After almost twenty years of playing the Hell Priest, Doug Bradley makes his final appearance (to date) as Pinhead. Hellraiser: Hellworld is based on Joel Soisson’s short story, Dark Can’t Breathe, which Carl V. Dupre adapted into a Hellraiser screenplay. For a movie released in 2005, it owes more to 90s horror, incorporating elements of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, than it does to Hellraiser itself. The links to the franchise are forced, resulting in a tenuous excuse to throw in Pinhead and try and bump up DVD sales. Which is a shame as Hellworld proves to be a decent enough horror that’s only weighed down by its Hellraiser links.
A group of youths attend the funeral of their friend Adam (Stelian Urian) who has committed suicide after becoming obsessed with the online computer games, Hellworld. Two years after they are invited to a private part at an old mansion by a man known only as the Host (Lance Henriksen). The party is based on the Hellworld game, it’s debauched nature very appealing to Mike (Henry Cavil) while Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick) is much more sceptical and weary of her surroundings. As the party progresses, the group find their numbers dwindling as the Cenobites kill them at the apparent behest of the Host.
With so many influences its bizarre that what works the least are the Hellraiser elements. Henriksen, who was originally offered the part of Frank Cotton in the first movie, cuts a menacing figure. The cult actor revels in this sort of role, playing everything straight and adding another recognisable face. It’s fun to watch back Cavil and Winnick in early roles, especially the former who is far from Kansas as the sleazy frat boy while looking like Smallville’s Tom Welling. Bradley himself is criminally underused and misused for the most part of the film, only really getting a chance to shine in the finale. It’s tragic to see the character as an afterthought in a Franchise that Bradley helped build. Whether it turns out to be the last time he puts pins in his head remains to be seen, but as time goes on this looks to be his swansong.
The Meta elements of the movie are confusing as it’s alluded to that the game is based on the film series yet Lemerchand is mentioned as being not only real but an architect. The ending further adds to the muddled plot as the script appears desperate to be its own thing while being forced to adopt themes from earlier movies. It’s a much better film than Deader which director Rick Bota filmed simultaneously with Hellworld. Neither movie feels like a Hellraiser film but at least Hellworld is an enjoyable, cheesy and cliché ridden horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Unfortunately that’s also what works against it due to its title. Worth a watch for what it is, it lives in a different universe from Barker’s original.