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‘Hellraiser Judgment’: Meet the Stygian Inquisition

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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!

 

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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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