Monday, November 17, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Hellraiser: Hellworld (Part 1)

Previously on Hellraiser: Deader...

Ever since the third movie, the Hellraiser movies have had a pattern of the odd numbered ones being decent(ish) and the even numbered being atrocious. Hellraiser 7: Deader was no exception, as the movie started off GREAT and even though it fell apart like all these movies do, it still didn't make me all that mad like Hellseeker did. Going off that criteria, that makes it one of the best Hellraiser movies ever!

Like I said in the last review, Deader and Hellworld were filmed back to back in Romania. Since all of these straight-to-video sequels are just repurposed scripts, instead of trying to create some kind of interesting two part story (like the Romanian-filmed Prophecy movies did) the filmmakers just went with another totally unrelated script. This was wasn't even a script, but simply a treatment called “Dark Can't Breathe” that was written by Joel Soisson and turned into a screenplay by our old friend Carl V. Dupré. Soisson's name should ring a few bells, as he directed both those aforementioned Prophecy movies.

I've always maintained this is a huge lost opportunity, because with basically the same guys working on both series, how the hell did this not result in a Prophecy/Hellraiser crossover? It's things like this that just go to show Hollywood doesn't get “it” and is afraid of taking any chances, especially when we're talking the realm of straight-to-video. For crying out loud, Dimension Films owns the right to both franchises!

But that's neither here nor there because it didn't happen and now we have Hellworld to take a look at. This is a rather infamous movie, as this is the INTERNET based one because Hellraiser wasn't content to already have completely abandoned its premise by going into outer space, it had to go ALL out in a blaze of batshit insanity.

Internet and horror have almost always gone together as well as water and oil. It was a natural progression for the genre, because in the early 1990s the internet was a “dangerous and scary place”, so that made it ripe for exploration. Some of the earliest examples are the 1992's the Lawnmower Man and the following year's Ghost in the Machine, but I consider the TRUE grandfather of the genre to be 1998's the Last Broadcast. This was a little seen horror film that dealt with the actual internet, and coincidentally doubles as the grandfather of the found footage genre, beating the Blair Witch Project to the punch by a year.

2001's Japanese horror film Kairo (a/k/a Pulse) kicked things up a notch by featuring ghosts doing their killing directly through the internet, but being foreign it didn't hit American shores until many years later. The same year there was .Com For Murder starring... Roger Daltrey and Huey Lewis?! The fuck? THAT'S definitely going in my “movies to track down” list! No one saw this one either, despite it's AMAZING tagline of “In cyberspace no one can hear you scream!”.

2002 got things into full swing with Feardotcom, which I've already discussed in my last review. That also went largely ignored by film goers, so that left Halloween: Resurrection to FINALLY bring internet horror front and center in the eyes of the public. This was, of course, a total disaster that killed the franchise dead for years until Rob Zombie rebooted it, but that's a story for another day. Despite being GODAWFUL, it made a fair amount of money and the game was on. Internet horror movies began flooding the marketplace and continue to this day, as evidenced by countless found footage films and the recently released Cam2Cam which was directed by... Joel Soisson?! Goddamn man, GIVE IT UP! Internet horror will never be a “thing” that works!

Can Hellworld break the streak of endless terrible movies and deliver a good one? Hahah, no. It can't. But let's have fun watching it try because it's now time for A Ghoul Versus Hellraiser: Hellworld, which I am finally getting too after promising to do it six months ago in my Prophecy: Uprising review. See? I may be slow, but I always keep my word.

We open with a funeral for a young man named Adam. Among those in attendance are five of his friends: Mike, Derrick, Allison, Chelsea, and Jake. Mike should be instantly familiar to you, as he's played by Henry Cavill, who would go on to play n bland and boring alien from another world who murdered HUNDREDS of innocent civilians while pointlessly punching fellow aliens in Man of Steel.  But hey, at least he rocked some KILLER abs in that movie!

Derrick is played by Khary Payton, who is pretty famous for his voice over work in cartoons such as Teen Titans, Young Justice, and Ben 10, as well as video games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and the just released Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Allison is portrayed by Anna Tolputt, who really hasn't done much besides this movie. Chelsea's actress is Katheryn Winnick, who is currently starring on the History Channel's hit show Vikings. She also starred in the FINALLY released after four years in the making sci-fi film Radio Free Albemuth, which I REALLY want to see so expect a review soon. Finally we have Christopher Jacot as Jake, Hellworld being his biggest role to date. Sad!

Chelsea goes up to the closed coffin to look at her friend, slowly opening it as dramatic music begins to play. Gee, I wonder what's going to happen here? Just kidding, I know EXACTLY what's going to happen. Adam's corpse leaps out and grabs her for the World's Most Telegraphed jump scare, and then she wakes up on her couch screaming. Oh wow, I hate this movie already. I wonder, have these films EVER had a proper transition between scenes?

A caption informs us it's two years later as someone begins knocking on her door. She opens it to see the Chatterer Cenobite standing there, oh wait my bad, it's just Mike in a Chatterer mask. She's not scared at all, telling him Cenobites don't exist and even if they did she never opened the Lament Configuration so she'd have nothing to fear. Well... that's the franchise totally exposed and deflated, way to go Rick Bota! It really creates a lot of tension in your horror film when the characters already know precisely what's going on from the word “go”.

Mike sits down at her computer and boots up an e-invite to the Fifth Annual Hellworld gaming party, held at the Leviathan House. Yes, all of the lore from Hellraiser has now been turned into an online video game. I sure hope nothing happens to make it all real and suck everyone playing it inside! That'd be... a really shitty plot for a movie. Chelsea isn't interested in attending because she's grown out of it, but Derrick and Allison are down as hell. Chelsea soon relents, talked into it by Allison. She drives them all out of this movie and straight into Every 1990s Teen Road Trip Movie Ever, complete with generic alt-rock song “It Ends” by Bosshouse, because I guess the Goo Goo Dolls or Third Eye Blind were too expensive to license.

We get a charming scene of a beautiful woman walking around topless at the raging party, Derrick commenting it's a “gratuitous tit shot” but Mike corrects him that it's a “necessary tit shot”. Whoops, I think the actors got confused and read the description notes in Dupré's script instead of their lines. How embarrassing! You think someone would have caught that in editing... Jake also shows up, which surprises everyone as he's been avoiding everyone since Adam's funeral. It's said he blames them for Adam's suicide, as he was too caught up in the Hellworld game and no one helped him with his addiction which eventually turned fatal.

No time for clumsy exposition though, because motherfucking LANCE HENRIKSEN just entered the room! BOOM! Henriksen is, in my humble opinion, one of of the greatest actors alive and even if you disagree with that, you can't argue that he's one of the most INTENSE. An absolute professional, it doesn't matter how crappy of a C-grade movie he might be in, he's going to give it his all and elevate the movie to a higher level through sheer force of will. They truly broke the mold when they made this man.

This is something a homecoming party for Henriksen, as he was originally asked to play Frank Cotton in the first Hellraiser, but he declined to star in Kathyrn Bigelow's insanely underrated vampire movie Near Dark instead. While this is a loss for Hellraiser as Henriksen would have kicked nine levels of ass as Uncle Frank, it was a huge gain for everyone else as Near Dark is fucking amazing. If you've never seen it (or even heard of it), I definitely recommend hunting it down... or just wait for the review I have planned in a couple of months.

Henriksen introduces himself as the host of the party, having no name besides the Host. He gives the five a tour of the building and all its occult artifacts, taking them down to the basement which is full of preserved human remains. The Host notes how unimpressed Chelsea is by all of this, so he grabs her arm and jams a fucking nail into it! Pinhead pulls out the nail while she has visions of being buried alive, telling her that Adam was right. This turns out to all be a hallucination, because of course it does. I'd point out how this makes no sense since no box was opened to summon Pinhead, but I'm having too much fun watching Henriksen so I'll let it go.

Taking them back upstairs, the hosts shows them a display of white masks with four digit numbers on the foreheads with a shelf full of Nokia cellphones below them. He says everyone will have a mask, and if they wish to engage in some “anonymous debauchery” all they have to do is dial the number of a person wearing a mask. Mike and Derrick happily grab a phone, which also makes no sense because they appear to be dating Chelsea and Allison respectively. Maybe they're both open relationships?

Also, I can't overstate how SURREAL it is to see Henry Cavill acting with enthusiasm and passion. I'm only familiar with his work from Man of Steel, where he was in FULL ON cardboard cutout mode and had as much of a screen presence as one of the eight million product placement shots that movie featured. Jake, who is playing the part of Captain Buzzkill, grabs a phone as well. We learn he's only here to see a girl he met online, but has no idea what she looks like. I really hope it's Pinhead catfishing him, because since this movie is as far removed from a Hellraiser movie as humanly possible they may as well have some fun with it. Tone wise, this feels exactly like a Final Destination or Urban Legends movie: a bunch of horny teens party and crack wise until the inevitable murders begin to happen.

I guess they aren't dating, as we see Mike trying to make time with Chelsea but she's still hung up on Adam. He blows it and she storms off, leaving him alone to muse that maybe if he packed on maybe fifty pounds of muscle she wouldn't have said no. Hmm... Elsewhere Allison goes exploring in the house, finding a room with an ominous looking wooden chair in the middle of it. Foolishly ignoring the horror sting music that begins to play, she sits down and it springs to life with manacles clamping around her arms and legs. That was a rookie mistake!

A bar lowers in front of her neck with two buzzsaws on it, the Host appearing and telling her she has nothing to fear as long as the blades aren't turned on. Which is the next thing he does, because that's how he rolls. One down, four to go. Pinhead also makes an appearance to taunt her about Adam as she's sliced open, and now I think I get what's going on. The game they played two years ago was real and actually DID open a puzzle box, even if it was a virtual one. This is how Pinhead is able to engage in his wacky, bloody hijinx.

Chelsea hears Allison screaming and goes looking for her, but gets distracted when she sees Adam across the room. The movie does the “character turns away and the other character follows” bit you've seen 4.1 million times already, Chelsea following him into a room that locks her in. The Host leaves to find Jake, telling him he's a smarter player than the others. He gives him a puzzle box that Adam made, Jake immediately proving him wrong by trying to open it. These people freaking people, I tell you! Nails shoot out and pierce his thumb, Pinhead doing his thing and telling him it isn't just a game.

Jake backs into the wall and finds himself alone in the room, looking out the window to see the Host digging a grave outside. Spooked, he goes back to the party where he finds no one can see or hear him anymore. Next up is Derrick, who is dancing with a fine young thang on the dance floor until he gets an asthma attack. He drops his inhaler and it falls down a vent to the basement, so he takes off after it. I'm sure that won't turn into some kind of horrific trap or anything. We cut to Mike, who is getting a blowjob from a masked woman he met when Chelsea calls him to let her out of the room. He admonishes her for blowing him off and then cracks a smile, realizing the irony of his comment given his current situation. Hot damn Cavill is hilarious! Is it too late to cast him as the Green Lantern?

Derrick finds his inhaler behind a grate in another hilarious scene as he can't pull the grate of the wall even though we can CLEARLY see it's not attached and he has to push it BACK in. Given the numerous mistakes in his trilogy of movies, I think it's safe to say Bota fucking HATES multiple takes. Derrick tries going to the other side of the grate, finding himself back in the human remains room. This turns out to be a poor decision, because Pinhead grabs a meat cleaver and CUTS HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF. Yes, because when I think of Pinhead I think of Generic Movie Slasher #5,614,202. Pinhead would NEVER lower himself to such a level, and I have eight movies to back me up on this. To my UTTER SHOCK however, Pinhead doesn't crack some kind of witty one liner after the murder. GYP! We see the Host digging another grave.

Invisible Jake notices a nun looking at him from the next floor up, so he takes the stairs after her. The nun is Sister Ursula, whom was in a painting the Host pointed out during his tour. She's played by an actress named Catalina Alexandru, who must have followed the production crew around Romania because she was in the last movie as well as the Prophecy: Uprising but I don't remember her having any kind of speaking part in either. For what it's worth she also had a bit part in the fourth Pumpkinhead movie, which also starred Henriksen and was also filmed back to back in Romania with the third Pumpkinhead movie. The more you know!

Ursula, who is now completely naked, begins to kiss him. I've seen enough horror movies to know this is NEVER a good thing, but Jake likes to play with fire because he goes on to have sex with her. DAYMN, he's practically begging to be killed as graphically as possible at this point! After they're done Jake begins to have a vision of Adam digging a hole in a room somewhere, which we also briefly saw at the very beginning of the movie. A puzzle box near Adam springs to life and opens, Pinhead emerging to watch him dig. Okay?

Chelsea gets a call from... Allison (?) who is screaming for help and then gets a text saying “Adam was right!”. Oh my God, Pinhead is fucking TEXTING now? Is that really how the Lord of Hell is going to go out? What next, he's going to start sending out mean tweets? Via an intercom in the room the Host's voice broadcasts some vague threats, so she uses the phone to call 911! HOLY SHIT, competence in a horror movie?! What fresh madness be this? I doubt it'll work, but mega points for at least thinking to try.

Click here for Part 2!