Hellraiser as a franchise seems to be as immortal as the Cenobites themselves, especially the iconic Pinhead. We’ve gone to Hell and back, to outer space and the world wide web, and needless to say, there have been dips in quality. After all these years, we find ourselves at entry number ten with Hellraiser: Judgement, and surprisingly, a return to form of sorts.

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The story follows police detectives and brothers, the religious but quick-tempered Sean Carter (Damon Carney) and the more grounded and analytical David Carter (Randy Wayne) as they investigate a series of brutal serial murders perpetrated by a figure known only as The Preceptor, who kills based on violations of the Ten Commandments IE cutting off the hands of young thieves and leaving them on display. They are joined by the level-headed Christine Edgerton (Alexandra Harris) as they seek out the Preceptor, ending up snared by a concurrent plot by Pinhead and his new Cenobite crew to entrap and capture sinful souls.

The project was written and directed by FX veteran Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who also stars as one of the lead Cenobites. The German accented Auditor that calculates a captive’s sins. Tunnicliffe shows his love and appreciation for the roots of the franchise while also attempting to expand on the lore. Even setting the Cenobite’s base of operations at the familiar location of 55 Ludovico Place. As well, there’s The Assessor (John Gulager), who devours and regurgitates the written sins to a Jury of naked women, who then send the accused to the Butcher (Joel Decker) and Surgeon (Jillyan Blundell), a grotesque giant hunchback with a baby-mask and a gas masked gimp with twin blades. These Cenobites stand on their own, though their aesthetic is a little different from the usual types with leather and disfigurement. Standing out from returning Cenobites like Pinhead and even Chatterer.

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After so many DTV entries, Hellraiser: Judgment is a breath of fresh air as it truly feels effort was put into the writing and production. And major kudos for doing so on a rather limited budget. The detective storyline is rather hit-or-miss, but the Cenobite scenes are on point. Now, for the pale white, nail encrusted elephant in the room: Pinhead. Sadly, Doug Bradley left the franchise with Hellraiser: Revelations but the Pinhead of this film, Paul T. Taylor makes a solid effort. Capturing the Cenobite leader’s presence an sense of forboding, acting as more of a calculating figure from behind the shadows.

This isn’t just Pinhead going around killing people as some of the sequels sadly reduced the character to. He has a philosophy and commands his Cenobites to do his bidding. The addition of an angelic seeming character, Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald) attempting to sway Pinhead did feel a bit out of place, bring the mythos to more Biblical terms rather than cosmic sado-masochistic horror.

Overall, Hellraiser: Judgment is a step in the right direction. It’s been compared to being a fan-film, but if anything, that’s a badge of honor at this point. Who knows the roots of the franchise better than fans? If you’re a fan of the more subdued original Hellraiser films, this is definitely worth checking out, and making judgement for yourself.

Hellraiser: Judgment is now out on Blu-ray and DVD.

Image via Movieweb

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