Movie Review: “Hellraiser: Judgement” [Spoiler-Free]


It’s always a concern when a long-running franchise reboots or moves forward without the actor who made them what they are. Doug Bradley was the “lead cenobite”, Pinhead, since the original film landed in the late 80’s, and while no one would ever argue that the later Hellraiser movies were master-crafts of modern cinema, fans of the franchise would certainly agree that Bradley made the character his own. He is Pinhead, and he is Hellraiser. He remained so until the 2011 Hellraiser: Revelations, when Stephan Smith Collins took over and, let’s just say, wasn’t widely loved for his version of the iconic character. So, understandably, horror fans were both intrigued and concerned when yet another actor, Paul T. Taylor, took over the role for Hellraiser: Judgement. Would he be able to pull off the necessary look? The definitive voice? The required sense of terrifying stoicism in the face of limitless pain and torture?

The irony here, which I’m making my way toward, is that Taylor was one of the only good parts of the movie.

Judgement opens with the cenobites discussing how they need to “get with the times”, for lack of a better phrasing. They talk about how the puzzle box (which, if you’re a Hellraiser fan, you’ll know is an incredibly important part of the movies’ lore) is obsolete, and that in a world of technology they must adapt in order to stay relevant. It’s an amusing conversation that sets the tone for…a plot twist that never really occurs. Though the cenobites’ methods are quite different in this movie from previous ones, “embracing technology” is not even remotely part of those new methods. The closest thing we see is when the “Auditor” character uses an old-school typewriter to record the victims’ sins. Now, I’ll grant that seeing the cenobites using modern technology is definitely not what I look for in a Hellraiser movie, so I’m not terribly disappointed in this respect. However, I thought it worth mentioning simply for the fact that it makes the opening conversation seem unnecessary and misleading about what’s to come.

Moving into the judgement process itself, I don’t want to give much away because I found this to be one of the most interesting parts of the film, but I will tell you that it involves a trial-like process of auditing, judging, and sentencing. This process was, in my opinion, very odd, very creative, and – in places – very visceral. I enjoyed it, while simultaneously wondering about the mental state of whomever came up with it. The sentencing part in particular, which involves “cleansing” from the jurors followed by a visit from the Butcher and the Surgeon, was in line with the kind of disgusting torture I would expect from a Hellraiser film. Additionally, I loved the design of the characters in these roles, particularly the Butcher and Surgeon, whose bodies are stitched together. The jurors, who are beautiful women with destroyed faces, satisfy the gratuitous nudity quota of the film, and perform, subjectively, the most disgusting acts of the process. These acts – while not necessarily gory – are the kinds of things that will make the average person gag. One scene in particular seems to exist purely for the gross-out factor, but also fits in with the task they’re supposed to be performing at the time, so it at least makes sense while making your stomach turn.

You may notice, as I’m speaking about this judgement process, that I’m not mentioning Pinhead. That’s because he’s not involved in the slightest, and that’s the – rather large – downside. During all of this judging, Pinhead is only seen a small handful of times, for a few seconds at a time, lounging in a stone chair in another room, listening to the screams. Taylor’s look and mannerisms during these tiny scenes are spot on, but still, I found myself constantly wondering when Pinhead was going to have any input to anything that was occurring.

The other side to the plot follows a group of three detectives as they investigate a series of murders perpetrated by a killer who bases his killings on the ten commandments and those who he perceives to have broken them. Aside from the crime scenes left behind after a few of the murders – which, admittedly, are creative – this side of the movie was rather boring to me. The three detectives aren’t particularly interesting or likable, so I didn’t find myself rooting for anyone, or even rooting against them (as one might be wont to do in a slasher flick). I just, generally, didn’t much care about them at all. I wanted to see more of the cenobites, more of the gruesome killings, and more of Pinheadalreadyomfg, and the exploits of these three vanilla human characters did nothing for me at all.

There was a bit of heavenly influence into the plot as well, which I won’t comment on for the sake of spoilers, but I will say that I, personally, thought it was silly. The idea had promise, but I didn’t feel it was played out well, and didn’t add anything to the movie at all, though admittedly the plot, such as it was, would have made less sense without it.

Taylor’s Pinhead finally got a few lengthy scenes coming up to the end of the movie, and here I’ll let you know that I think he did a great job. Taylor’s portrayal of the iconic character was very similar to Bradley’s in many respects, and was overall as good as we could have hoped for from anyone who isn’t Bradley himself. He got the stance, facial “expression”, and voice down, while the costume and makeup team nailed (ha ha) the look. I felt it was an excellent performance, all told, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Taylor in the role again in the future. Given the right script and some key scenes, I think he could cement himself as the lead cenobite of this age of Hellraiser films.

With that, however, I must make one last point about the movie, and that’s that I hated the ending. In part my disdain is because of the fact that it’s one of those endings that just happens, all of a sudden, when you feel like there really should be more to it. But also, I just thought it was a stupid idea for an ending. I get what they were going for; I just didn’t like it. At all.

In conclusion, Judgement was hardly the worst of the Hellraiser line of movies, but it definitely wasn’t one of the best and would have been completely forgettable if not for the judgement scenes. It had some good points, but large chunks of it were very “meh” and I felt that Taylor’s Pinhead was drastically under-utilized. My overall feeling by the end of the film is that I would love to see Taylor team up with the costume crew and whichever insane mind came up with the judgement process for this story, retcon this film, and go for a reboot that hearkens back to the original Hellraiser movie. I’d love to see what they could do with the other original cenobites, especially after getting a tease of Chatterer in a couple of small scenes throughout Judgement.

An okay movie with some very interesting ideas pasted against a mostly underwhelming plot.

Have you seen Hellraiser: Judgement? Let me know what you thought of it in the comment section below!

Anime Review: “Devilman Crybaby” [Spoiler-Free]


Disclaimer: Please note that I delved into Devilman Crybaby having not seen the original anime, so I’ll not be comparing the two during this review. I did see the 2-part OAV “The Birth” from the 90’s, but as it was a very short story that only really focused on Devilman’s “birth”, so to speak, I’ll not be comparing this to Crybaby either.

Devilman Crybaby is a Netflix original series, the first of which has actually come out of Japan (previous anime-style series featured as Originals on Netflix were actually produced in the USA). It is based on the Devilman manga from the 70’s, which has been translated to animation format a few times in the past as well. This particular iteration boasts a new animation style, and – supposedly – a more faithful adaptation of the original manga story. The story in question follows a young man, Akira – who happens to be particularly kind and innocent – who is possessed by a demon/devil and is able to defeat the evil creature’s takeover of his soul. His body, personality, and mannerisms change dramatically, but he is otherwise able to control the devil’s powers and becomes Devilman, a half-human, half-devil being who fights other fully-possessed human-devils in order to protect humanity. As the series progresses we begin to uncover more and more information about where the devils came from, what they want, and why Akira’s friend Ryo pushed him into becoming possessed in the first place.

So what does one say about Devilman Crybaby? Well, let’s first start with something simple: the animation style. I’ll be the first to say that it turned me off in the beginning. My husband’s reaction was similar, but also biased, due to his love of the prior iterations of the story. I, personally, came into the show clean (only going back to watch the OAV after I’d already watched a few episodes of Crybaby), and my initial thoughts about the animation style was that it looked unfinished. The line-work is very light, the colors seemed washed out, and the artwork in general seemed rushed to me, with body proportions often seeming so out of whack that I imagined artists working so fast that they had no time to go back and fix things. In time I got more comfortable with the style, but I was still personally annoyed by the extreme “stretching out” of the characters. A lot of traditional anime features characters that are unnaturally tall and skinny, with super-long legs and extraordinarily delicate, long fingers, but Crybaby, I felt, took this to the extreme. Everyone’s legs were ridiculously long, and so skinny that they wouldn’t be able to to stand up under their own body weight. They looked like Barbie dolls, if Barbie was wearing the smallest girdle she could find and had been spending nights on a medieval rack. It may be a picky complaint, but I personally feel with animation that a strange style can be very distracting and take your attention away from the actual content of the show, and that’s what happened to me while watching Crybaby.

Moving to the content in question: I personally enjoyed the story, though I found it a little confusing at times. I’ve personally found that it’s become a trend in more recent anime releases to be very vague about individual motivations, light on clarifying details, and purposely bewildering when it comes to revealing any kind of furthering information toward the plot. Crybaby was no different. Although it wasn’t as mystifying as some others I’ve watched in recent years, there were definitely a number of points that had me frowning and wondering if I’d missed something somewhere. In particular, Ryo’s motivations had my brain swimming throughout the first half of the show, as he seemed to act like a hero one moment, and a vicious lunatic the next. He seemed ridiculously schizophrenic to me, and while his character and driving force made sense by the end of the show, there were practically zero little hits or details that would give a viewer the opportunity to guess at what might be going on with him. Instead, it all came to a head in one fell swoop in a single episode very near the end of the show, giving an impression that the creators suddenly realized out of nowhere that they were running out of time to tie up those points. Similar issues arose with other parts of the story, but Ryo is the easiest piece to speak about without accidentally revealing anything. Basically, I felt as though information was purposely withheld in a way that made the show needlessly vague with plot points, but then it slammed you with everything at once right at the end, as though in a mad catch-up to fit everything in before they ran out of episodes. The plot itself was very interesting and I’ll honestly say that I enjoyed it overall, but this method of “everything truly important crammed into the last couple of episodes” annoys me as it makes it difficult for the viewer to form ideas and theories throughout, and then suddenly says “HERE IT ALL IS!” with little warning.

One point of the plot that I did find extremely interesting was the gradual focus on, basically, how horrible people are. The show on the surface is about a devil-man hybrid creature fighting other devils in order to protect humanity, but as the story moves on we see more and more evidence to make us question whether or not humanity deserves to be protected. This type of storytelling isn’t for everyone, I know, but I personally enjoy it. Humanity is flawed in a great many ways, so I enjoy those more ambiguous stories that don’t necessarily have a black-and-white, good-and-evil set-up. There were likable characters on all sides, including super-sweet Miki, crazy-cool post-transformation Akira, and the wide variety of creepy and weird devil creatures, and the show played with the idea of “goodness” being a choice; one that humans often make poorly, while believing themselves to be “correct”.

Another point that I feel I should mention is that this show – like its predecessors – is extremely graphic, which should of course be taken into account when deciding if it’s something you’d like to check out. There’s a good bit of nudity, some graphic situations of a sexual nature, and a lot of violence, including gore. Quite a bit of gore. It’s animated, of course, so it’s not quite the same as watching a super-bloody horror movie, but it absolutely has the capability to disgust and disturb, based on your own personal lines.

One final thing that I’ll say is that the ending of the show completely caught me off guard and made me unsure as to how I felt about the entire experience. I can’t really say anything without massive spoilers, but suffice it to say that the events of the last two episodes struck me as surprising and extreme, and by the time the credits rolled on that last episode I was left staring at the television screen, feeling a little bit like a huge joke a had been played on me.

I’m sure it seems as though I’m throwing out more negatives than positives here, but the truth of the matter is that I did enjoy the show. The things I’ve mentioned as annoyances definitely detracted from it for me, and though I personally enjoy the adult content and the commentary on mankind, I know that those are also things that some people would be unable to enjoy. But overall, as a whole, I have to say that the series was interesting, fun, weird, mind-bending, and a little hypnotizing. I was hooked and wanted to keep moving to the next episode and the next. How I felt about the ending is similar to what I’ve felt at the end of certain movies and books, so it’s not an isolated event and not a deal-breaker by any stretch. I do feel that certain aspects of the show could have been done better, but in the end I whole-heartedly give the series a thumbs up. If you’re a fan of anime, specifically graphic anime with supernatural themes, this ten-episode Netflix Original series is worth checking out.

Movie Review: “Happy Death Day” [Spoiler-Free]


Happy Death Day is pretty simple to describe: it’s a horror version of Groundhog Day in which the protagonist, Tree (yes, seriously, that’s her name) finds herself being murdered over and over and over again by a mysterious killer in a disturbing baby-face mask. Every time she dies, she wakes up at the beginning of the day and has to live everything all over again while desperately trying to work out who the killer is so she can escape the loop.

The first thing I’ll say about the movie is that if you’re expecting hard horror, you might be a bit disappointed. While the movie has creepy aspects (that goddamn mask!) and features a multitude of violent death scenes, the overall presentation is more humorous than it is frightening. You may experience a few goosebumps in certain scenes, especially when the masked killer first arrives on the scene, but soon enough you’ll find yourself chuckling at Tree’s reactions and the situations she puts herself in. You’re not going to find any real blood and gore in this film (it is rated PG-13, for the record) and unless you’re the most easily-frightened of wusses, you’re not going to experience any true frights, but if you enjoy a good horror comedy, that’s what you can expect from Happy Death Day.

One thing I was amused and a bit surprised with is how much we’re set up to loathe Tree from the start. We’ve all seen horror movies featuring a group of rowdy teenagers being stalked by a killer, and there’s always at least one character who is a total douche/bitch/annoying weirdo that we’re actually rooting for to die, but that’s not something I expect from a movie which focuses on a single character. Therefore it was interesting to me that the movie opens with every possible reason to hate Tree. She’s a stuck-up sorority brat who gets pass-out drunk, acts like a total bitch to pretty much everyone around her, and is screwing one of her professors, among other things. Basically, within the first ten minutes of the movie we’re genuinely longing for her to die which, honestly, makes the movie more fun. It’s a bit cathartic to watch someone who embodies everything you probably hated about the “popular” kids at school get her comeuppance over and over and over, while losing her mind a bit more every time.

It is also set up in such a way as to show that the killer really could be anyone. Tree is such a terrible person at the beginning of the movie that it’s not difficult to imagine that literally any other character on screen could be the one setting out to murder her, which makes it interesting to try to guess, although I’ll admit that I’m not usually all that great at guessing these kinds of things, so it might be a little more obvious to others than I’m expecting it would be.

Of course there’s also a little bit of romance sprinkled in, a little bit of sad backstory, a little bit of redemption…all that good stuff, and a few surprises along the way.

All in all, I personally thought it was a fun movie. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, as I didn’t realize it was rated so low when we first started watching it, and I’d assumed it was going to be a bloody slasher type that showed the main character being absolutely gored in numerous different ways. That said, I wasn’t disappointed with what I got. I do enjoy a good R-rated horror, but I can definitely enjoy a goofy horror comedy as well, and this was a fun take on the Groundhog Day formula. If you’re a fan of humor mixed with horror and don’t mind trading the gore for more of a whodunit mentality, this definitely might be something for you to check out!

Have you seen Happy Death Day? Let me know what you thought of it in the comment section below!