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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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Caesar’s Reign Comes To The Big Screen With New Trailer For Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes

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Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is directed by Wes Ball (the “Maze Runner” trilogy) and stars Owen Teague (“IT”), Freya Allan (“The Witcher”), Kevin Durand (“Locke & Key”), Peter Macon (“Shameless”), and William H. Macy (“Fargo”). The screenplay is by Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”) and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) and Patrick Aison (“Prey”), based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, and the producers are Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick, Jr., p.g.a. (“The Maze Runner”), Rick Jaffa, p.g.a., Amanda Silver, p.g.a., Jason Reed, p.g.a. (“Mulan”), with Peter Chernin (the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy) and Jenno Topping (“Ford v. Ferrari”) serving as executive producers.

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Masterchef Is Back! For Halo Season 2

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A quick recap – Halo is set in a war-torn 26th century, where humanity led by the United Nations Space Command or UNSC and their supersoldiers known as Spartans, fights against the onslaught of the alien conglomerate known as the Covenant. The full dust-up of Halo Season 1, can be found here. Onward into the introduction of Halo Season 2!

It’s been six months since the forced separation of Spartan Masterchief John (Pablo Schreiber) and Cortana (Jen Taylor), and the Silver Team has been sent on a mission to evacuate residents of the planet Sanctuary before the Covenant glasses the whole thing. This comes with its own set of challenges, given the resistance of the planet’s inhabitants, and it doesn’t help that Masterchef starts seeing things right in the middle of trying to save some marines. Or is he? Those energy swords the squad of Elites were carrying looked worryingly real.

Back on Reach, the Silver Team is entirely dismayed to learn they have a brand new Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) representative come in as the new boss, to finally replace the traitorous Halsey, James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan). And of course, Ackerson manages to immediately get under Masterchief’s skin, by not only expressing far too much interest in John’s relationship with Cortana but also apparently disbelieving of John’s report of his encounters on Sanctuary. That just means Masterchief has to go around, if not entirely over, Ackerson’s head.

Elsewhere, Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) is trolling the slave markets in his boredom, only to stumble across a soon-to-be indentured servant who claims he knows the whereabouts of the UNSC’s most hunted human, Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone). That should bring a huge bounty, but really, Soren should’ve known better by now.

Halo Season 2 premieres Thursday, February 8th, 2024, and will continue to air every Thursday, only on Paramount+!

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Reborn as a Vending Machine I Now Wander the Dungeon’: I look forward to your next use!  

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If the title of this delightful little isekai anime entry didn’t give it all away, our nameless protagonist is a vending machine fanatic who, after being killed by a vending machine, gets reincarnated in another fantasy-style world as one! 

Japan has a tendency to give birth to all sorts of crazed fads that can last for decades, and no one does better when it comes to the vending machine industry, too. These days there are vending machines that will serve you sushi you can actually eat, hot pizza in the box, wagyu steaks, freshly popped popcorn, and a whole mind-boggling array of tasty treats, and other non-edible but still useful items! Umbrellas! Condoms! Oxygen masks, sterile bandages, shoes, and emergency clothing! Actually, far more things that we use on an everyday basis, could be considered as technically a vending machine, and the anime explores that beautifully. Into the world of vending machine fanaticism, we dive! 

So our poor protagonist never gave a name, and inevitably when he’s discovered by his first official friend the starving hunter Lammis, she dubs him “Boxxo”. Like many isekai that seem to take inspiration from video games and RPGs, Boxxo discovers he ways he can communicate, level up his existence, and even evince magic-like powers and attack and defend against monsters and enemies. Though in the beginning, and as an underlying theme throughout the show, Boxxo is primarily concerned with providing unique never-before-tasted-in-this-world food and drink to the amazed folk, human and otherwise. 

Boxxo’s prices are entirely reasonable and hey, he can even choose to give out his wares for free on occasion, so his popularity immediately skyrockets. Lammis with her awkward charm and prodigious strength blessing, introduces Boxxo to other friends of Clearflow Lake Village and associates along the way – Director Bear, an actual bear-monster who’s the head of the Hunters Association; Lammis’ friend Hulemy, the insane genius magic item engineer; the Bearcats Suco, Pell, Short and Mikenne, cheerful hunters with astronomic appetites; even suspicious Kerioyl, leader of the Menagerie of Fools party. 

The show approaches the practicality and versatility of the true vending machine with amusement, but also with the love true fans display for things they’re passionate about. Certainly, things like a brothel needing a condom vending machine exist in our world, but to toss them into a potentially more innocent other-world isekai is a welcome and often hilarious treat. The show celebrates the cheerful idiocy and devotion of the fans to their chosen fandom, in this case, yes vending machines, but also the spirit of the lonely otaku finally finding their Tribe! 

Pay your coins to watch ‘Reborn as a Vending Machine’ on Crunchyroll now! 

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