So I went into Hellraiser Judgment fairly uncertain. Some people that I respect the opinion of said that they kind of liked it. The general consensuses seemed to be “it’s not like the original, but it was ok.” I would agree that not being like the original is something you should expect and is not on it’s own a bad thing, but it still felt like it was missing something for me.
That might seem like a harsh intro, but I am struggling with how I feel about the movie overall. The movie breaks tradition with the fact that instead of people summoning the cenobites to them, they are in fact summoned to a house of judgment. The idea behind this is very cool. People who have committed crimes are brought to this house to “seek redemption” that they don’t actually want and then judged. I like this idea, so I was disappointed that it wasn’t explored further. We are given a man who assaults children, and he confesses to his crimes and is judged then undergoes punishment. I was very underwhelmed by these scenes. They had some interesting visual ideas, but I mostly felt it was just gross-out with no substance. There is blood, vomit, gore, nudity, violence, a lot of the markers of what we might be looking for, but it never came together for me.
Fast forward to our main characters, three detectives who are after a serial killer who uses the 10 commandments as his basis for killing, The Preceptor. The detectives are brothers, and a new girl is thrown into the mix because the brothers seem to need help. The idea behind The Preceptor, to me, was the best part of this movie, but it felt underdeveloped so fell flat. What is there is good, but there is very little of it.
We are also given brief glimpses at character development. Sean is the older brother and traumatized by war and “takes the cases too seriously.” David, his younger brother, cares more about Sean than what is going on around them. Egerton attempts to make her way into their inner circle and help them solve the case. She is there to perhaps be their enemy but tries to just be a good detective. The background for the characters is not unique, but also not bad. However, they are never fully developed and once again made me want more.
Sean, while investigating, ends up in the judgment house, is saved by what we can assume is an angel, and escapes. I don’t want to spoil anything, but from this moment on the story sadly plays out in a fairly predictable way. We are treated to more moments meant to shock, but nothing landed with me. At several points, the movie did manage to gross me out, but it never managed to terrify me.
My ultimate problem with this movie is it is brimming with potential. The idea behind the judgment house is solid. The idea of “The Preceptor” is also excellent. The two on their own are never fully developed, and they aren’t connected in a way that feels fleshed out. I loathe to say it, but at the end of the day, I felt a little bored.
The film was well acted, had a few high points that could have developed, it just sadly never connected. I can see why others say that it’s more than people are giving it credit for, but I am not one of those people. I don’t enjoy giving such harsh thoughts on it, but it simply didn’t land for me in almost every way.
In spite of that, it’s not a movie that I would call offensive (like some others I could name), in fact, the greatest flaw for me was simply not being engaging enough. With all Hellraiser films, I struggle to say how it fits into the overall franchise. The wonderful and yet difficult thing about this franchise is that the films largely don’t fit together, so you never know what to expect. If you enjoy the larger religious themes and how they are explored you might enjoy this one. It touches on aspects that other films haven’t in a way that is at least somewhat engaging.
I will not call this movie “bad.” I hesitate to use that term overall, and I don’t think this one deserves it in the least. I did not like it; I can see why others might. I do think there were ideas to be explored that would have made it better, but for me, it felt… boring. While it might not be a stand out in the franchise, I can certainly think of worse horror movies and worse horror reboots/remakes out there. I would note that I think almost every viewer would be hard-pressed to call it a great film. Understand when you go in it’s a massive departure from what people would call the highlights of the franchise, and it’s unlikely to end up on anyone’s top ten list. If the same team comes back and starts to delve more into the ideas, they presented they might have a great film on their hands, at this point it just doesn’t get beyond scratching the surface for me.