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‘Hellraiser’ (2022): Choose your Configuration

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Spoilers live in the puzzle box!

A freshly flayed new take on Clive Barker’s original 1987 Horror classic, Hellraiser 2022 features recovering junkie Riley and her boyfriend Trevor attempting to unravel the mysteries of the Box and a new gang of Cenobites!

So disclaimers – Moxie is a huge giant Clive Barker fan, reads his books, fan-girls over his live panels at cons and of course watches his movies, including dutifully sitting through nine film sequels since the first Hellraiser movie so long ago. Moxie’s take on the last HR film, Judgement, is long and opinionated and can be viewed here. But now we dive deep into a brand new take on pains and chains, complete with a new leader of the Cenobites, the creature affectionately known as Pinhead!

Roland Voight (Goran Visnjic) is one of those rich deluded men with far more money and desires, than sense. And in the grand tradition of Captain Elliot Spencer, the Host of Hellworld, Philip LeMarchand and many others, the Puzzle Box of yore and lore offers a way to other delights, if only you can solve the puzzle and open it. Voight seems to have understood the concept of paying an expendable to do his dirty work and open the damned Box, but despite all his research into the Cenobites, the Puzzle Box and even Hell itself, he still hasn’t learned that one does not demand an audience with Leviathan without being prepared for some seriously bloody consequences.

And it’s after those horrific consequences that our story truly begins, with the introduction of the downtrodden recovering addict Riley (Odessa A’zion) and her flake of a boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey), mindlessly romping in her room while her brother Matt (Brandon Flynn), his boyfriend Colin (Adam Faison) and their pal Nora (Aiofe Hinds) unwillingly listen in. A common recurring theme in Hellraiser is the desperation of the dregs of society, the junkies and the homeless and such like, and Riley and Trevor are no different, despite Riley’s insistence that she’s sober when clearly, she’s at the very least suffering withdrawal. And it’s in those moments of weakness and despair, when her brother and the roommates have seemingly persecuted her to the last straw, that Riley agrees to a plan Trevor proposes that seems sketchy at best, to break into an supposedly abandoned vault and steal the contents for fencing.

Inevitably, the not-so-abandoned vault doesn’t house jewels or cash, but rather, a single safe bearing a single fairly easy to open box, and in that box lies the real treasure, for those with the heart and mind to know it – the infamous Puzzle Box of Hellraiser, aka the Lament Configuration and Lemarchand’s masterpiece puzzle cube, the portal that opens the way for the Cenobites and other denizens of Hell.

The updated design for the Puzzle Box has much more of a moving-puzzle feel to it, and indeed, the fact that the Box needs multiple blood sacrifices and to go through several configurations, each with its own powers and complications, before the damned thing will finally open its portals, is a very Hellraiser thing to do. People are complicated, everyone deserves to go to Hell in their own particular way, and this new Puzzle Box seems to have an actual life or some kind of consciousness of its own that responds to the individual caressing its parts, tracing its roots all the way back to Clive Barker’s original writings in The Hellbound Heart and other HR-related materials. Check out a writeup of all the new Configurations here.

After a particularly nasty confrontation with Voight’s lawyer Serena Menaker (Hiam Abbass), where she learns that Cenobites always collect their due, a revelatory visit to Voight’s mansion where Riley learns much more on the box, the Cenobites and even Hell itself, and discovers that her poor brother Matt has been flayed, the grisly dreadful chase and reveal of the other Cenobites and the Priest herself begins in earnest.

The new designs of the various Cenobites – the Mother (Gorica Regodic), the Weeper (Yinka Olorunnife), the Asphyx (Zachary Hing), the Gasp (Selina Lo), the Masque (Vukasin Jovanovic), and the Chatterer (Jason Liles), plus the head Priest – each have updated designs that you just know come with Hellish backstories that I personally want to know right now. Rather than clad head to toe in leather-spiked fetish gear as in Barker’s original vision, the color palette for each Cenobite screams originality and careful, even obsessive, attention to detail. Lead costume concept designer Keith Thompson in particular did a uniquely, beautifully grotesque, job that sets these Cenobites apart from their counterparts in all the previous Hellraiser movies.

And the hook-headed elephant in the room must be addressed – the new head Hell Priest, aka Pinhead, complete with an updated look and a brand new actor playing the role, Jamie Clayton. There was already a series of new Pinhead actors – Paul T. Taylor, who did an arguably serviceable job as Pinhead in Judgment, and the beleaguered Stephan Smith Collins from Revelations, poor thing – but this is the first time a woman (other than the comics) has been the pin-headed leader of the Order of the Gash. Her updated and feminine look, from the skin-like draped dress in place of vestments to the delicately sinister pearl-headed actual pins (as opposed to the nails Pinhead usually wears) in her face, that incredible voice that ominously arrives from the keyhole lodged in her throat and just a sheer sense of absolute presence that Jamie Clayton gives the Hell Priest, this new leader of the Cenobites was fully endorsed by Doug Bradley himself, and she absolutely kills that role. It also bears noting that the Gasp, Pinhead’s second in command, sports the same pearl-headed pins her leader does in her own face, reminiscent of Bradley’s Pinhead and Barbie Wilde’s female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.

Part eternal murder mystery, part haunted-house chase film, part S&M fetish factory and a part roundabout redemption story for a whole new generation of Hellraiser fans, the updated movie that lovingly serves up fleshy ideals straight from Barker’s epic works, can be found on Hulu now!

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Frogfathers lessons from the Normandy surf

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Frog Fathers: Lessons from the Normandy Surf” is a deeply moving documentary directed by Bob Whitney, narrated by John C McGinley, and presented by World of Warships and FORCE BLUE. It chronicles the journey of four Navy SEAL veterans revisiting the site of the D-Day landings to honor their forefathers and gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made during World War II.

The film’s strength lies in its raw emotional impact and historical significance. It blends personal narratives with archival footage, offering a poignant tribute to the bravery and resilience of those who fought on June 6, 1944. The veterans’ reflections and the cinematography effectively capture the solemnity and reverence of their pilgrimage.

While the documentary focuses primarily on the veterans’ experiences, it also serves as an educational tool, highlighting the strategic importance of the Normandy invasion and its pivotal role in shaping modern history. The film’s respectful approach and engaging storytelling make it a compelling watch for anyone interested in military history and the enduring legacy of the D-Day heroes.

Overall, “Frog Fathers” is a powerful and heartfelt documentary that honors the past while inspiring present and future generations to remember the sacrifices made for freedom 

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American Horror Story: Delicate

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As most of us are already aware, the 12th Season of AHS has been fraught with all kinds of differences to the previous seasons, mainly in that this is the first one to be based entirely off a novel, ‘Delicate Condition’ by Danielle Valentine. The first half of the season aired in October 2023 to mediocre reviews, while the SAG-AFTRA strike caused production and airing delays for the latter half of the season, and the episodes of Part 2 were all cut to less than an hour long apiece. And none of that is even getting into the disjointed attempt at storytelling for Season 12, so let’s dive into this! 

Meet Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts), former young ling star of Hollywood now struggling to recapture fame as an adult, who wants a baby, very very badly. Bad enough to drive herself and her husband Dex (Matt Czuchry) through multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF (in-vitro fertilization), bad enough to keep trying no matter how crushing each failure turns out to be, bad enough to involve her purported best friend and bougie publicist Siobhan Corbyn (Kim Kardashian) in her struggles, and maybe, just maybe, bad enough to give up on a burgeoning resurgence of her career after interest in her comeback role for The Auteur begins garnering her Oscar-worthy attention. 

So, Anna and Dex are going to go through yet another round of IVF, likely one of their last attempts at it, from a different doctor, Dr. Andrew Hill (Denis O’Hare), and clinic based on Siobhan’s recommendation. And already, strange things are beginning to happen to Anna – her appointments that she set herself begin springing up incorrectly, a doom saying woman called Preacher (Julia White) shows up spouting warnings about trusting no one, dire warnings appear in unlikely places, and BTW, it seems as though long-suffering but good-nurtured Dex has a side-piece too. It doesn’t help that Dex’s new partner at his art gallery, Sonia Shawcross (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), bears a striking resemblance to his dead ex-wife Adeline, either. Those spiked emerald heels start appearing weirdly too, and it seems as though no one will listen to Anna as she grows more and more suspicious that some sort of sinister cult has designs on her as-yet-unborn baby. At the same time, Anna tries to live the life of a successful returning actress, attending parties and gallery openings while draping her rapidly-expanding middle in shimmering fabrics and actively ‘campaigning’ for that little golden statue that most actors covet. Competition is fierce, even among her co-stars of The Auteur, and while Anna wants to be supportive of her fellow entertainers, she clearly appears to be incapable of doing both at the same time – wanting the baby and the little gold award at the same time is too much to ask, apparently. 

Elsewhere, mostly in the past, various women in states of desperation formed from one situation or another are visited by sinister-looking women in prim black dresses, headgear reminiscent of – to me anyway – an odd cross betwixt birds and bunnies, my guess is an ostensive nod to fertility in general, and a general feeling of blood-bound witchery about them at critical moments of crossroad choices. 

Though the second half of the season moves a good deal faster than the first, the attempts at callbacks and reminder flashes to Part 1 hit with all the impact of a dropped bag of garbage onto their friends Talia’s (Julia Canfield) borrowed bougie kitchen floor – splat, into incomprehensible silence, from all parties, both characters and audience, concerned. Even the reminders that, in Part 1 of Delicate Dex’s mother Virginia Harding (Debra Monk) did indeed have perfectly valid memories of abuse at the hands of a black cult and Dex’s own father Dex Sr. (Reed Birney), the revelation pales and peels away in the face of Dex’s true parentage. 

Which brings us back around full circle kinda sorta, to the only real character worth a damn in this entire miserable season of strange feminism and aspirations of world domination through a kind of idiotic Rosemary’s Baby nightmare scenario, we should have known she’d steal the show when Kardashian was cast for it, Siobhan Corbyn, leader of the blood cult her high and mighty (old) self. Throughout the whole show her character has remained exactly the same, and it’s a wonder Anna can stare at her all stupefied while Siobhan does her villain speech at the end of the last episode. Siobhan never masked her ambition or greed, her mysterious protective vibe and even deep love for Anna, and can always be counted on to have secret plans of her own, already in motion, bitch. 

The idea that Anna herself was used as a surrogate for Siobhan and her incestuous eugenicist plans, plus the sweet little demon baby she just birthed, has an ironic the-world-is-tilting-the-wrong-way kind of witchy madness to it. Sure, Anna really can have it all, the baby and the golden statue, if only she joins the patriarchy-crushing cabal of blood witches with world domination plans, got it. 

I have questions, or I would have, but things are moving on and Anna is being saved by … Dex’s dead ex, Adaline the former member of the coven right okay her, she’s going to show back up and offer Anna a simple chant to Hestia her patron Goddess, and that is somehow enough to deal with Siobhan entirely – poof. And finally, after all that rigamarole, decades of planning and scheming and witchy plotting finally settled, Anna really can have it all as a White Witch of Hollywood, heaven help us, with her perfectly human baby and that damned little golden statue, clutched in an only slightly desperate grip. 

As with any season of AHS there are a great deal of statements that could be implied just under the skin of the season – the canker way of ambition, the millenia-old pain of a woman giving birth, the savagery and bloodshed that comes with bringing forth life, pushback against both the patriarchy and ultra-feminism, the absolute desperation of humans wanting to have a child, and perhaps strangest and most open to interpretation of all, what it means to be feminine. The worlds population of women who can’t or don’t or simply won’t have children, for any reason or none, are relegated to servants, expendable servants at that, for this new world order that Siobhan is proposing, and that is far too close a comfort to things like outright slavery. A dictator is a dictator, no matter how great she looks in those emerald spiked heels. 

It’s not the really beautiful grotesquerie that Ryan Murphy and his AHS gang are often known for, nor is it utterly terrible and should be burned at the stake. What Delicate should be, is put back together with missing and cut footage, an hour long per episode again come on folks, fleshed some more of Siobhan’s baby-stealing adventures in the past and given us an actual reason to like anything about the whiny Anna, at least the Part 2 we as longtime AHS fans deserve. Toss in some more spidery hijinks! Give us the actual origin of those weird feather bunny-ear headdresses! 

American Horror Story Delicate the whole season can be seen on FX! 

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Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery in a World Gone Prehistoric!

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Hold onto your hats, dino fans! The highly anticipated sequel to the adrenaline-pumping Camp Cretaceous saga is here, and it’s taking us on a wild ride six years in the making. Following the harrowing events of Camp Cretaceous, our beloved “Nublar Six” are back, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. In fact, they’re about to plunge headfirst into a world where dinosaurs roam freely alongside dangerous humans, and trust us when we say, it’s a Jurassic jungle out there!

Picture this: a world where survival isn’t just about avoiding sharp-toothed predators but also navigating the treacherous waters of human greed and deceit. As our resilient heroes reunite in the aftermath of a heart-wrenching tragedy, they quickly realize that danger lurks around every corner, and trust is a luxury they can’t afford. 

But wait, there’s more! Prepare to embark on a globetrotting adventure like no other as the Nublar Six find themselves thrust into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens not only the fragile balance between dinosaurs and humanity but also their very existence. From the lush jungles of Isla Nublar to the bustling streets of bustling cities, buckle up for a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions as our intrepid group races against time to uncover the truth about one of their own and, ultimately, save both dinosaur and humankind from certain doom.

So, dear readers, if you thought you’d seen it all in Jurassic Park, think again! With heart-stopping action, pulse-pounding suspense, and jaw-dropping revelations, this latest installment promises to be a game-changer in the Jurassic universe. Get ready to roar with excitement because Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery is about to take a bite out of your imagination and leave you hungry for more!

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