Whatever hopes for the franchise that had been born from “Hellraiser V: Inferno” had died a tragic death with the mundane “Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker”. I approached “Hellraiser VII: Deader” with caution because the reviews were all over the place. Some thought it was good, some thought it sucked, some thought it was on the same level of quality as its predecessor. The director had also done the previous film too, although that didn’t sink my hopes because I believe it was the script that sunk the movie, not the direction. I also thought the subtitle was rather silly, but in a dull kind of way, so expectations remained low. But I opened this puzzle box to see what horrors lurked inside and honestly? I thought “Hellraiser VII: Deader” was okay.
HELLRAISER VII: DEADER (2005)
(Directed by Rick Bota)
Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a cutting edge journalist who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty for the sake of a story. To make this point, the film opens with her in a crack house, living as a junkie until she believes she has enough material for her story. When her boss shows her a tape sent from Romania, her life is changed forever. The footage shows a girl shooting herself in the head, but then being resurrected by Winter (Paul Rhys), the leader of a cult who call themselves the Deaders. She is given the task to investigate this cult and what follows is the trip from hell as she finds herself confronted with nightmarish visions and the Lament Configuration. It turns out Winter has found a way to take the pain out of death, which brings him into direct conflict with the demonic Pinhead (Doug Bradley). Somehow, Amy is at the center of the feud and is the only one who can bring about its conclusion.
“Hellraiser 7” is a difficult movie to review, because what it does right and wrong can be pinpointed to direct scenes instead of as a whole. In fact, when it succeeds, it’s because a single sequence is so effective. When it fails, it’s because a single sequence just didn’t work. There is very little that carries throughout the entire picture, but I guess I shall begin with what is continuously good/bad about this feature. The good comes in the form of the acting, which is solid all around. B movie scream queen Kari Wuhrer is a startlingly good actress considering her genre of choice and she brought the right balance of strength and vulnerability to the role. I also dug the Romanian locations, as they give the film an alien look. It’s not uncommon for horror movies to be filmed in Eastern Europe because it’s cheaper to work there, but this movie used its locations pretty well. We’re not talking “Hostel” impressive, but it was stellar work. Finally, the gore effects are mostly pretty spectacular. It’s not as extreme as the earlier films, but there was something realistic about them.
On the downside, the film tries to establish continuity with the earlier films but fails miserably. Winter is revealed to be a descendant of the toymaker who built the Lament Configuration, but that doesn’t make any sense. Is he supposed to be the kid who appeared in the present segment of “Hellraiser IV: Bloodline”? I don’t think so, because that kid can’t be over 20 by the time this movie takes place. The film also fails to explain a lot about the Deaders. How is Winter able to resurrect people? How can the lament configuration defeat them if they’ve all opened it themselves? The ending is a mess of unanswered questions and this leaves room for gaping plot holes.
But as I said, the films primary strengths and weaknesses lie within its individual scenes. Some sequences in this movie are SHOCKINGLY frightening. One scene that really got to me was when Amy discovers a decomposing corpse. That bit was nail biting suspense at its finest. Another great scene is when she finds herself on a train with corpses. VEEEERY chilling. I adored the bit where she finds herself trying to get into the Deader’s layer, but becomes stuck and is attacked by a knife wielding maniac. Intense AND claustrophobic! I also dug some of the more morbid ideas presented throughout the film. Eventually Ami suffers a mortal wound, but can’t die, so she’s trying to cover up the fact that she has a gaping whole in her abdomen. I liked how it plays with the concept of perverse pleasures and how Pinhead has a nemesis who has found (and exploited) a loophole in the system. I can’t obviously explain every kick ass idea and scene, because I’d ramble on forever. So what didn’t work?
The ending is a mess. I was constantly like “huh?”, “Why?”, “What?” and was disappointed with the confrontation between Pinhead and Winter. It has so many cool ideas involving the Deaders that it makes the movie MORE disappointing for not using them enough. I’m also getting REALLY tired of the franchise’s tendency to overuse dream sequences. This movie has dream sequences within dream sequences within dream sequences within other dream sequences. Luckily, the narrative is stronger than the one found in “Hellraiser 6”, so it’s not quite as boring or lazy. But it is beginning to become tired. The film also fails whenever it includes CGI, although this has been a problem with most of these movies. The ‘chain out of the box’ scare is laughable. Some scenes are just way too overblown and goofy when they try to go heavy on special effects. From Pinhead being summoned to Winter moving around with super human speed, it just looks awkward. Horror should avoid CGI when at all possible, because I’ve yet to see a great example of it. I’m also not sure what the movie was trying to tell us with the ending. I felt like I was just missing something.
So yeah, “Hellraiser VII: Deader” is sloppy and confused. But it’s also well shot and acted. Yet I think you’re enjoyment (or displeasure) with the movie will come down to how you react to each individual scene. I LOVED this movie when it worked. As I said, it’s sometimes frightening, atmospheric and nail biting. But that was my response to these sequences and if everyone agreed with me, I think the films reception would’ve been more positive. A lot of other scenes are silly, confusing or awkward probably because of the poorly placed CGI and the fact that the script did not begin as a Hellraiser entry. For me, I liked a lot of scenes and disliked the others, but my appreciation of the finer moments outweighs my distaste for its weaker moments. So I liked “Hellraiser 7” more than I disliked it. But will “Hellraiser Month” end on a happy note? People are split on “Hellworld”, but “Revelations” is almost universally hated. Only low expectations can save me now…
Violence: Rated R worthy. It might be more violent than the previous two entries, but I’m not sure.
Nudity: Of course! Lesbians making out, topless chicks appearing for no reason and even Kari Wuhrer gets naked. She was going on 40 by this point and she still looks great! I liked how unsettling the nudity was in this film. It’s sexy, but in a crazy and disturbed kind of way.
Overall: “Hellraiser VII: Deader” won’t win over any detractors of the franchise (or at least of the latter sequels), but I think it’s worth watching if you’re a fan.Rating: 2.5/4