I’ll admit this right off the bat — I’d never seen a Hellraiser movie prior to watching Echo Bridge’s reissue of the seventh film in the series (its Blu-ray debut). A 2005 direct-to-video release, Hellraiser: Deader will hold little appeal outside of diehard fans of the series. The film plays like a low-rent Silent Hill flick, hinging on an “is this a hallucination or reality” premise that’s barely interesting. What prompted me to take my maiden Hellraiser voyage with this clunker? A long-standing crush on Kari Wuhrer, who stars as journalist Amy Klein.
Deader actually works decently as a standalone movie, presumably owing largely to the fact that it started out as such. According to a bit of trivia reported by IMDb, the original screenplay by Neal Marshall Stevens was not intended to be part of the Hellraiser franchise. Another writer (Tim Day) was brought in to retrofit it as a Pinhead story. Director Rick Bota (responsible for two additional titles in the series, Hellseeker and Hellworld) seems to stretch out even the most banal of scenes simply to fill time. A plot that could’ve easily been squeezed into a 45-minute television episode becomes twice that length.
It all begins with an apparent snuff film shown to Amy by her boss. The victim, a member of a cult known as the Deaders, rises shortly after having her brains blown out. Off to Bucharest goes Amy, trying to investigate the video’s origin and the reason for the apparent resurrection. Soon she finds the puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration. It takes her moments to figure out how to unlock it, which releases Pinhead (Doug Bradley). Amy learns she’s in danger after her initial encounter with Pinhead. She eventually meets the Deaders’ leader, Winter LeMarchand (Paul Rhys), and becomes entangled in the world of the Cenobites. Production design and effects are decent for a low budget, DTV title. Bradley gets to do very little as Pinhead until the very end. Wuhrer mostly reminded me of Ashley Judd, albeit with less acting ability (but more sex appeal).
Good news for Hellraiser fans, Echo Bridge did a commendable job with this title in terms of high definition presentation. The transfer is surprisingly strong. Some of the hazier, hallucinatory sequences are somewhat lacking in contrast. But overall this is a consistently sharp, clean picture. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix isn’t especially immersive, but it serves its purpose admirably. There are enough creepy, queasy effects coming from the surrounds to keep this mix interesting.
A whole bunch of supplemental features have been ported over from the original DVD release. However, series fans will unfortunately have to hold onto that earlier version because the commentary tracks have not been included here. All the features are in standard definition: 25 minutes of deleted scenes, a decent 17-minute “making of,” and three additional featurettes (focused mainly on special effects). The gag reel runs barely a minute and wasn’t worth including. There are also storyboard comparisons for three scenes. Even minus the commentaries, this budget-priced Hellraiser: Deader should make Pinhead fans happy.