When you have been going for almost 20 years, the piles of stories you can adapt start to become samey, and conventional scares start to become obsolete in the face of new horrors. In 2005, The Hellraiser franchise looked inwards, and at the world, to find its footing in an increasingly changing world. The next instalment managed to deliver just that in Hellraiser VIII: Hellworld.
We break into the realms of meta, as the world of Hellraiser has become a video game for teens to waste away the hours in an online sensation called Hellworld. A group of Hellworld obsessed teens get invited to a party at a secluded mansion. The estate is filled with many artefacts of the franchise and a mysterious host. As the party carries on in the night the group becomes separated, the party soon becomes one to die for as fictional foes start to act very real.
Ditching the spec scripts comes Hellworld, and while it would follow the convention to have Pinhead become an online killer, this is not how this story plays out. Admirers of pulpy T.V. dramas (from the time) will be familiar with the entertainment industry’s distrust of the rising internet, so the online world making an appearance in the series would have been inevitable, and its role here fits well. There are some traces of comedy in the film in a way that rewards veterans for sticking with the series. But we mainly get a combination of a haunted house and a Saw-inspired slasher, unexplored territory for the franchise. This film is also pretty meta, if you drink every time someone says Hellworld, you would be passed out in 10 mins. Accoutrements from the seven films are here to remind the audience just how far the franchise has come, and the house has a pretty good collection of new artefacts regardless.
Lance Henriksen is a treat as the unnamed Host, as he was almost cast as Frank in the original, this is just a way that the meta manifests itself. Hellworld is almost reminiscent of Henriksen’s work in Millennium with its moody look and ample amounts of Henriksen’s narration towards the end. But the names do not stop there, a young Henry Cavill is one of the teens invited, a good choice, due to his real life fondness for video games. The rest of the cast performs well, especially as they are picked off (the whole reason why the audience is here).
In a nice almost meta look at what has had been inspired by the success of Hellraiser, Hellraiser Hellworld is a celebration that mixes its set pieces up with some novel ideas. A shrewd haunted house slasher with equal parts clever kills and intriguing plotline. The new additions shine here as they cement themselves as some of the best in the franchise. As its name suggests, Hellworld is a real hot ticket.
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