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Hellraiser: Hellseeker
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2002

Format: Movie
By:   Rick Bota (director) and Carl Dupre (writer)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   October 15, 2002
Review Date:   October 30, 2002
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)
After Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled, I was slightly disappointed to see that my long-ago requested review copy of Hellraiser: Hellseeker had arrived. I was not looking forward to yet another direct-to-video horror sequel. Further, the blurb on the back of the DVD box did not bode well. Hellraiser: Hellseeker, the blurb claims, is "BETTER than the originalÖ More HORROR, THRILLS & SUSPENSE!" Who says so? Who put those all-caps words and excited exclamation mark there? Is it Roger Ebert? Is it Harry Knowles? Is it the Washington Post? Is it even Joe Nobody of the Arkansas Daily Birdcage-Liner? Nope. There's no attribution at all. This movie is "BETTER than the originalÖ" because Anonymous DVD Blurb Writer says so. I've been lied to by Anonymous DVD Blurb Writer before, so, I tell ya, I trust Anonymous DVD Blurb Writer about as far as I can throw him.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that Hellraiser: Hellseeker was not only better than most direct-to-video horror movies, but also better than a good portion of the horror movies that get a theatrical release.

Hellraiser fans: I'm duty-bound to hand you this grain of salt with which to take my review. I've only seen the first two Hellraisers. Further, I actually preferred the elaborate visuals of Hellraiser II to the more simple and claustrophobic unpleasantness of the first film. Which, in certain circles, is evidently a blasphemous attitude.

Each time a Hellrasier sequel comes out, there's a big debate among Hellraiser fans around the question: "Is [this sequel] a Hellraiser movie?", with clarifying questions like "Does it feel like a Hellraiser movie?", "Is it true to the canon?", and "Is there enough of Pinhead and the Cenobites?" Well, I'm not particularly qualified to answer those questions. What I can tell you is Kirsty Cotton, the main character in the first two movies, is back, although in a supporting rule, that Pinhead does a fair share of lurking and expositing, and that the Cenobites, though they do appear, are not nearly as wicked-looking as they were in Hellraiser II

Questions about the movie's innate "Hellraiserness" aside, Hellraiser: Hellseeker is actually a decent horror flick. This guy named Trevor is getting bad headaches. He has serious memory loss problems. He's experiencing very unpleasant hallucinations that may or may not be hallucinations. And, on top of that, women he doesn't know keep trying to have sex with him. What we've got here is essentially a 90-minute Twilight Zone episode, or, more accurately, what the Twilight Zone would be like if Pinhead unlocked the door with the key of imagination, eviscerated Rod Serling, tied Mr. Serlings's entrails to his arms and legs, and made him dance like a marionette.

We get the story piecemeal, in flashbacks, jump cuts, red herrings, cheap scares, and editing that aims for discomfort and disorientation. It's a mind-frell movie. And in some ways it's derivative of much better mind-frell movies. But it's still a well-executed little piece of visual story-telling, and a good head-spinning funhouse ride that actually could have played on the big screen.

Some of my favorite movies are low-budget ones that didn't get a theatrical release. I'm sometimes amazed by how a few talented people with a vision can create something that transcends the constraints of small budgets, in gems like Six-String Samurai, Cannibal: The Musical, and Jack Frost. And while Hellraiser: Hellseeker isn't nearly as cool as the above-mentioned movies, I am impressed by how much director Rick Bota did with what he had to work with. I don't know what the budget was. But it was filmed in Canada, a choice spot for cost-conscious American productions (Hellseeker's actors are a who's who of character actors favored by filmed-in-Canada shows like The X-files, Millenium, and Smallville). And on the director's commentary, Bota notes 1) that he couldn't use the puzzle box music from the original Hellraiser because it was too expensive to license and 2) that because of budget-restrictions, a scripted car accident almost ended up reduced to a bicycle accident.

The thing is, when you watch Hellseeker, you can tell that it had a limited budget, but only because of the lack of big-name stars and massive special effects. That's what we don't see: stars and expensive bells and whistles. But what we do see, what's on the screen, is well-directed and well-edited. The special effects, though they're on a smaller scale, are effective, realistic, and disturbing. In a nice change of pace from most low-budget horror projects, there are several very convincing actors, and absolutely no one of the "I got in this movie because I'm related to the producer" or "I can't act, but at least I'm pretty" persuasion. And the script. . . . Well, the script is pretty good, exceptÖ

Except for some leaps of logic that I'm not sure I buy into. (MAJOR SPOILERS. SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH). The biggie here is, why did Kirsty open the puzzle box? I mean, she knows what it is, she know's what's going to happen. I suppose it's possible that, when suddenly presented with the puzzle box by her husband, she went temporarily mad or suicidal. But all we get by way of explanation is her saying "Is this what you want?" and then opening the thing. Maybe she had already planned to offer Pinhead five souls, but I don't think so. She wouldn't even have to bargain with him if she'd just refuse to open the box. Also, she says to Trevor, "I trusted you!", but why would she say that, or be surprised by his latest betrayal, since she clearly already knows about Trevor's plan to kill her, and about his sexcapades? Smaller details, but still slightly bothersome: 1) It's pretty impressive that Kirsty managed to kill all those people Trevor knew without him finding out about it. I guess she must have worked pretty quickly. 2) Did she make sure to wipe the gun of her prints before she escaped the water-filled car?

But who cares about logic? This movie has gothic grotesquery and downward spirals and sex and phantasms and slimy things and hooks and chains and blood and pins and brutality. Three cheers for brutality!

DVD Details

You know, the more I read the back of DVD case, the more I want to hunt down Anonymous DVD Blurb Writer and kick 'im in the jimmy. Listen to to this feke: "Ö the next chilling chapter in the electrifying Hellraiser legacy originated by frightmaster Clive Barker!Ö Pinhead and his legion return to unleash Hell on Earth and demolish all who dare oppose them! But standing in his way is Kirsty CottonÖ and it's up to her to save the world from this ultimate evil! Ö you don't want to miss any of the horror as Pinhead will stop at nothing to impose his ill will on eternity!"

Overly dramatic much? Not only is anonymous DVD blurb writer unable to find any punctuation key besides "!", he also either 1) has not seen the movie, or 2) is a big fat liar. Cause that's totally not what the movie's about.

Alright, what do we have inside? Movie previews. Some short visual effects walk-throughs. Alternate scenes which are essentially the unedited versions of three sequences that the director cut up to use in flashbacks. And a director's commentary track. Though he's given to occasional extended pauses, Rick Bota does very well carrying the track by himself, and gives some good insights. Good job, Rick!

A pretty basic DVD, but with no time-wasting fillers.

DVD Rating: 5

Neither RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers, nor any of the staff of RevolutionSF, endorse the use of actual brutality. Except on Anonymous DVD Blurb Writer. That guys's just asking for it.

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