31 Days in October, 31 Horror Films – 2015
Day 24: Hellraiser: Hellseeker, Friday the 13th Part 3, Hellraiser: Deader
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Are these “bad” films? I can’t come to a conclusion. It is as though I have opened my own Lemarchandian puzzle box in viewing and writing about these films and entered a dimension beyond criticism. There is no question this series hit a low point with Hellraiser: Bloodline and yet, subsequent films haven’t been bad exactly.
Take this 6th franchise entry: Hellraiser: Hellseeker. The immediately interesting aspect of this film is its lead, Dean Winters (Mayhem, from the Allstate commercials). Winters carries an easy disbelief throughout the film as his character is forced to second guess the shifting reality he experiences around him. The trouble with the film, aside from the fact that it is simply not scary (or dreadful, or macabre), is perhaps that there are no defining structures for these films. Pinhead is not an antagonistic character like Jason or Michael Meyers. He is a figure who represents a hazy moral judgement. Hazy, because there isn’t a franchise-wide agreement on where his morality lies and because the idea behind Pinhead is more nuanced than “teenager killer.”
Rick Bota is able to keep things moving with his straightforward storytelling and the script seems to take notes from the previous film but indulgence turns the story into a cautionary tale about what happens when you write a script with no handles. The experience of not knowing whether reality is a dream inside a dream inside a dream gets tiresome and the viewer quickly stops caring. Still, like an airport novel, this story moves fast enough to keep things engaging through to the end.
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
My favorite Friday the 13th film is usually the last one I saw but part 3 is a special kind of awesome. The movie was shot in 3D and the filmmakers were determined to make sure audiences got their money’s worth. As a result, this entry is full of hammy 3D shots: random shovel handle being swung into the camera, a yo-yo being bobbed into the camera, hands being shoved into the camera for no reason, and my personal favorite, an arrow to the face Jason kill.
Most significant about this film, however, is that it is the first one to give Jason his iconic goalkeeper’s mask. **SPOILER**That’s right, trivia nerds, he doesn’t kill anyone in the first film and he wears a burlap sack over his head in the second film. **END SPOILER**
Watching a 3D film like this in 2D is hilarious and for that alone this film is one of my favorites.
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
I won’t stop watching these until I finish them all. Can’t stop won’t stop.
In this one, a plucky investigative reporter must seek out a group of “deaders” (oh, don’t worry, they point out how that sounds like “debters” pretty early on in the film). The deaders are like a cult lead by a shirtless dude in Eastern Europe who can bring people back to life.
Not a terrible premise… not exactly a hellraiser premise but whatever. Again, this felt like a repurposed script but all in all Rick Bota does a bang up job keeping the plot moving forward fast enough to want to know what happens next.
At this point, I’m just being a completist. There are no convincing reasons to continue watching the final two films in this franchise other than a fascination with seeing what another director brings to the table.
Day 25: Knock Knock, Byzantium, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
Knock Knock (2015)
I had such high hopes for this film. See, I really like Eli Roth. I think he got a bad rap for the Hostel movies when they got labelled “torture porn” and I think he has a terrific sense of humor. I thought he had a terrific sense of humor. Knock Knock is a mess but more than anything, it isn’t very funny and/or outrageous and I think it was supposed to be both. This is what happens when you have a predictable storyline with really unlikable characters.
Such a shame, really because there was an opportunity for something interesting here but the film lacked teeth. Either it needed to be much more violent, much more sexual, or more packed with plotting. See Funny Games, Regarde la mer, and 1408 respectively for small, single location films that cover those areas.
That poster, though, amiright?
Finally, I hit a solid film. I’m actually surprised this one flew under my radar. Neil Jordan is one of our best working filmmakers today and this film is proof. Vampire stories are always ripe for reinvention and this film does an excellent job of rediscovering the old. Performances by Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton are a masterclass in acting craft and the script is as tight as it is deftly told by Jordan. Please don’t miss this film.
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
I’ll confess, this one is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the old (and new) Hammer horror films and Terence Fisher is one of my all time favorite directors. Seriously, go watch The Devil Rides Out immediately if you’ve never seen it. This is not one of my favorite Fisher films, though it evokes many interesting themes of seduction and sex… perhaps there is something here about the anxiety of the free love movement just then gaining traction internationally. An old fashioned film in many ways but still worth checking out if you are interested in seeing a slightly different take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale.