I don’t think I’d have bothered with this film if not to complete my reviews of all the Hellraiser films. It is the film that’s furthest from the original film, being little more than a slasher film tarted up in Hellraiser trappings and fused with a thin veneer of cliché computer gamer. The direction is okay, the acting variable but good enough but what really lets it down is the story. I never felt involved in the story because it never felt like a Hellraiser film and the Hellraiser trappings were a constant reminder of that.
The film opens with a teenager digging a hole in a cellar. This is Adam () and although he is central to the story we don’t get much insight into his character apart from flash backs to this scene where he kills himself by pouring petrol over himself and burning himself to death.
At Adam’s funeral we learn from his buddies that Adam killed himself because he was obsessed with a computer game called Hellworld. I have no idea how that is supposed to work but the film will not be exploring this deadly game in any way at all. Hellworld seems to be this film’s introduction the Hellraiser mythos, showing that film is flirting with fourth wall. Adam’s friends are the usual gang of five clichés of the genre: there’s the pretty jock Mike (Henry Cavill in a pre-Superman role), the perky punky Allison (Anna Tolputt), the cheerful asthmatic joker Derrick (Khary Payton), walking cloud of depression Jake (Christopher Jacot) and last of course Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick) the nice girl destined to be the last one standing. None of Adam’s family is present because his mother is in a mental hospital after finding his body while his father has never been around is constantly abroad on business. And that’s it for Adam’s backstory. The friends are all feeling guilty for not intervening to prevent Adam from killing himself but it’s difficult to justify blaming them even if they were all playing the Hellworld game too. Unfortunately the theme of guilt and blame are going to be central to the story. The funeral scene ends with Chelsea opening the coffin and getting grabbed by the corpse before waking up because she was having a nightmare.
Forward two years and Chelsea is studying in her when Mike comes to her door to try to scare her with a Cenobite mask. He’s really there to show her a Hellworld website with a game whose prize is an invitation to party at somewhere called Leviathan House, a reference so obvious it gets lampshaded by Chelsea rolling her eyes. Mike tries to talk Chelsea into going but she really doesn’t and remarks that Derrick and Allison wouldn’t be interested. Cut to Derrick and Allison who are eagerly playing the game at their computer to win themselves invitations. This means that only Chelsea doesn’t want to go but on the day of the party she shows up in her SUV to drive them up there.
They get to the very large Leviathan House and inside the party is in full swing. The place is decorated with Lament boxes and bright neon signs and there are several bars for the partygoers. By an amazing coincidence Jake arrives just behind them to open contempt from Allison and fake friendliness from the others.
The host of the party (Lance Henriksen) bursts out a pair of double doors and greets the five, identifying them as newbies and after seeing their invitations he invites them in for drinks and an introductory tour of the house. Only Jake and Chelsea turn down the offer of drink, Jake because he doesn’t drink and Chelsea because she’s driving. His office is full of Hellraiser paraphernalia and busy hands are soon picking things up and playing with them. Allison quickly regrets spraying herself with perfume from a bottle and Mike finds his fingers stained with ink from the Cenobite design tarot cards he plays with. There’s a sense of significance about these events.
As he takes them down to the basement he tells stories about the house’s past as a convent and then later as a mental hospital with the tragedies involved in both periods. The basement basically looks like a pathology lab with shelves full of specimens of deformed foetuses and body parts and surgical tools lying around. Allison, Mike and Derrick seem impressed but Chelsea needs a bit more than theatrical props to scare her. She gets it when the host grabs her arm and sticks a pin deep into it. Chelsea feels strange she has a sudden vision of Pinhead pulling the pin out. It only lasts for a moment then everything’s back to normal but she’s very wary of the host and tells him to stay away from her.
The host takes them back upstairs to enjoy the party and introduces them to some fairly pointless scheme where everyone has a numbered mask and a mobile phone and if you fancy someone you call their number. It sounds something from a middle class middle aged swingers party and not really something for college students. While on the subject of the party goers the whole thing seems very tame and vanilla and the crowd are a bit plain and boring despite the sex and gratuitous bare breasts. There is no difference between this crowd and that of any other nightclub and they don’t seem like Hellraiser fans. This might be justified by later revelations but it goes unnoticed by the friends.
They split up at the party so of course this is when they start dying off. Aliison sees a room with a large “Keep Out” sign on the door so she enters because she’s naughty. She finds a torture chair and sits on it and suddenly it locks her in place and a nasty looking pair of rotating saw blades lock in place in front of her face. The host appears and engages the motor for the blades which slowly come towards Allison’s throat and slices it open. Pinhead appears and tells her Adam was right
This is followed by a scene where Jake meets the host who gives him a puzzle box made by Adam. When Jake examines it nails spring out and pierce his fingers. This is a bit strange because it seems this scene should have come earlier.
Derrick is dancing with a woman when he loses in inhaler and it falls down a grate into the basement. He wheezes down stairs and recovers his inhaler in the pathology lab. He takes a puff and lies down to recover. Pinhead appears and chops off his head.
Mike got together with a woman who gives him a blowjob. Afterwards she takes him down to the basement with promises of more sex but when they get to pathology lab she locks him in and leaves. Mike tries to pretend he’s not freaked out by the props and by the headless corpse dressed in Derek’s clothes but they unsettle him then he sees Derrick’s head in a jar and freaks. A Cenobite enters the room an operates a winch that drives a huge hook into Mike’s back and drags him around until he dies and then Pinhead appears and tells us that it just beginning.
This just leaves Jake and Chelsea among the friends and the film changes pace. Jake goes to bar to try to get a drink but everyone ignores like he’s not there. He follows a woman into an upper gallery area and they make love but she turns out to be a ghost of a nun. Chelsea was following someone who looks like Adam and ended up locked in a room. She tries to call the police but when they arrive the host convinces them that one of his guests is drunk and playing joke. Chelsea tries calling them and telling them to look up at the window she is watching them from but they can’t see her and eventually leave.
I’ve talked about this long enough and this film’s last act has a fairly uninteresting series of chases and fake outs around the house by Chelsea and Jake as they figure out what’s going on. Jake realises that whole thing was set-up to get them there and what they are experiencing has stopped being real some time ago. Chelsea has discovered that their host is actually Adam’s father and he blames them for Adam’s death. The whole thing was a very elaborate murder plot but the host wanted to make them suffer using the Hellword he blames for the death of his son. He drugged them with some kind of magic drug that can somehow fully create a convincing reality with help of subliminal suggestions. All five have been buried in coffins since their visit to the basement and everything since was created by suggestions delivered through the phones left in the coffins. It just seems too elaborate and would only ever work because it is written that way in the script. Anyway Chelsea and Jake are both rescued by the police who got phone call from this place, probably from Adam’s ghost since the house is empty and the host has fled.
All the earlier appearances of Pinhead and the Cenobites in the film were just from the imagination of the victims, explaining their out of character behaviour but as the host sits in hotel examining the puzzle box he brought with him it turns out to the genuine article and it opens. Pinhead and the Cenobites arrive and introduce the host to hell with an impressive blade on a chain and one of those CGI effects of a body falling to bits after a cartoonish delay. It is far too little and far too late.
I think the problem with this film is that it was thrown together with a low-budget and a script that was barely more than an outline. It was made back-to-back with Deader but instead of incorporating the Romanian location into the script this tried to pretend it was somewhere in America.Overall is it is just a run-of-the-mill slasher film and Pinhead and the Cenobites are reduced to a mere cameo