While some horror franchises get trapped in development hell, others are forced into production in order to retain the rights. Dimension Films is part of the latter group, having made several half-assed Hellraiser sequels since 2000’s Inferno. This isn’t to say that the filmmakers weren’t trying their best, but it’s important to understand the extreme lack of resources that were available to them. Hellraiser: Judgment, out through Lionsgate on February 13, 2018, is the latest sequel to be tormented by the Weinstein Company. Special effects master Gary J. Tunnicliffe directs this tenth installment that, while far from perfect, feels like the most authentic Hellraiser since Bloodline (1996).
Tunnicliffe comes out throwing haymakers. After a wicked shot of Paul T. Taylor as the new Pinhead (he’s quite good, really), Judgment opens with a man being questioned by The Auditor. There’s an entire process at work, and it’s disgusting. The footage is ugly, pulling the grit and grime out of Nine Inch Nails’ Broken VHS and delivering a revolting series of sequences that tapped on my gag-reflex. At this moment it became clear that Judgment was made solely for fans of Hellraiser with complete disregard for mainstream audiences.
Following the exceptional bile that opens Judgment, the next hour drags to a crawl as the film unintentionally becoming a SAW sequel parody. It turns its attention to three detectives on the hunt for a serial killer, who is slowly going through each of the Ten Commandments. While sluggish, it at least serves a purpose by setting the stage for a wild finale that makes it all worthwhile. Everything comes full circle in the final moments, adding an entirely new dimension to the Hellraiser franchise. Tunnicliffe delivers on his promise with an overly ambitious conclusion that beautifully ties it all together.
Overall, the lack of resources soak the screen, but it adds to the film’s grotesque charm. And even with budgetary limitations, the special effects never suffer. Solely for Hellraiser apologists, Judgment does just enough to warrant its existence.