Friday, November 14, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Hellraiser: Hellseeker

Previously on Hellraiser: Inferno...

Hellraiser: Inferno was a nightmare, literally. The whole damn movie was a nightmare experienced by Detective Joseph Thorne, so at least the series has hit rock bottom and has nowhere to go but up, right? Right? Hey, where are you going? Get back here!

Now that Hellraiser is straight-to-video, these movies are going to be coming out much faster than the past few ones did. Hellseeker came out in 2002, only two years after Inferno did. Taking over direction this time is Rick Bota, who would go on to do the next three films in the series until it was mercifully put out of its (and our) misery for a few years. Before landing this gig, Bota was mostly a cinematographer who did a lot of television shows but also had the celluloid gems Barb Wire and the House On Haunted Hill remake under his belt. Yikes and double yikes.

Writing duties fell to Tim Day and Carl V. Dupré, the latter name should sound familiar if you remember a little film called Prophecy 3: The Ascent because he co-wrote that as well. Their script was not written to be a Hellraiser movie (which, just as I suspected, was the same case with Hellraiser: Inferno), but Dimension Films had it rewritten to throw some Cenobite action in and BOOM! Instant sequel. BUT there's some really good news to help balance the rest of this out: this movie marks Ashley Laurence's return to the series that REALLY went downhill after she left. Not that it started on that high of a hill, but you get my point.

I no longer have any optimism left in me for this series, but if anyone can change that it's Scream Queen Kirsty Cotton. Let's get ready to seek... Hell?, because it's time for A Ghoul Versus Hellraiser: Hellseeker!

The film opens with a quote from Dante's Inferno, “There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery”, which you can't really apply to this series because I don't ever remember feeling happiness from it. Maybe I'll reuse this when I get to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies... This transitions to the opening credits, which I'm pretty sure are using the same background of the Lament Configuration that the last one opened with. Gotta save money where you can, right?

The film opens with happily married couple Trevor and Kirsty Gooden driving along the road laughing. Trevor is played by Dean Winters, who although has had a length career of film and television is now immortalized as portraying Mayhem from the hilarious Allstate Insurance commercials a couple years back. You of course know Kirsty's actress, who is looking seriously beautiful here with her now straightened hair. The two make the awesome decision to start making out, which results in Trevor not watching the road and driving them off a bridge. Tragic, but at least it resulted in the creation of the very first Allstate commercial. Where will YOU be when Mayhem strikes, indeed.

Trevor is able to swim to safety but Kirsty can't get her door open because this is a movie and doors cannot work the second they touch water. Trevor tries in vain to open the door but is too late, his dear wife has drowned. He awakens in the hospital, his thoughts immediately on the fate of his wife. The doctor on duty doesn't answer him, instead drugging him into unconsciousness. He wakes up again in an operating room where doctors are performing brain surgery on him, which is supposed to help him “remember”.

He wakes up AGAIN and holy shit this movie's pissing me off already. I SWEAR to Zombie Jesus if this whole thing turns out to be a hallucination he's having while he's slowly drowning in the river... I'll bitch about it on the internet. THAT'LL show 'em! He's back in the hospital with the doctor who drugged him welcoming him back, introducing herself as Allison Dormer. She is played by Rachel Hayward, who has a long filmography of mostly guest appearances in B-level sci-fi shows ranging from Sliders to Stargate SG-1.

We learn this actually takes place long after the car accident, that Trevor has been in and out of the hospital repeatedly with acute headaches as well as amnesia. He asks where is wife is, a sentiment echoed by Detective Mike Lange who is also in the room. Lange is played by William S. Taylor, another actor with a career of guest shots and whatnot, his biggest probably playing the prison psychiatrist who examined Rorschach in Zack Snyder's rather polarizing Watchmen movie. And yes, that movie is ABSOLUTELY in my review bin.

It appears Kirsty isn't dead but missing, and even more interesting the police report the doors of the car WEREN'T locked when they pulled it out of the river. Lange obviously doesn't believe Trevor's story, suspecting him in his wife's disappearance. Trevor takes the bus home so he can have the obligatory “punk on the bus is playing his boombox too loud” scene, which apparently happens ALL THE TIME according to Hollywood. I'm hoping for Trevor to break out the Vulcan nerve pinch and KO him, but he just sits there like a chump as the punk turns the music louder.

The next day Trevor heads to work at an office building, where he works as an actuary. He finds a dirty business card that reads “All problems solved” pinned to his cubicle wall, which triggers a flashback where he meets with some shady looking man in a warehouse full of bizarre people. Before this goes anywhere he returns to the present, where he decides to hit up the office vending machine for a snack. Of course it eats his money because we're dangerously close to the edge of Clicheville, population this movie, so he begins shaking it. This results in an AWESOME jump scare where a bloody hand pounds on the inside of the machine at him, which causes him to jump back and bump into his boss, Gwen Stevens.

Damn, now THAT is how you do a jump scare! Just like that, this movie is instantly forgiven for everything else so far. Gwen is easily recognizable as Sarah-Jane Redmond, yet another actress that's been in seemingly millions of TV shows and movies. One of her biggest roles was as Lana Lang's aunt Nell in Smallville, but she also had a recurring role in Chris Carter's short lived 1999 show Harsh Realm along with Rachel Heyward. Personally, she'll always be the demonic Lucy Butler from another Chris Carter show Millennium, which is one of my all time favourite shows and was canceled WAY before its time.

Gwen is the stereotypical corporate cutthroat bitch, who responds by... twisting Trevor's arm behind his back and slamming him into the vending machine. Okay, not THAT stereotypical then. Usually these type of characters just belittle the protagonist through words, not physical assault. Ah, it turns out these two have been having an affair the entire time, which seems hard to believe as they start making out right in the middle of the break room. Discretion, what's that? That makes two straight Hellraiser movies with a lead who's cheating on his wife, only Trevor is already a million times more unlikeable than Joseph Thorne because he's cheating on my beloved Kirsty. DAMN YOU TREVOR!

Returning to his desk, Trevor finds his computer is playing a looped video of him and Gwen making out in the break room. He quickly closes the video just as he gets a call from Lange asking him to come down to the police station. Forensic evidence suggests the car was intentionally driven off the bridge, Trevor protesting his innocence. This causes another flashback where we get an alternate version of the opening scene, where Trevor and Kirsty weren't having fun but she was actively avoiding him.

Outside his apartment Trevor spots a man in a mask, who was one of the weirdos from his factory flashback, watching him down the street. Trevor goes inside and looks at a building across the street, seeing the same man looking at him through a window. Trevor starts to choke, beginning to throw up water. He drops to the floor and has a seizure, a fucking EEL crawling out of his throat. The movie then cuts to him looking out the window again, revealing all of that to be a daydream. FUCK YOU MOVIE. Wow, only 24 minutes in and I'm already cursing at this thing! That might be a record, although I think Star Wars: The Phantom Menace has it beat by a few minutes.

There's a knock at the door, Trevor opening it to find Leelee Sobieski showing him her new belly tattoo. Oh wait, it's not Leelee Sobieski but it's Jody Thompson. Thompson is (sing along if you know the words) yet another actor who's been in tons of sci-fi shows and movies, many of the same ones as other actors in this movie. You ever wonder if they get confused which show they're on? Here she's playing Trevor's flirty neighbour Tawny, and the film kind of implies they were sleeping together as well. Geez, no wonder Kirsty was mad at Trevor since he's banging half the population of whatever city this takes place in.

Trevor brushes her off because he's still freaked out over his latest vision, going back inside to watch home movies of his wife. One is of their fifth year anniversary where he gives her a present that she opens to find the Lament Configuration inside. Oh just kidding, that was a hallucination also! Wow, this movie has COMPLETELY shot its wad already, so to speak. Every time we see something weird we know it's not happening, so ANY tension is thrown out the window just like that. This is going to be one LONG ass movie, even though it has a run time of only 89 minutes.

There's another knock at the door, only this time no one's there. Trevor walks into the hallway but finds it empty, returning to his apartment to find Gwen standing there. Uh huh, I'm sure she's REALLY there. She breaks out a camcorder to film them having sex, but he isn't in the mood so she leaves. However the camcorder keeps playing them making out even though she's gone, Cenobites entering the frame and suffocating her with a plastic bag. Hey, Cenobites! Yet again I forgot this was a Hellraiser movie, which is odd because with the earlier sequels one of the studio mandates was that Pinhead appear in the stories as early as possible. I guess in the magic land of straight-to-video, no one gives a fuck.

Trevor tries to stop the tape and then wakes up back in his office. ALRIGHTY THEN, FUCK THIS MOVIE. I'm fast forwarding until something actually happens. Bullshit fakeout after bullshit fakeout follows, Trevor may or may not be killing people, Pinhead showing up a several times to do fuck all except look cool. A flashback of Trevor talking to the creepy man in the factory is mixed in, as we see he bought the puzzle box from him. Maybe, who honestly knows? This shit goes on FOREVER until the 75 minute mark when Trevor finds himself in a morgue with Pinhead, the Cenobite stringing him up with his trademark chains.

Because this movie is 100% devoid of any kind of creativity or ideas, we're reduced to have Pinhead reveal his entire master plan through tons of exposition and flashbacks. God, how the mighty have fallen. Trevor was a complete douchebag who was tired of his wife getting in the way of his rampant whoring, so he bought the puzzle box and forced her to open it on their anniversary. Pinhead took her into his realm, but she cut him a deal: she'd bring him five souls in exchange for hers. Intrigued, he let her go and we see SHE was the one who killed all the people in this movie, not the Cenobites. Umm... what? Did they just really turn Kirsty Cotton into a serial killer? Nah, this must just be another bullshit fakeout. They- they surely wouldn't do that, would they?

Pinhead recounts the TRUE events of the opening scene, that Kirsty pulled out a gun and shot Trevor in the head to add his soul to her fucked up collection. She's the one who swam to freedom, while Trevor has been in Hell the ENTIRE FUCKING TIME. Yep, they just copy/pasted the plot from the last piece of shit movie. Fucking unreal. They show the aftermath of the car crash, Kirsty telling the cops Trevor shot himself after telling her he killed the other four people. She walks away after being released by the cops, puzzle box in hand. Huh. That just happened.

Cue the credits.

You ever see a film called Jacob's Ladder? One of the greatest movies ever made that has inspired countless other works, including serving as a virtual blueprint for the fabled Silent Hill video game series? If you haven't, you pretty much just did only in FUCKING TERRIBLE rip off fashion. Not only does Hellseeker crib the plot and several key scenes straight from Jacob's Ladder (such as the famous gurney scene) it even has an angelic-type character trying to counsel the lead, Rachel Heyward's Allison stepping in for Danny Aiello's Louis.

The “homage” goes straight to the ending, for your favourite and mine “dead all along/it was all a dream”. Hellseeker tries to mix it up a bit by adding the twist with Kirsty, which isn't just asinine but downright INSULTING. They turned the biggest hero of the entire franchise into a cold blooded murderer, who gets away with her crimes scot free?! Are you fucking kidding me? I would have been okay if this if it'd had been just Trevor, but four more people? Sure one of them was Trevor's co-worker Bret, who was planning to murder her for her inheritance in a subplot that went nowhere, but the rest were just women Trevor was nailing on the side. They really didn't deserve getting killed and condemned to Pinhead's Hell for all of eternity, but whatever.

And why wasn't Kirsty the damn star of this thing? She was inexplicably in the entire movie for maybe all of five minutes, mostly in grainy camcorder footage. Ashley Laurence said she was barely paid for her role in this, making only enough to “make a payment towards a new refrigerator”. You stay classy, Dimension Films! Way to respect your actors!

God, this might actually be THE WORST movie I've reviewed on this site so far. It literally made me angry, which takes a lot these days after some of the films I've watched. It was like a checklist of every crime a movie can commit: it was boring AS HELL, derivative, looked cheap, had zero atmosphere, filled with bad acting... ugh. I can go on, but I think you get the idea. Easily the low point of the series, and yet with THREE FILMS LEFT I don't think we're done on the sliding scale of suck.

After all, the next film stars Kari Wuhrer!