Although the new “Hellraiser” is billed as “reimagining” Clive Barker’s 1987 horror film, it’s not like the title ever went away, raising six direct-to-video productions (the last one in 2018) after the four theatrical movies. If you somehow skipped, ballpark, nine of those, this direct-to-Hulu version offers a credibly creepy retelling in an over-inflated package that would benefit from a few targeted pinpricks.
The film starts promisingly enough, introducing “ER” alum Goran Visnjic, playing the typical billionaire with bad intentions who seeks to acquire a mysterious puzzle box that can used to summon Cenobites, supernatural beings from another dimension whose gruesome appetites are the stuff “R” ratings are made of.
The narrative then shifts to Riley (Odessa A’zion of Netflix’s “Grand Army”), a young woman struggling with addiction who winds up stealing from the wrong storage facility, thrusting her and those around her (including her brother) into peril and creating incentive for her to decipher what might be happening.
First plagued by eerie visions, she’s eventually confronted by Pinhead, here played by Jamie Clayton (“Sense8”), who provides a sense of menace under what has always appeared to be the world’s most laborious-to-apply makeup, however iconic it might be.
Reuniting the team behind “The Night House,” the film was directed by David Bruckner, with veteran genre writer/producer David S. Goyer sharing credit for the story with screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski. While the plot finally links Riley’s arc to the opening, at a full two hours, the narrative lags as it tries to build some sense of connection to the supporting players, leading up to a prolonged climactic sequence that’s characteristically bloody but less than thrilling, including what’s perhaps best described as a slow-speed chase.
“Hellraiser” is obviously operating within fairly well-defined parameters, and leveraging 35 years of screen history, delivers on the most basic level in terms of special effects and gore, without – the “reimagining” claim notwithstanding – bringing much freshness to the formula. It also fits Hulu’s strategy of premiering movies culled from well-known franchises, with “Prey” – from the “Predator” universe – among the recent examples.
For those just seeking another fix of Pinhead and the Cenobites, that’s probably enough to get the job done. But once “Hellraiser” has made that, er, point, the movie feels more like a snack – or ‘bite – than a meal.
“Hellraiser” premieres October 7 on Hulu.