Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



 Directed by David Bruckner.
Starring Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Goran Visnjic.
Horror, US, 121 minutes, certificate 18.


Available now On Demand


After a string of increasingly low rent sequels that could not compare to Clive Barker’s bloody, perverse and, at time of release, strikingly original vision, the news that David Bruckner would helm a new film taking the franchise in a new direction was most welcome indeed. After last year’s excellent THE NIGHT HOUSE, a malevolent ghost story tinged with cosmic horror, it was hard not to get excited about where Bruckner, along with that film’s screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, would take the Cenobites thirty-five years after their original screen debut. A lot has happened in that time, so the sight of leather clad demons with a taste for pleasure in pain may not be nearly as transgressive now as it once was. The look of Pinhead and Co. can be seen in a wide gamut of pop culture from the likes of Marilyn Manson’s appearance whilst BDSM seems to have usurped the likes of Mills and Boon when it comes to romance for bestselling reading material. Could Bruckner update the saga of these Hell Priests in a manner that would shock, disturb and excite in the way that Barker did with the aid of a generous studio budget behind him?


Well, what he has given us is a highly polished version bedecked with smartly realised visuals but one that seems quite reluctant to delve into the lustier aspects of the original films, particularly the first three entries. Bruckner’s sometimes impressive vision opts out for very safe territory instead concentrating on one woman’s run in with a re-imagined group of some familiar figures thanks to the puzzles of the Lament Configuration. That shifting multi-dimensional cube is re-introduced in a promising prologue wherein a mysterious millionaire named Voight tricks an unsuspecting male into solving its puzzle. It is hard not to feel a subtle thrill when the sight and sound of those familiar chains snaking across the air hook themselves into the nearest victim setting the scene in familiar fashion. Where we go from here however feels familiar but in a far more pedestrian fashion where the character of struggling drug addict Riley then comes across the hellish cube, using it to search for a missing family member.


At first it seems that the film will use Riley’s addiction issues in the way that the other films played upon the needs and desires of those desperate to test their own limits. What could have been an interesting angle is soon abandoned and never really explored at all resulting in little more than a bunch of characters/potential victims running around a spooky abandoned mansion trying to avoid a bunch of mutilated ghouls. This lack of depth and ambition disappoints particularly when it is delivered with the smartly realised style that is so often on display. Where the original films struggled to match their ideas with low budgets Bruckner has far more to play with in terms of budget and effects resulting in some impressive set pieces where the Cenobites enter this plane of existence in search of those who have unwittingly called up on them whilst everyone else walks around obliviously.


These re-imagined Cenobites are also impressively designed, especially Jamie Clayton’s inspired take on Pinhead that also remains faithful to Barkers original gender ambiguous vision from the original novella, The Hellbound Heart. Despite their gnarly and baroque mutilations however there is a clinical, lifeless air around them and they all too often fall into the rote and cliched characterisation of threatening figure that walks far too slowly towards their victims.


A shame then that what works the best this time around is that which feels most familiar, often underscored by the composition of Christopher Youngs original full-blooded score. Leviathan may be better served next time around, if there is one. The impressive designs and concepts are already in place but they need to be complimented by a narrative that is truly unafraid to go into the dark transgressions that still lurk in the darkness of the twenty-first century to make Pinhead and her followers truly terrifying and interesting again. A missed opportunity.


Iain MacLeod


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans