On October 7, 2022, a “reimagining of Clive Barker’s 1987 horror classic” Hellraiser drops on Hulu. The original film, based on Barker’s novella “The Hellbound Heart,” spawned sequel after sequel featuring the lead Cenobite, Pinhead, and the infamous puzzle box. This latest installment would mark the eleventh film in the franchise.
To be honest, I remember watching the 1987 original once — and I kept confusing it with Phantasm (1979) since I watched them both around the same time. This was back when you could rent VHS tapes to screen with your friends at a slumberparty. So it was a really long time ago.
I personally felt that after watching the new version, I needed to rewatch the original (streaming on Amazon Prime) so I could give an honest opinion and comparison. (I will also try not to spoil anything big from the new film).
I personally prefer this new reimagined version of Hellraiser. The narrative of the original is closer to Barker’s novella — Julia discovers a partially resurrected body of her brother-in-law Frank (whom she had an affair with) who escaped from the sadistic Cenobites and must kill to revitalize his body. The new version seems like a completely different narrative. Friends of mine have said it is close to Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 but I never saw that film so I cannot confirm or deny that conclusion. According to Hulu, director David Bruckner’s version focuses on Riley (Odessa A’zion), “a young woman struggling with addiction [who] comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.”
So essentially, the Cenobites and puzzle box are the only real similarities between the films — even though they also differ greatly in each film. In the original, the Cenobites are summoned when you open the puzzle box and you are then drawn into their hellish dimension. In the new film, the puzzlebox is like a quest — you have to feed it a certain amount of lives and then you get to request a prize of sorts from the demonic god. The Cenobites are the minions that come and take the lives once the puzzle box has pricked them. The puzzle box also transforms with each kill.
Aside from the new film having a better plot (in my opinion), there is a lot less gore. In the 1987 film, I think the plot was lost to all the gore and new-for-the-era special effects. There is a lot of blood in the new film but not the gross gory stuff that seemed to be popular with 80s horror films.
Also, Goran Visnjic is in the new films. Practical Magic fans (many of whom might stay away from bloody horror flicks) might like to see Visnjic playing a bad guy again. Or maybe his ER fans. Either way, he is awesome.
So if you like horror movies featuring sadistic, supernatural beings from a hell dimension who gruesomely kill people because of a puzzle box being activated for selfish reasons by severely flawed individuals, I would highly recommend watching this film.