Hellraiser: Deader is the seventh Hellraiser movie in a series which, at this point, has no real ties anymore to how it all once started. As you could have read in my review of Hellraiser: Hellseeker, that was the only movie to have some sort of connection to the first two movies by having Ashley Laurence reprise her role as Kirsty, but her role was nothing more than a glorified cameo. “Deader” continues the trend of psychological horror movie scripts, which are lying around in the offices of the Dimension movie studio, being rewritten to fit the Hellraiser mold. This time it revolves around a reporter who comes into the possession of the notorious puzzle box. Gee, where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, Hellraiser III.
Hellraiser: Deader could have been a neat way to continue the story of Joey who saw all of her friends and colleagues turn into Cenobites. Surely there could be a great story there, picking up 10 years after those events. Sadly this movie is about a whole different reporter named Amy Klein played by B-movie veteran Kari Wuhrer. You might know her from her most famous credits: Anaconda, Eight Legged Freaks and Sharknado 2. Here she’s this typical movie reporter who will go to great lengths to get a story: In the opening scene we see her waking up between a bunch of drugged up junkies sleeping off their latest smack trip.
When presented with a tape by her superior containing footage of a young woman killing herself during some sort of ritual and subsequently being brought back to life by a cult leader, she doesn’t have to think twice and travels to Romania to investigate these “Deaders” as they’re called. This investigation will put a certain puzzle box in her path. After opening the box she begins having these spooky visions which might or might not be all part of a dream. If you are any familiar with this series, especially the previous two movies, you know that it’s not a dream.
If there is something Deader made clear to me it is how important music is to the experience, but also to the identification of a movie. Can you imagine Jason Voorhees without his “Ki, Ki, Ki, Ma, Ma, Ma” or Freddy Krueger without his ominous theme song and the young girls singing the nursery rhyme? The first three Hellraiser movies had a great score by Christopher Young which really added to the overall experience. Together with great visuals and the excellent writing of Pinhead’s lines they have become iconic late 80’s/early 90’s horror movies. The shift in cinematography, the absence of the iconic score, a different approach to the Hellraiser mythology and using standalone movie scripts as basis for a Hellraiser movie sets these straight-to-video movies apart from the first four. While I actually appreciated the approach to the mythology in the generally maligned Hellraiser: Inferno, seeing it done now for the third time in a row becomes tiresome.
That’s not to say that Hellraiser: Deader is without its merits. Theese movies have always been R-rated flicks full of nudity and gory violence and in that department Deader delivers. It has some nice moments, especially a couple of scenes taking place on a subway train of which the inside is reminiscent of a sleazy nightclub including people have sex. Suffice to say these scenes are filled with nudity, not only female but also full frontal male nudity; Now there’s something you don’t see every day, not even in an R-rated movie. Even the protagonist isn’t too shy to show some skin, which isn’t surprising as Kari Wuhrer has never been difficult about doing nudity. They don’t even make a real excuse for casting her as her character is commented on her “good looking” ass twice in the movie.
But being based upon a rewritten script to include Pinhead and several other Hellraiser elements gives this movie its fair share of problems. It never feels like a Hellraiser movie and the inclusion of Pinhead and the puzzle box feels forced. Playing the role for the seventh time now its obvious Bradley is only in it for a quick payday. His Pinhead is written very weakly, hardly providing him with the dark poetic lines he’s known for and Bradley just phones his performance in. It’s hard to imagine this is the same guy who made the line “We’re gonna tear your soul apart” into an instant classic.
Sadly, the only soul being teared apart is that of the Hellraiser franchise, with Deader being just another hook among many.