This was number seven in the legendary horror series (which was followed up with Hellraiser: Hellworld), and the third to go directly to DVD. These sequels have been of a varying standard, and each successive film feels further and further away from the original premise of the first film (andthe original novella, The Hellbound Heart that it came from).
This instalment was originally written as a completely standalone movie, with the Hellraiser elements added on as an afterthought. It sticks out lie a sore thumb, but it's an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes or so.
Kari Wuhrer stars as a hard-boiled American reporter working for a London based publication. Her speciality is weird cases, and when she is shown a bizarre video of a cult apparently bringing the dead back to life, she sets off to discover the truth. Naturally, she begins to be drawn into their dark, supernatural world, with suitably chilling results.
Good film, but it would have worked much better without the Hellraiser elements tagged on, as they are so blatantly afterthoughts that it hurts.
It's nice to see Pinhead and the cenobites again (for the whole minute or so of screen time they get...grr), and making one of the characters a descendant of the original toymaker (thus linking it to the plot of part 4, Bloodlines) is a nice touch.
The cast are for the most part above the usual quality for this kind of fare, with only one or two of them hamming it up for the sake of it. Kari is far and away the most convincing aspect of the movie, and carries the story really well. Some higher profile roles for her would go down a treat.
Coming across as a cheap update of Flatliners, it doesn't rely too much on expensive effects and instead goes for a more psychological feel. Sure there's gore, cenobites, boobs, lightning and chains, but the most successful thing in the look of the movie is the subtle use of camera effects and simple filters, which add a strong atmosphere and a certain amount of style. The money available has been well spent.
Doug Bradley? He's cool, but is blatantly on autopilot as Pinhead. He's looking a bit tubby in the costume this time out as well. Pinhead is about as far away from scary as you could get in this movie, and his lines are more fantasy than horror. The makeup is more convincing, but the performance? Coasting all the way.
Overall? If this hadn't had the needless Hellraiser material added, it would have been a much stronger film. As it is, it's a very enjoyable and rather creepy addition to a series that has been gradually going downhill. It's not necessarily back on track with this movie but it's getting there. It's just a shame the series got even more derailed with the film that followed this. Hopefully the remake will help to make the Hellraiser name mean something chilling again.
(This archive review is a tweaked version of one originally published on my personal journal way back in '05. I still feel the same about this flick)