Hellraiser: Hellseeker

Discussion in 'DVDs' started by rhett, Oct 27, 2012.

  1. rhett

    rhett Administrator

    Jul 30, 2000
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    [​IMG] Reviewer: Rhett
    Review Date: October 27, 2012

    Format: DVD
    Released by: Echo Bridge
    Release date: April 26, 2011
    MSRP: $6.99
    Region 1
    Widescreen 1.85 | 16x9: Yes

    inline ImageWhile Hellraiser: Inferno definitely has its fans, even the most stringent of fans can’t deny that as a Hellraiser film it falls short. It shoehorns Pinhead and the cenobites in as a sort of afterthought, focusing instead as a Clean, Shaven one-off of a police detective with no ties to the series. On top of that, it turns Pinhead from a purveyor of pain and a demon hell-bent with motivations of his own to a detached and impartial judge. Likely recognizing that this was not a sustainable formula if Hellraiser was to continue as a series, the folks at Dimension sought to take the series a little closer to its roots (although Scott Derrickson has said he turned down an offer to write and direct an Inferno followup). On paper, what Dimension and new director Rick Bota (making the leap from cinematographer of such films as Valentine and House on Haunted Hill) did for the next sequel, Hellseeker, looked promising – they brought back the lead from the first two films, Ashley Laurence. Will that help the series come full circle, or is it still suck somewhere between space and Inferno’s murky purgatory?

    The Story

    inline ImageIt is several years after the proceedings of the first three films, and Kirsty Cotton (Laurence) seems to have finally put the, erm, puzzle pieces together. Her life seems happy and in order – she’s married and happily driving away with her husband, Trevor (Dean Winters, Oz), when they make a tiny misjudgment. They go in for a little kiss while driving, which sends Trevor inadvertently into oncoming traffic and then eventually hurtling off a bridge and into a deep river. Trevor is able to free himself from his seatbelt and get out of the car, but Kirsty stays in there stuck. The last he sees of Kirsty before waking up in the hospital is her hand on the car window and her mouth out of breath. Despite this, it appears that Kirsty’s body hasn’t been found, and now Trevor is suspected of murder. Talk about a bad day.

    inline ImageAlthough Trevor seems to remember the crash with clarity, he’s diagnosed with amnesia, and as we see him try to carry on with his regular routine, it’s clear his mind hasn’t gotten much better. He seems to be having hallucinations, many of them sexual in nature, and with different women. His boss, another tenant in his apartment and an alternative medicine therapist all seem to pursue Trevor mere days after his wife is presumed dead (and keep in mind this is a poor man’s Scott Wolf, not Brad Pitt), and initially Trevor resists, but when that fails to work he starts to kill them in torturous ways usually reserved for Pinhead’s minions. And then he wakes up. And then the detective convinced of his guilt, Detective Lange (William S. Taylor, Willard) pops up out of nowhere to ask him a few more prodding questions.

    inline ImageLike in Inferno before this one, eventually some of Trevor’s dreams start to seem truth when the victims in his dreams turn up dead in real life. Not only that, but some of his colleagues are acting strange and accusing him of guilt he can’t remember committing. When the police fish out that notorious gold, patterned puzzle box from the river, it starts to become clear that Pinhead (Doug Bradley, as always) has more than a hand (a chain, some hooks, y’know) what’s happening around him. But what does Pinhead want and how did he get there? Is he back to settle the score with Kirsty, or is there something even more sinister abrew? Hang in there for a finale that’ll turn the whole film on its head.

    inline ImageI’m of two minds about this one. For most of its runtime, it seems like a lower-rent redo of Inferno, chronicling another man’s moral flaws as he looks inward on his fallible existence. Pinhead is again relegated to what amounts to a bit part, not even showing up until the box is revealed well past the half-way point of the film. What’s worse, Ashley Laurence gets even less screen time after the promising opening sequence and a few home video flashbacks. Hellseeker has even less gore, and the cenobites and torture sequences are without a doubt the least inspired and affecting in the series. It’s a short, simplistic film, relying on the clichéd mechanic of the unreliable narrator as it cycles through reality-no-wait-it’s-a-dream jolts every five or so minutes. It all seems pretty tame and surprisingly tertiary to the Hellraiser story, especially considering Ashley Laurence is back on board, but then the twist happens.

    inline ImageWithout giving anything away, it’s as if the series wakes up from the nightmare of the past two pictures and picks up the torch to carry on the series story with the last ten minutes or so. We get a nice bit of redemption for Kirsty, a new, more apropos motivation for Pinhead more aligned with what he represented in the first film, and that tried and true gimmick of making the viewer want to trace back through the film to see if all the facts leading up to the twist hold up. Upon further analysis they don’t really tread water, but it’s not as if they’re all just sunk in that car in the bottom of the lake either.

    inline ImageMaybe my standards have been lowered so much by all the Hellraiser films post Hell on Earth, but I can still appreciate and enjoy the ending for Hellseeker. In a way it’s how Inferno should have ended if it wanted to consider itself a legitimate entry in the Hellraiser canon. Not only does it satisfy Trevor’s individual story arc, but it also pays some real fan service to the story and characters presented in the original film. As of this writing this is the final entry for the Kirsty character, and as it stands, she leaves the film on a pretty satisfying note of strength. Worth the slog of uninspired visuals, languid performances and lazy plotting beforehand? Well, if you’ve made it through the Hellraiser sequels up to this point and are still ready for more, then yes. It brings about a mite of redemption for the series and a way to forge the series forward from this point on – things that Hellworld would take little time to promptly fuck up. Lament, indeed.

    Image Quality

    inline ImageFinally a match made in heaven – John Drake’s budget visuals married with Echo Bridge’s budget transfer. The two combine for a soft, colorless blend of overcast pictures. The transfer on this DVD is again interlaced and once again poorly defined because of it. The darker parts of the image hold up better than you’d expect though, and at the very least are a marked improvement over Echo Bridge’s work on Hell on Earth and Inferno. On the brighter side, some of the washed out flashbacks look really amateurish with all the white peaking, although that’s just as much the filmmakers’ fault as it is the transfer’s. Overall it’s a presentable image, but like with most of Echo Bridge’s stuff, it’s of the “you get what you pay for” variety.


    inline ImageLike with Inferno, Hellseeker was originally released direct-to-video with a 5.1 track but now via Echo Bridge only contains a 2.0 track. I could discern no directionality between the left and right speakers, so consider it mono. The mix is at least clean, without hiss but still containing a moderate low end. While the visuals in most of the later Hellraiser sequels took a major hit, the sound at least has been consistently well-produced on all these entries, and again sounds good here even if it has been downmixed to mono.

    Supplemental Material

    inline ImageThe original DVD from 2002 contained a commentary with Director Rick Bota, alternate scenes with director’s commentary and a visual effects walkthrough with Jamison Goel. None of that is present on the multi-film packs (either on DVD or Bluray) re-released by Echo Bridge, although it still can be found on Echo Bridge’s single disc release. Since these sequels really aren’t worth even the modest price of the single disc releases, I’ve neglected the solo release and you should too unless these extras are really worth the extra five or so dollars and shelf space on your DVD shelf.

    Final Thoughts

    inline ImageAfter polarizing viewers with a largely non-canon entry with Inferno, Hellraiser at least gets a bit closer to back on track with Hellseeker. It’s another psychological thriller, but this one has the mind to at least give an arc to Ashley Laurence’s eternal heroine and return Pinhead to his torturous roots. A strong final twist at least gives viewers who have stuck it out this far some kind of payoff and hope at original series continuity. Image and sound on this Echo Bridge release are again the step downs you pay for with this budget release, and if you go multi-pack you’ll lose the extras that are contained on the single-film release. If you want closure for the arc from the first four films, then the hook stops here, but it is by no means essential. If you’re keen on exploring the later sequels though, this one probably brings the best payoff, even if Hellseeker’s performances, direction, gore and style don’t match some of the other later entries. Seek it out with caution.


    [​IMG] Movie - C

    Image Quality - C-

    Sound - C

    Supplements - N/A

    Technical Info.
    • Colour
    • Running time - 1 hour, 29 minutes
    • Rated R
    • 1 Disc
    • Chapter Stops
    • English Dolby Digital 2.0
    Supplemental Material
    • N/A
    Other Photos

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