Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)

hellraiser revelations

⭐ (1 star out of 5)

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) Directed by Victor Garcia

‘Pain and pleasure indivisible’ is the philosophical basis for the sadomasochistic fantasies in Hellraiser. Ironically, Hellraiser: Revelations manages to convey the opposite result, ‘Pain and boredom indivisible’. By the time you get to the ninth installment of Hellraiser you are no longer begging for mercy you just succumb to another frivolously over-the-top sequel that delivers all the garbage you have already consumed previously. The only revelation this film has is that we have reached a level of infamous amateurism; no sequel yet reaches the level of Hellraiser: Deader’s sickening ugliness, frankly you have to have zero dignity and be a complete psychopath to reach such criminal depths, but in photographic terms I think we have reached an unfathomable rusticity, sophomoric designs and informal anti-cinematic tonalities.

The visual atrocity of Hellraiser: Revelations has all the digital plasticity of a film shot on a shoestring budget and with an incompetent crew, I really doubt there was at least one filmmaker behind the scenes who knew what he was doing. But if we want to classify the infuriating blunders, at the top of the list would be the desultory direction of Victor Garcia, who tactically employs classic Hellraiser iconography to try to push the narrative of this sequel into well-known but beloved territory for all fans of the original 1987 film. For those reasons it’s not a sloppy film, on the contrary it’s a bold approach that I think we all expected from the crude sequels that preceded it, however when I refer to it as disjointed direction I’m pointing out that that deliberate boldness doesn’t have a suitable expression much less the ambition necessary to return to such a degree of creative authenticity and visceral terror of its origins.

Hellraiser: Revelations is very difficult to criticize or hurl vitriolic negative comments at with the same ease that you might do with the other direct-to-video sequels. That affability and natural generosity stems in multiple ways from its organic enthusiasm, indirectly from its ostensibly inexperienced low-budget filmmaking. The film looks atrocious, but it’s a novice imagery that evokes the amateurish production of a fan-made film. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an incisive but subtle vituperation, but it is what it is, and Hellraiser: Revelations can’t be saved even by its reminiscent genetic patterns of Clive Barker’s novel.

Certainly, it is the  sequel that most closely resembles a Hellraiser movie, it’s not a thriller, not a slasher, not a miscellaneous narrative construct, Revelations‘ fragile writing opts to focus on the perversity of its characters and only on that. Not only do we return to the sexy brutality of watching incorrigible characters give themselves over completely to their hedonistic sins, but similarly it seems to pay special tribute to the ethos of the first film. To everyone’s tragedy, the canvas on which the filmmakers of this ninth Hellraiser installment work is too fluffy, brittle and synthetic, preventing them from conveying the transgressive vileness of their hellish lust.

Steven played by Nick Eversman and Nico played by Jay Gillespie, run away from home to go in search of lewd adventures in Mexico. Once there, both wildly inebriated, they meet a local girl with whom they continue to drink and eventually seduce; one of them ends up “accidentally” murdering her while having sex with her in the dirty bathroom of a squalid bar. A rough-looking and unkempt vagrant offers the two lost young men a puzzle box capable of fulfilling the carnal desires and limitless pleasure they seek, both are tempted to accept the box and decide to decode its intricate mystery in order to exploit new sensations. The storytelling system of Hellraiser: Revelations introduces this story with the agitated aggressiveness of found-footage filmmaking. Actually, this synopsis I just developed is supposed to be found and seen by the parents of the protagonists from a video camera of one of the boys who recorded all the sordid events.

It was predictable that if Hellworld had taken huge and undisguised advantage of the popularity of certain trends in cinema and general culture, this ninth installment would do so as well. Revelations performs an amalgamation of the homemade found-footage format with that of the ordinariness of a family drama set in the spectrum of horror cinema and the Hellraiser universe. Dynamically it does what every exploitative gore flick knows how to do, rely on its garish nastiness with practical effects and gruesome makeup that turns out to be the only thing uniformly adept at managing to emerge qualities, yet mechanically the ham-fisted performances and artificial filming do little more than extinguish any trace of ephemeral entertainment that might have been found in its ruinous cinematic conception. And if that wasn’t enough, this is the first Hellraiser movie without its emblematic actor, the great Doug Bradley does not play the god of suffering, but another guy who has more of a similarity to a cartoon version of Pinhead than any real gesture or trait of that haunting character.

The deliberate provocation of Hellraiser: Revelations is that it wants to be the cruelest and most nauseating of the Hellraiser films, yet it is far, far from it, its stressful inconsistency is perpetuated in each of the juxtaposed acts ranging from pseudo-psychoanalytical drama to tasteless burlesque horror, incestuous scenes, boisterous profanity and obnoxious performances. It starts out with its goals well founded and takes only a few minutes to destroy them. Nothing works in Revelations except for the robustness of its gory makeup, even more so considering its parsimonious execution, nor is there a single second of operativity in its histrionic and chaotically sadistic denouement that pretends to be a tacky, cartoonish imitation of Scream’s (1996) “surprise” ending. Yes, up to this point we have arrived, it is not that they lack ideas or that they don’t know how to copy other movies, it is that the incompetence in these sequels is so incalculably immense that it is simply inconceivable for them to at least give us a movie that is not so bad, only moderately bad, is that too much to ask?

Hellraiser: Revelations responds to that with its dismembered narrative and ghastly, silky-smooth cinematography.

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.