Monday, November 17, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Hellraiser: Revelations

Previously on Hellraiser: Hellworld...

Evil went online. Or did it? You know, if you sit down and think about it the internet barely even figured into the events of Hellworld. I mean, Adam killed himself because of the game for reasons that were NEVER explained and everyone got their invitations to the party via a computer game, but that was it. The rest of the movie was just Lance Henriksen playing mind games with a bunch of idiots, which was OH SO satisfying to watch.

Movies, like nearly everything in life, aren't exempt from contracts. Contracts lay out the numerous legal provisions and rights involved in the production of a movie, one of the aspects involving the expiration date of said contract. That is to say if a movie isn't made in a certain amount of time the rights expire, and either go back to the original holder or can go up sale so anyone can buy them.

This isn't usually a problem for most franchises, as the Sequel Train is the strongest force alive in Hollywood besides greed and Nicholas Sparks movies featuring pretty white people.  But in some extreme cases a movie can't be made during the agreed upon time frame, so to keep the rights the producers will make what is commonly known as an “ash can copy”. This term originates from the world of comic books where publishers would throw together a cheaply made comic book (usually with unfinished art and lettering) to maintain their copyright on a certain character or title and then throw all the printed copies away into the “ash can”.

This practice grew into pretty much all forms of media, including my personal favourite regarding some of Bob Dylan's music. Sony, who held the rights to some of his songs, wanted to keep the copyright on these so they released an OFFICIAL compilation in 2012 called “Bob Dylan: The Copyright Extension Collection Volume I”, which is probably the only time in the history of recorded music where a record label has been THAT brutally honest. That title just cracks me up, I would love the rest of the industry to follow suit and release stuff like “Katy Perry: Generic Autotune Compilation #4,771” or “U2's Outtakes We're Now Going To Charge You Money For”.

Hollywood isn't exempt from this either, especially in an industry where the majority of its work is based off licensed material such as books and comics. The most famous example of this is Roger "The God of Low Budget Movies" Corman's 1994 film The Fantastic Four, which was made for a paltry million dollars just so the license holders could keep their rights to the property before they expired and reverted back to Marvel Comics. It's a really fascinating story where select few people knew they weren't making a real movie, information that wasn't shared with most of the cast and crew so they promoted the thing like it was going to be released into theaters.

Based off many of the sequels we get in this day and age, this practice is believed to be practiced a lot more than we think, the ash can movies just having more money thrown at them to make them look a little shinier than usual. People often like to accuse Fox's X-Men and Sony's the Amazing Spider-Man movies of doing this, especially now the Disney owns Marvel and would LOVE those properties back. While I think the X-Men movies have too much care put into them (well, aside from the Last Stand and the Wolverine spin-offs) to be guilty of this, one sure does have to wonder about Sony after seeing the Amazing Spider-Man 2.

This brings us to Hellraiser: Revelations, which is absolutely an ash can movie. It'd been six years since Hellworld came out and the rights were set to expire, so in 2011 Dimension Films tossed $300,000 at director Victor Garcia and told him to make a movie in a few weeks. Doug Bradley, not at all impressed by this, declined to participate so that meant we'd have a Hellraiser movie without the true Pinhead in it. After hearing they were advertising the film as “from the mind of Clive Barker”, Barker himself tweeted:

“I have NOTHING to do with the fuckin' thing. If they claim its from the mind of Clive Barker, it's a lie. It's not even from my butt-hole.”.

DAMN! That sums up the state of this movie quite well, I should think. Production lasted a mere three weeks and the movie was “released” into a single theater for a showing largely attended by the cast and crew on March 18, 2011. This did its job though, as Dimension was able to extend their rights and hammer down a deal with both Barker and Bradley to make the big budget reboot that is currently in ye olde pipeline.  One positive to come out of all this is the script, written by longtime make up artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe, was actually CREATED from scratch and wasn't some hastily rewrite of a different story. Whether the script is any good or not remains to be seen, but at least it's something original. You gotta find that silver lining wherever you can when it comes to Hellraiser movies.

This marks Garcia's fourth horror sequel, as he's brought us follow ups like Return to House on Haunted Hill, 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails, and Mirrors 2. Wow, that's, um, quite the filmography there. We're FINALLY at the end of my Hellraiser movie retrospective, so let's see how the NINTH film fares because it's time for A Ghoul Versus Silent Hill: Revelations! No wait, the Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations! Hold on, I meant Assassin's Creed: Revelations! Wait, I don't review video games on here. The Watchers: Revelations? What the fuck is that? How about Children of the Corn: Revelation? Close, but I think I meant to say Hellraiser: Revelations!

We open with FOUND FOOTAGE- fuck me! Is the entire movie going to be like this?! DO NOT tell me that it is. I didn't sign up for this! Alright, anyway we open with found footage of Steven Craven and Nico Bradley heading to Mexico for some good ol' fashioned partying. Huh huh, Craven and Bradley, whatever could THOSE names be a reference to? Why former NHL players Murray Craven and Matt Bradley, of course! DUH!

The footage cuts of them planning their debauchery to them discovering their car has been stolen, trapping them in Mexico. Now THAT is a plot for a horror movie. It then jumps to Nico opening the puzzle box, which summons... some guy who kind of looks like Pinhead if he was cast in the gritty reboot of Supersize Me. He also sounds NOTHING like him because he's voiced by Fred Tatasciore, who was probably done voices for more cartoons and video games than you've ever seen or played in your entire life. Multiplied by two. On screen he's portrayed by an actor named Stephan Smith Collins, who was in an episode of Castle once.

Since Pinfake just walks into the room at a completely flat angle since they can't afford any CGI lightning, Garcia tries to compensate for how lame this is by having Steven shake the camera around like it's a ketchup bottle. Ah yes, the rare shaky cam TALKY scene. Pinfake rants about the consequences of opening the box as it transitions to a crying woman watching the footage on a camcorder. OH THANK GOD, the found footage is done and now we're back to being a real movie. Well, as real as a fly by night legal obligation movie can be.

This is Steven's mother Sarah, as we learn the boys have been missing for a year now and she watches the footage over and over again. She joins her husband Ross for dinner with Nico's parents Peter and Kate, who are all having difficulty coming to terms with the disapperance of their sons. How is all of this conveyed to us, you might ask? By Steven's sister/Nico's girlfriend Emma, whom I'm just going to call Exposition because every line of dialogue she says is just that. They should have just had her narrate this whole thing the way she talks.

You might notice I haven't credited any of these actors besides Pinfake, and that's because they're not really that famous. Shocking, right? That a 300,000 budget wouldn't bring in Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock? The most famous here is Ross' actor Stevenn Brand, who played the bad guy in 2002's the Scorpion King. We've briefly seen Kate's actress Sanny Van Heteren before as she was an unnamed hotel receptionist in Liam Neeson's Unknown.  Although to be fair to her, she does have a larger role in the film Anna which was released this year and is somewhere in my review bin, so we'll see her again.

Exposition storms out of the dining room after throwing a fit no one will level with her, so she sneaks into Steven's room to look at the camcorder footage. This cuts to a flashback of the boys getting their party on, which is BEYOND stupid because it jumps from first person to third person every other shot. Ugh, I think I'm getting sick. This ends up with Nico nailing a lovely lady in the bathroom, which upsets Exposition because they were supposed to be dating. Steven passes out on the bathroom floor after catching them , woken up by Nico who has a serious case of “Let's GTFO!”. Curious, Steven looks in the stall and sees the woman's head is splattered all over the stall. Nico says he has no idea how it happened because he was too drunk to know what was going on.

Rummaging through her brother's things some more, Exposition finds the puzzle box and takes it outside to open it. I wouldn't do that Emma- nah, actually go ahead. I'm not vested in you in the slightest. It opens and she finds herself confronted by... a blood soaked Steven? Wha? She brings him inside, her parents telling her to call an ambulance but OF COURSE the phone won't work. Tunnicliffe- err, I mean Ross spells out all the reasons they can't use any other phones to call for help, so Peter says he'll go get his car to drive them to the hospital. That car will TOTALLY start, by the way. Totally. Oh, I guess there'd have to be a car to attempt to start because everyone's vehicles have now vanished. Holy crap, what if they manage to combine this C-level ash can movie with Found Footage AND a Home Invasion?! That might be enough to break the Schlock-o-Meter for good!

Steven is too incoherent to speak properly, mumbling something about “don't let them find me” and “I'm not going back”, which I assume is in reference to the producers of this movie. Ross orders everyone to lock all the doors into the house, which seems kind of pointless since there's gigantic glass windows everywhere. He grabs his shotgun because this has now indeed transitioned into a Home Invasion movie, which was actually a review theme I had planned for next year so consider this a preview because it sure as hell isn't a Hellraiser movie despite being written to be one.

We get a quick scene of Pinfake turning Nico into Pinfake Jr. and WOW do I miss Doug Bradley. It is almost jaw dropping how much of a presence he had versus the new guy, who likes like he just won seventeenth place in a Halloween costume contest. Back in the house Exposition pulls out the puzzle box and begins playing with it, which causes all the lights in the house to go out admisdt a minor earthquake.

When the lights come back on Steven is gone, everyone splitting up to find him. Brilliant! Make sure you go check that strange noise upstairs too. They find him outside rambling about the Cenobites, which triggers another flashback. This one takes place in a strip bar where the boys are hiding out and trying to figure out what to do after the dead woman episode. The homeless guy from the earlier films, who the series kinda forgot about halfway through, shows up and gives them the puzzle box which he promises them will show the ultimate heights of pleasure and pain. Or something, I don't really know, this scene goes on for about two years.

They return to their motel room to open it, having seemingly forgotten all about that nasty bit of dead woman hanging over their heads.  Just like we saw in the opening, Pinhead enters but we don't get to see the aftermath again.  The next shot is Steven leaving the motel room and ending up going home with a hooker because priorities! They proceed to have some very awkward looking sex, the box telling Steven to kill her. He beats her to death with it, a skinless Nico crawling out of the bed thanks to both her blood and Tunnicliffe not really understanding the first two films. He tells Steven to bring him more, and this is the part where I want to point out how completely AWFUL the acting in this movie has been so far.

This is pretty much one of those “the actor say their lines and that's it” kind of films, but even that might be giving them too much credit. Any kind of shock over the hooker's death is ruined by Nico, who almost sounds like he said his lines as fast as possible to keep from laughing. I can't say I blame him. The flashback over, Steven warns the Cenobites are coming and passes out. Inside the house Exposition looks up the word in the dictionary, finding it means “a member of a religious group living together in a monastic community”. I have to admit some major ignorance here, because I didn't even KNOW that was a real word so point to the movie for that. But then I immediately take that point back, because this added nothing to the movie's story.

Down in the kitchen Peter tries to open the box but can't, so Exposition takes it from him and shows him the proper way to do it. This scene is highly strange as she begins to get off on it, creating some thick sexual tension with her boyfriend's father with everyone else in the room. Sarah notices this and puts a stop to it, telling Exposition to bring some soup to her brother. She doesn't add “and please try not to fuck anyone on the way, okay sweetie?”, even though I'm sure she was dying to.

On the way out Exposition runs her hand along Peter's back, Sarah staring daggers at him. He shrugs it off with a look that has “Hey, what do you want from me? It's not my fault your daughter is now likely possessed by sadomasochistic demons!”. Exposition brings Steven his soup, and now THEY have some thick sexual tension brewing. Uh oh! Quick movie, distract me with some fucking atrocious acting so I don't throw up! The movie is happy to oblige me... at first, until Steven starts talking about how much Exposition has grown up and how beautiful she's become. Cut away, CUT AWAY! Unless... this is really Nico WEARING Steven's skin because that used to be a thing in this series. Remember that? Adding to that, Pinfake Jr. is actually Steven and not Nico, because it's hard to tell who is who under the shitty make up. Let's PRAY that's what's going on here.

They begin to make out until Exposition has a vision of Steven without his skin so runs out of the room. Ross and Peter go outside to search the grounds, finding the hobo standing in the bushes. Peter, who is pretty drunk by now, gets pissed and shoots him dead with a shotgun. The hobo shrugs this off and cuts off most of Peter's face with a knife, then just calmly walks away. Ross brings him back into the house but it's too late, Peter is the first to die in our little group. He looks like he'll be quickly joined by Ross, who is gut shot by a very nonchalant Steven who enters the room... from outside. Even though he was just upstairs in his bedroom.

Flashback time shows us Steven about to kill another hooker for Skinless Nico, until he's distracted by her crying baby in the next room. Oh Lord, they wouldn't would they? It's bad enough we're left with the thought of the woman leaving her baby completely alone in her home while she goes out to pick up men, but we have THIS ugly act hanging over the scene?  Steven can't bring himself to kill her because she's a mother, so Nico kicks him out and kills the woman himself. Steven goes out into the hallway as we hear the baby's cries ended with a sickening crunch AND FUCK YOU FOREVER MOVIE. This is just pure, unadulterated SHIT and everyone involved in the production of this should be ashamed of themselves. Hell, they should have been ashamed BEFORE this scene. After what is probably the most vile scene I've had to watch in any of my reviews so far, Steven says he is done helping with this abomination so Nico knocks him out and takes his skin.

I'm not even happy that I figured out Steven was really Nico, I just want this movie to end. This flashback ends and apparently everyone as able to see it, because they all know Steven's true identity. Maybe he was describing what happened to them? That can't be, because Sarah asks where Steven is. Unless Nico didn't tell her all the details of the flashback, and why am I prolonging this thing any longer than I have to?

Nico reveals his mother was having an affair with Ross because at an hour in, this film REALLY needed more subplots. He makes Exposition get the puzzle box for him, announcing his plan to trade her soul in exchange for his freedom. He makes her open the box, and hey it's the Pillar of Souls! Haven't seen that in FOREVER! Pinfake, Pinfake Jr., and some third rate Chatterer show up, Pinfake killing Kate to finally shut up her attempts to acting up. Either that, or because she committed adultery, the rules for what he does are so loose at this point it's hard to say.

His deal wit the Cenobites rejected by Pinfake, Nico finds himself chained up for his trouble. Before Nico can get taken to Hell though, Ross grabs the shotgun and kills him which doesn't make a lot of sense since he's definitely going to Hell anyway but... revenge, I guess? This only serves to piss off Pinfake, who uses his hooks to snare Sarah. Pinfake Jr. and Chatterer drag her off into the darkness and out of our sight so we don't have to look at the shitty makeup effects anymore. Pinfake warns he'll be waiting for the day the darkness inside Exposition awakens, and when that day comes he'll be waiting for her. Exposition wakes up back in her house with her father, who bleeds out and dies. She sees the box lying on the living room table, picking it up and looking DIRECTLY AT US. Cut to black.

Cue the credits.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck this movie! The movie was filmed off the first draft of the script and boy does it show. Incoherent and sloppy, this desperately needed another few passes until it resembled an actual story with an actual ending. Oh, and a higher budget. And Doug Bradley. And some decent actors. And a different director. And how about a scene where they DON'T kill a baby?! Seriously though, FUCK. THIS. MOVIE. I think the only way they could have turned in a bigger piece of shit is if Exposition lunged at the camera after looking at us.

God, this was just disgusting in every sense of the word. The Fantastic Four ash can was never legally released to the public, I wish we could say the same about this movie. I mean, I KNOW this was never intended to be a real movie but in a world where opportunities are damn near once in a lifetime, wouldn't someone, ANYONE, involved in this movie have wanted to try to put any kind of effort into this? Future agents and producers will see this someday, you know. The complete lack of trying to create something with a voice just makes this come off as one of the more cynical cash grabs in recent memory, and I'm including that with any of those goddamn “Parody Movie” movies.

There is NOTHING to recommend here. Going into this, knowing what I did about it, I was hoping for some kind of hilarious movie I could just laugh at and make fun of. But instead I just got some depressing “dark for the sake of dark” bullshit home invasion movie, which is the single worst subgenre I can think of. Again, I'll be talking about why I feel this at great length next year. I wanted to see incomplete scenes and unfinished takes cobbled together into 90 minutes, maybe even some visible boom mics and wobbly sets. Hey, that's something positive I can say about this: the sets looked nice! But the Godawful makeup effects and costumes pretty much negated all of this, especially Pinfake who looked SO BAD. You could even see the lines on his face were uneven!

That's how the Hellraiser series ends, for now at least. Nine movies of almost pure nonsense and shoddy storytelling that culminated in a movie that served as a checklist for everything WRONG with the franchise. It wasn't all bad though as there were a few really sweet scenes that'll stick with me for years, but overall this was just an excruciating experience to sit through. I really thought Saw was going to be the low point for my horror movie retrospectives, but Hellraiser makes it look... well, still pretty bad but not Hellraiser Bad. In fact, that's my new thing from here on out. If I say a movie is Hellraiser Bad, you know I'm not playing around.

Time to wash my hands of this franchise for a very long time, so let's close things out with the Ghoul Breakdown.

1. Which Was The Best Movie?
This is a tough one, but I'm going with Hellraiser III over Hellraiser II. Hellraiser II looked SPECTACULAR and ranks among some of the most haunting visuals I've ever seen in a horror movie, but it suffered from what you could almost describe as a non-story. And here on A Ghoul Versus, we're huge fans of substance OVER style so Hell on Earth gets the nod. It's arguably the only movie in the entire series with an actual story full of motivations and consequences, whereas all the others are just... God, who knows?

2. Which Was The Worst Movie?
Revelations, Revelations, REVELATIONS. 'nuff said. Although you could make the case this wasn't a real movie, so if you're in that camp then my pick is Hellseeker. Not only did that have the most unintelligable story of the entire series, it turned my beloved Kirsty Cotton into a FUCKING SERIAL KILLER.

3. Which Movie Had The Best Hero?
This another tough one. Of course my answer is going to be Kirsty, but from which movie? She really didn't do much in Part I for most of the movie and in Hellseeker she had to MURDER FIVE FUCKING PEOPLE to beat Pinhead, so I'm going with her performance in Part II. Joey Summerskill from Part III is a very close second though, because she was incredibly bad ass and definitely stood her ground when push came to shove. Being played by the super awesome Terry Farrell sure didn't hurt either.

4. Which Movie Had The Worst Hero?
Hellseeker is just raking up the “wins”, isn't it? Here's another one, because Trevor Gooden takes this one easily. A cheating scumbag who tried to kill Kirsty and was boring as dirty dishwater to boot, what's not to hate about him?

5. Which Movie Had The Best Villain?
Pinhead from Part III in a unanimous decision, as he was undeniably a villain in this one with a concrete goal of world domination. He was so bad ass here even his own leftover humanity revolted against him and tried to stop him! I'd be remiss if I didn't give the consolation prize to Lance Henriksen's the Host from Hellworld, he had himself a very intricate and detailed plan of pure evil and revenge.

6. Which Movie Had The Worst Villain?
Gosh, whoever is going to take this one? Once again if you don't accept Revelations as a movie, then ignore me giving the award to Pinfake and pretend I gave it to Winter Lemarchand from Deader. I honestly couldn't tell you what he was trying to accomplish or if he was even a villain, which are detriments if you're the main antagonist of a motion picture.

7. Which Movie Had The Best Love Interest?
For the second straight movie retrospective, I've reviewed a series where love doesn't exist. Maybe I'll go for three in a row and review all of M. Night Shymalan's movies next?