murder. Trevor suffers a kind of chronic amnesia that prevents him from going on with his life as different memories appear to him aggressively in visions that disconcert him, many of these memories gradually set up the final denouement, in which Trevor will discover the truth about himself, the car accident and his memories.

Everything sounds abusively predictable, if there is a mistake that can be found in flagrancy perpetually in the film, it is the excessive juxtaposition of the nightmarish visions that the main character suffers with those of his reality, the lack of constructive and associative logic that has this narrative inflexibility makes us easily begin to discover its final intentions. But I must greatly appreciate something, which somehow helped me to have a considerable tolerance to its somnolent extension of acts, and that is that there is not a single performance in this film that is loud, irritatingly cacophonous nor is there a single expressive hyperbole in the dramatization of the tragedy, yes, they are rustic and basic, but I always appreciate the acting sobriety in films that are utterly bad and without any redemption whatsoever.

What more can I add, I guess the best way to sum it up would be to say that this sixth direct-to-video installment so far, is the “best” worst Hellraiser sequel ever. Sleazy, nihilistic and downright dumb. Doug Bradley great as always though.


Matteo Bedon
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When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them.
Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.