Is It Worth It? Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

This is part of my Horrorathon for Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (aka MASK)Is It Worth It? is where I talk about sequels a lot of people skip, and determine if they are worth a visit or better left in the bargain bin. Fair warning, there will be spoilers in my recap, so if you just want the verdict skip to the bottom.

Hellraiser: Judgment Reviews - Metacritic

From IMDb: Detectives Sean and David Carter are on the case to find a gruesome serial killer terrorizing the city. Joining forces with Detective Christine Egerton, they dig deeper into a spiraling maze of horror that may not be of this world.

Hellraiser: Judgment is the tenth (!) and final (for now…) film in the Hellraiser franchise. Seven years after Hellraiser: Revelations, the studio once again had to churn out a sequel in order to retain the rights to the franchise in hopes of one day releasing a reboot. The writer of Hellraiser: Revelations, Gary J. Tunnicliffe returned as the writer AND director AND one of the main characters in this film. Once again, Doug Bradley did not come back, this time because he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement just to read the script. Instead of bringing back Stephen Smith Collins from the previous entry, Paul T. Taylor has hired for the iconic role.

According to the Wikipedia page for the film which was clearly written by either the filmmaker or a huge fan of the film based on the level of praise (any) and detail (lots), this script was rejected three times before the studio accepted it in desperation to keep the rights. Tunnicliffe had written it as an independent horror film not attached to the Hellraiser series at one point, and it failed to reach its Kickstarter goal to be put into production as a non-Hellraiser film. I think whoever wrote the Wikipedia page thought these anecdotes would make us feel fortunate the film persevered through countless rejections, but after watching it I’m quite confident the studio and Kickstarters were right to reject this in any form.

Recap

We begin with Pinhead having a one on one staff meeting at work (aka Hell) with another demon. The other demon (revealed later to be the Auditor), says that the puzzle boxes are boring and don’t work anymore. Pinhead agrees, knowing lust can be “electronically sated” nowadays. But they also agree humans are really messed up nowadays, and that they could probably attract sinners using other methods.

Next, we see a man named Carl receiving a letter imploring him to visit a decrepit house to meet “a sympathetic friend” who can help him with something they are purposely vague about. At the house, he encounters the Auditor (played by writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe) who has Carl tied to a chair and begins questioning him about his worst sins. The man says “Jesus Christ” to which the Auditor replies

Carl hints that he is a child molester and/or murderer. The Auditor types out the confession, and then “the Assessor” comes in, pours a bottle of tears on the pages of the confession, and eats them. The Assessor then pukes, and a group of three inexplicably half naked demon women kneel in front of pipes to eat the vomit and conclude the man is “guilty.” And at this moment approximately eight minutes into the film, I knew I hated this movie.

Thanks I hate it!

Carl is taken to “the Surgeon”, but not before a group of large naked women come in and lick his flesh and appear to dig around inside his body to “cleanse him.” Then “the Surgeon” comes in, turns around, and a demon in a gas mask with blades jumps on Carl and starts cutting him. And then the scantily clad demon women have his blood shoot out on their boobs because why not?

The credits start, and we are only twelve minutes into the film.

The credits literally and metaphorically set Clive Barker’s creative influence on the series on fire

After the opening credits, we see a drunk woman named Crystal getting out of an Uber and entering her apartment which is inexplicably full of lit candles. She accuses someone named Josh of being in her apartment, and also realizes she can’t find her dog. You may be shocked to learn it is not Josh in her apartment, but before we can see who attacks her we cut to two detectives driving to the scene.

When they get to the woman’s apartment, they are startled by another detective who allegedly works at the same police precinct and was assigned to investigate the same crime without the two male detectives knowing anything about this. The three detectives are also somehow the ONLY people on scene because this movie apparently couldn’t afford any extras after the three half naked demon women.

Brothers/Detectives David and Sean Carter
Detective Christine Egerton

They all surmise this must be the work of “the Preceptor”, a serial killer who seems to be at large. You may think “oh that’s a neat idea! The Cenobite kills looks like the work of a serial killer like in Hellraiser: Inferno! No. These are independent plot threads.

Crystal’s body moves, and they realize the killer sewed her dog inside of her stomach. The dog is alive for what it’s worth.

The dog was her baby. So he put it in her womb.

That’s a real quote

The detectives all decide to work together after Egerton moves herself into the literally named “Detectives” office.

The detectives have a cheesy montage of working together on the case. They investigate another of the Preceptor’s crime scenes in a public place where it is clear they could only afford to have one extra play a cop.

So this is a horrific and public crime scene of a known serial killer and there’s literally no press or bystanders there? I guess maybe no one saw any signs of the crime oh wait…

The detectives realize two of the victims are linked by going to the same school, and that Carl Watkins (the man who got killed at the beginning of the film) might be involved. Sean goes investigating alone, and ends up at the Cenobite torture house where him and the Auditor exchange Bible verses for a bit during his interview.

Riveting.

The Auditor acknowledges that Sean has killed a great many people, but that God appreciates him because he was protecting his country. Afterwards, his papers get eaten by the Assessor, but the Assessor immediately throws up. And the needlessly half naked demon women appear to get sick from eating the Assessor’s vomit. The visibly distressed Auditor is visited by a woman dressed in all white who instructs him to let Sean go.

The Auditor visits Pinhead, and Pinhead eats a bit of Sean’s paper and says Sean will return to them on his own volition anyway.

Sean has fled the house with a puzzle box, and calls his brother David. In the middle of the night, Sean brings David to the house without any explanation. Of course at this point it is just an empty house. David gets upset, and later that night Sean is woken up by nightmares of the Cenobites taking him. He goes out and gets into a drunken brawl. Meanwhile, Detective Egerton confides to David she has been sent by police administration to keep an eye on the seemingly unstable Sean.

The detectives trace one of the victim’s phones to an isolated storage unit. David is still at the station when Sean and Christine make up an excuse to break into the storage unit to try and catch the Preceptor. But when Christine spots a picture of David in bed with Sean’s wife on the Preceptor’s wall, she realizes the Preceptor has been in Sean the whole time. Sean brains Christine.

David arrives as Sean blares heavy metal which I guess is his killing music. Sean’s wife Allison also arrives, and Sean starts in with his villain monologue about how killing people who break God’s commandments is doing God’s work.

Dude you haven’t even gotten to 2020 yet

He then makes David and Allison open the puzzle box together. Pinhead comes, and Sean offers to trade David and Allison if he could be spared. But Pinhead informs Sean that he is wanted by “a different faction” and no deal can be made.

Pinhead makes quick chain & go action with David and Allison, and just as it seems they will take Sean too, a woman appears in an all white business suit (this is sincerely to indicate she is from heaven), and instructs Pinhead and the Auditor to let Sean go.

She acknowledges that he is a serial killer of many innocent people, but that he is doing God’s work to keep the flock afraid and thus in line.

Sean is relieved that he is forgiven, but she quickly corrects him that he is just useful right now, but will absolutely not be forgiven. Pinhead sends him back to earth, where Christine wakes up and shoots him to death.

Heaven lady is aggravated, telling Pinhead “you knew that would happen.” They squabble, culminating with Pinhead killing her by…you guessed it…hooks and chains tearing her apart. He also sticks a punch of his pins in her forehead?

I think this is meant to be make Heaven Lady look like a Karen and have us cheer for Pinhead…but it just seems misogynistic

The Auditor tells Pinhead he probably shouldn’t have done that, and Pinhead says he isn’t scared. The Auditor reminds him that she was the angel that banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and sure enough the final scene is Pinhead banished to the earth to be a mortal once more.

Complete with a Darth Vader worthy “NOOOOOOOOO!”

The end. Thank goodness.

Random Observations

  • With the ending of this film, this is the ONLY Hellraiser entry after the fourth one that I feel breaks the canon that Pinhead is finally truly vanquished in the year 2127. Sure we don’t know what happened to the Mini Me Pinhead from the ninth, but at least you could explain these were all prequels to the spaceship story.
  • Heather Langenkamp plays a foul-mouthed landlady who is only in the movie for 49 seconds yet she received third billing in the credits which should say a lot.
  • This movie is obviously extremely low budget and cast, most noticeably with the detectives never encountering any first responders or reporters on the crime scenes they are investigating save for one stray police officer.
  • Also adding to the misogyny: not only does Allison cheat on Sean with his own brother, he also reveals she cheated on him within a week of him leaving for a tour of duty as a soldier. Why is this included in the story?
  • As a librarian, it especially bothered me that not once but TWICE Sean claims A Tale of Two Cities is the most popular book on the planet. Which…no. But also why? This specific assertation serves no purpose in the script.
  • I just felt the need to include this screenshot:

Verdict

I hate this misogynistic* piece of shit movie and absolutely don’t recommend it to anyone. And just to be clear, I don’t just hate it because of its treatment of women – even besides that it’s a bad movie. I am shocked anyone likes this film, and sincerely think I must have watched a different movie from others who claimed it was one of the superior direct to video sequels. It so obviously tries to ride the coattails of torture porn and serial killer crime thrillers while barely retaining any semblance of Hellraiser.

*I realize this is one of the harshest verdicts I have ever given. I watch a lot of horror films and often find myself defending how they depict women. I truly think many horror films get a bad rap for misogyny they don’t deserve. But movies like this are why so many people believe horror films are misogynistic. I want this blog to be a place where fans and non-fans alike feel safe that I’m not going to punch down with my jokes, and where I will call a spade a spade when I feel it is needed. Just to corroborate my verdict, here is an interview from the director where he, in all sincerity, argues the demon women were half naked because of budgetary reasons and nothing else:

If you can’t afford to do really nice costuming, you use nudity. And there are people all “oh, this guy is obviously just a misogynistic prick who just likes looking at naked breasts”, it’s like honestly it’s just easier to do. I didn’t have them fully nude. Some people are like “oh, you should have naked dudes on set”. Oh, okay, maybe I should have.

Gary J. Tunnicliffe in ScreenGeek Interview

And here is an excellent blogpost about why this film is so bad: He Said/She Said: HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT Is A Potential Franchise Killer

But to end on a happy note, this does mean I have finally gone beyond the veil and completed the entire Hellraiser franchise! My next post will be a summary and what I have learned along the way.

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