Hellraiser: Judgment follows in the path of the previous installments in the Hellraiser franchise. In this sequel, we see a trio of detectives trying to catch a serial killer and solve the mysterious happenings in a seemingly abandoned house.
Hellraiser: Judgment Review
There isn't much to be proud of in this somehow-still-alive franchise that hasn't put out anything of note since its third installment. You could even go as far as to say the first two are the only decent ones and most of the rest of the franchise takes a lot of love of the mythos to push through. I've seen all of them at one time or another, and it's gotten increasingly difficult to push through to the end, yet I keep coming back for more. Thankfully, this installment, while still carrying that direct-to-DVD charm, carries a sense of depth to the mythos that makes it a decent watch.
Again, it's worth noting that there is a bit of expectation associated with this franchise...you simply can't expect much in terms of acting or writing quality, unless someone of horror talent comes along and decides to give it a reboot of sorts. Yet, there's something about this franchise that has made it avoid the reboot machine. I think it definitely has to do with the cenobites...the hellspawn that carry the horror of the franchise in their lust-meets-mutilation ways. It's a big deal, even now, any time an actor dons the Pinhead costume. They are so timeless and so well designed from the first time around that it seems to be an untouchable sin to consider rebooting them. What could you change to make them any more viscerally terrifying?
So we're left with an increasingly-terrible trail of sequels that can't seem to capture any of the gruesome magic of the originals...but Judgment does a decent enough job of it. Firstly, we are introduced to a new cenobite called the Auditor, who brings a macabre charm to the genre that even Pinhead manages incapable of. The Auditor is a morbid delight on camera in every scene he's in, as he chats matter-of-factly with the fresh meat of the film. The world created here doesn't feel quite like Hellraiser, as it's less fantastical and more gritty and grounded. It takes away some of the mystique and wonder and replaces it with relatable grunge. It's different, but mostly effective.
The characters are forgettable, the writing is pedestrian, and the acting is weak, but the story is a fun enough romp with an awkwardly delivered, but philosophically intriguing, ending. In fact, the whole plot is a fun perspective on the "what if" of angel/demon heirarchy, structure and purpose. It's something that is generally avoided in sequels past, as the intentions of the cenobites is merely left as they are almost mindless cogs of the sin-fueled punishment machine.
Hellraiser is a franchise with an iconic set of villains that we love to see, but wish somehow the magic could outlast its failures. Judgment makes it seem that it's possible for the trudging horror franchises of the world to recover some level of quality in its seemingly neverending sequels. Maybe it's possible there is something to build on here in the future.
Horror Rating System Horror Qualifier: 9/10 Horror Quality: 7/10 Film Quality: 4/10