Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) Directed by Rick Bota
What other alternative do the Hellraiser sequels have after exhausting their blatant pantomime of psychological thrillers? Transparently and visually, that question is answered in one of the most effusively preposterous scenes contained in this eighth Hellraiser film and third and last, thank goodness, of the direct-to-video films directed by Rick Bota. That scene has the descriptive ability to give us a broad idea of what generic patterns this time this sequel will follow. In a greenish, cold and cadaverous room of the mansion where the events of the plot take place, we see one of the characters suffering from an asthma attack being decapitated with a butcher knife, it wasn’t Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers or even some masked man with leather gloves from the gialli, it’s Pinhead himself grabbing that sharp knife to murder his victim, pathetic right? So, solving the initial question should be easy for any horror movie devotee.
Yes, Hellraiser: Hellworld uses the vernacular of slasher cinema as an alternative to its worn out, now almost inkless, photocopied thriller. I think it was somewhat premonitory that sooner or later one of the Hellraiser sequels would venture into ordinary slasher territory. And even though the hellish mythology of the supernatural theme is not so compatible with the juvenile jargon of the slasher subgenre, it does have an absolute compatibility with its ordinariness. Let’s just say it understands at least the coarse language of the subgenre enough to enunciate it with familiar paradigms. Hellworld exchanges the detective essence of the other sequels and the enigmatic paranoia for irreverent adolescent characters in search of debauched experiences and morbid exhibition of pleasures; and ironically I can say that I am glad to know that this production left behind the absurd themes with serious tonalities, now we have an equally absurd theme but with satirical tonalities.
The prosaic script seeks to self-analyze the possibilities of a farce-like narrative, with meta-narrative functions and a vulgar comedy that gives this sequel an acidic flavor but only that and nothing more. Explicitly, its contextual acidity comes to infect the dynamics of Rick Bota’s bombastic direction causing irrational shocks that again land in the same appalling errors of the previous films, at least those directed by Rick Bota. As a slasher flick, its implausible plot is affected by a succession of events that do not share the slightest coherence, at times it feels like watching compartmentalized vignettes of each of the characters doing their thing and waiting to be killed. In each of these patchy sections, the script emphasizes tendencies so 21st century that its parody cinematic overtones become humorously vacuous, for they are so obvious and indiscreet that their campy nonsense lingers into painful boredom.
The 2000’s was the key era of the internet’s popularity, curiously by this time youtube was just a novelty, and computer MMORPG were in their primitive splendor. Hellworld, which is also the title of this movie, is the name of an online game based on Hellraiser, a game that effectively tells us that now all the macabre events and sadomasochistic tragedies of the past have become an object of popular culture, where teenagers are seduced by opening the Lament of Configuration from a computer, ridiculous to extraordinary levels I know. A group of horny and shameless teens, among them a very young but cruelly exasperating Henry Cavill, are invited through the game Hellworld to an exclusive party in a huge mansion where lechery is omnipresent in its spaces. The host of this deceitful party played by Lance Henriksen, has hidden stratagems and his mysterious reasons for having held such a lustful festivity. Each of these reckless young people will slowly fall into a dead-end maze where oh surprise, a dramatic twist will reveal something very dark in their lives.
Henriksen’s gruff, rock-solid presence brings to the monotony of the Hellraiser sequels a formidable quality, obviously I’m only referring to the acting spectrum, yet he remains a superfluous character and too minuscule in screen time to erect any entertaining moments that are sustained by his performance. In parallel to Henriksen’s stern performance, we have all the young actors in a perennial exercise in overacting. Henry Cavill in particular, playing the obnoxious pretty boy, delivers a performance so torturous, so vividly over-the-top and ineffective that you end up looking forward to the inevitable scene that ends his character’s existence. Overall, the film delivers what you’d expect from a straight-to-video Hellraiser sequel, unlike the viciously bad Deader, at least Hellworld was exactly as I imagined it to be, intensely crude, shoddily filmed and tedious.
The narrative conventions in Hellworld are overtly exploitative of other popular contemporary films, starting with Saw (2004) which not only mimics its twisted subject matter but also articulates an exaltation of torture as a mechanism of exploitative fun. You can find countless films it clumsily copies, however, its greatest ignominious flaw comes not from its showy mimicry of other films, but from its profound concatenation of gory and confusing events that only serve as a mechanical contrivance to make us believe that its dramatic twist is ingenious. The only pathos Rick Bota is able to extract filmically from his puerile filmmaking is the sadness his audience feels at having made the decision to watch one of his films.
Hellraiser’s vital signs had long since been failing, but between Deader and Hellworld they are in a straight line ‘deader’ than ever.