SPOILERS AHEAD! In the beginning, we’re immediately treated to a glorious golden shot of the Box, also known as Lemarchand’s Puzzle Box, and even more fun, the Lamentation Configuration, being handled by Pinhead himself as he talks with the Auditor about the need for modernizing their works on humankind. Right after that, we’re whisked off to a man who clearly has issues, being invited by a mysterious and commiserating benefactor to a place of understanding and reward; a clear demonstration of the films platform and intentions.
Inside this dead house, the Auditor (Gary J. Tunicliffe) makes a record of the sinners, well, sins, gives them to the Assessor (John Gulager) who, yes, literally eats the pages salted with the tears of children, and then freaking regurgitates the mass to the three naked ladies who comprise the psychic Jury, to render their final judgment on said sinner. All of this is done with complacent malice, so much blood and gore and thick drooling mucus, the wet slap and crunch of prehensile chains we all recall from the original films. Like discovering the Box lost in your attic next to the corpse of a dead rat who tried to pry it open, there is no escaping the honest desires of your own heart, even when it leads to your downfall.
Before we can go any further, it has to be said that these new characters introduced – the Auditor and his antiquated typewriter, the Assessor and his vomit, the Jury ladies and their Bathory bath, even the Butcher (Joel Decker) and the Surgeon (Jillyan Blundell) – are not Cenobites or even part of the Order of the Gash, to which Pinhead belongs and rules with a bloody fist. Rather, these guys and fetish dolls are known as the Stygian Inquisition, and are another Order of Hell, just like the Gash. Sadly, none of this is mentioned in the film, so mistaking every last cut-up figurine for yet another Cenobite is perfectly understandable.
Also making a surprise appearance, is an actual honest-to-whomever Angel, known as Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald). She appears in white leathers and blinding bright light, to actually trade insults and orders with the master of pain himself, Pinhead, for the delicate matter of the disposition of a soul. Another bold risk for director Tunicliffe, for never before in the entire Hellraiser film mythology, have Angels been introduced before. Demons aplenty everywhere, sure, but never actual Angels.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! A dog-loving socialite named Crystal Lanning (Grace Montie) has been rather brutally killed, yet another in a string of ritualistic murders from the serial killer who calls himself the Preceptor. This self-proclaimed purifier has been performing ‘Seven’-style sin cleansing murders and the cop duo of the Carter brothers Sean (Damon Carney) and David (Randy Wayne), plus an unwanted tagalong in the form of Detective Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris), have been assigned to the case.
The detective investigation into these ritual murders is kind of lame, plays out very similar to other direct-to-video Hellraiser sequels I could name, and is basically a foil to get one of the Carter brothers to that dead house where the Auditor does his nasty job. Which is fine, I guess, but it was rather superfluous and uninspired for this kind of plot hole to be used. Then again, we didn’t necessarily come to the dead house where Pinhead and the Auditor and his cohorts judge sinners for silly things like plot.
Or did we? The plot of the Preceptor and his works here on Earth aside, there is an amazing dynamic that goes on inside the dead house, not between the Preceptor or the Stygian Inquisition, no, it’s between Pinhead and Jophiel, over which side gets the Preceptors soul. I’m reminded of the reality of Angels from films like ‘Prophecy’, who carefully explain that dealing with actual Angels, those psycho m-f-ers who are the literal embodiment of Gods will here on Earth, is a much more terrifying prospect than most people think. So how did Jophiel get to the dead house, where she attempts to set herself against Pinhead in the matter of the disposition of the Preceptor’s soul?
Imagine, Angels acting on the orders of the side they represent, sent to the dead house to claim the Preceptors soul before it can be sent to the Orders of Hell, because despite everything he’s done to other humans, the purported “Good Side” thinks his works need to continue. Gives potential to see Pinhead, the Cenobites, the Stygian Inquisition and all the Orders of Hell in an entirely new way, not being the only bad guys in the room anymore.
The visual tone of the movie is done quite well, harkening back to the original two Clive Barker-led Hellraiser films, but more washed out and crumbling, like the nightmare sun-faded world of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. Even the never-ending blood and gore isn’t as stark-staring as the original films, but rather deepened and faded at the same time, indicating the march of time and a clear aversion to anything clean.
All the special effects and makeup tricks are used to a clear purpose in Judgment, and what CGI there is, is barely noticeable as an afterthought (which I prefer, ‘cuz practical effects rule). The mythology of the Box, of the Order of the Gash and Pinhead and his Cenobites, have all been pretty well established already, so writing a story already in the set-world and taking a seriously different turn with it was very likely a good choice on the directors part.
Though the storylines do get a little muddled and there wasn’t enough of the cop parts to keep me interested in that, the dead house and the Stygian Inquisition is fascinating, and the new dynamic of Pinhead versus other Orders and even Angels is amazing. And yes, I recognized Heather Langencamp in her tiny role as the landlady of an apartment the Carter boys check; doesn’t make much never-mind to me.
Finally, we will address the hook-headed elephant in the room, that is, the newest actor Paul T. Taylor taking the iconic role of Pinhead. Certainly it’s a vast improvement over the previous actor to play him, Stephen Smith Collins, but then that poor guy trying to play Pinhead when faced with that atrocity of a Hellraiser knockoff never stood a chance anyways.
Conversely, Taylor brings back a sense of majesty back to the character of Pinhead, a steadfast calmness that reminds me of the way Barker described the Hell Priest in his last Hellraiser novel, The Scarlet Gospels, and I am all for that. The iconic makeup of the nails in the head is more or less the same, but the hollows in Taylors eye-sockets and the different and updated look of his vestments, plus a somber and yet macabre voice all his own, make for a pleasing new version of Pinhead all around.
Remember folks, that in Hell those iconic nails in the head is actually a badge of office, as in leader of the Order of the Gash, that sort of thing, so literally anyone can wear them and be known as Pinhead. For you Cenobite trivia buffs out there, at one point the pins were even worn by Kirsty Cotton herself, in the Hellraiser comic books from BOOM! Studios. Doug Bradley did make the iconic original version of Pinhead his own for many long years and increasingly-bad movies, but anyone can become the avatar of Pinhead in Barker’s world, and somehow Paul T. Taylor managed it damn nicely.
One can easily see why Tunnecliffe named his magnum opus Hellraiser Judgment, but to truly call yourself a fan of the world, see the movie and judge for yourself. I’m willing to wager you die-hard Cenobite fans out there won’t be disappointed!
Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy
Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.
The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.
I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.
Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?
Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!
Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.
So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.
The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.
Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.
First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.
Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.
Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.
Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.
To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!