This is something I did not know that I wanted. In 2022, a new player has stepped up to open the Lemarchand Puzzle to taste such exquisite delights in pleasure but the movie did have some painful stubbles to reboot a franchise that is need of so new sensation. Before this one, the series had become straight to DVD or streaming services such as ROKU or TUBI. That is not saying I like those platforms, but if it is free then you get what you pay for.
During a party at hedonistic millionaire Roland Voight's mansion, sex worker Joey comes across a mechanical puzzle box, which Voight insists he solve. Joey solves the configuration and is stabbed by a blade hidden inside the box. A portal opens, from which chains fly out and rip Joey apart, as Voight demands an audience with Leviathan.
Six years later, recovering addict Riley is living with her brother Matt, his boyfriend Colin, and their roommate Nora. Riley's boyfriend, Trevor, convinces her to help break into an abandoned storage warehouse, where they discover the puzzle box. Returning home late, Riley gets into an argument with Matt and leaves. At an empty park, she solves the box but avoids being cut by the blade. The Cenobites, a group of deformed humanoids, appear and demand she choose another as sacrifice. Matt finds Riley blacked out and, as he tries to wake her up, inadvertently cuts himself on the box. He goes to a nearby restroom to clean his wound. Riley hears him scream and discovers that he has vanished.
Believing the box caused Matt's disappearance, Riley and Trevor track down Serena Menaker, Voight's former lawyer, who had hidden it in the warehouse. Menaker tries to take the box from Riley but is inadvertently cut by the blade and is later taken by the Cenobites. Riley visits Voight's abandoned mansion, finding his journals and learning that the box has multiple configurations, each of which requires a victim to be "marked" by the box's blade for the Cenobites to take. On completion, the box allows its holder to receive a "gift" from Leviathan, the entity that rules over Hell. Riley sees an apparition of Matt and is horrified to discover he has been flayed.
Trevor, Colin, and Nora arrive to take Riley home. While Riley explains her findings to Colin, the still-living but mutilated Voight, who is hiding inside the walls, stabs Nora with the box. The group attempts to escape the mansion in a van, but Nora is taken by the Cenobites. Their leader, the Priest, taunts Nora, then flays her. The group crashes the van and tries to walk back to the mansion. Riley encounters the Priest, who commands her to sacrifice two souls with the last two configurations, or the Cenobites will take her. After Trevor is injured by one of the Cenobites, the Chatterer, Riley solves the next configuration and stabs it. The Cenobite gets torn to pieces as the next sacrifice.
The group makes it back to the mansion, realizing that there are steel doors designed to lock the Cenobites out. Riley and Colin leave Trevor to rest, and it is revealed that Trevor has been working for Voight to find people to sacrifice to the puzzle box. Riley and Colin trap a Cenobite, the Asphyx, to become the last sacrifice, but Voight appears and stabs Colin with the box. Voight reveals that he sought new pleasurable sensations after completing all of his sacrifices, but his "reward" was a contraption attached to him that twists his nerve endings, leaving him in constant pain. He completes the final configuration and traps the Cenobites, demanding they ask Leviathan to free him from his "gift". Leviathan appears in the sky above the mansion. Riley retrieves the box and unlocks the steel doors, letting the Cenobites in. Riley saves Colin from torture by stabbing Trevor, choosing him as a new final sacrifice. Trevor is mutilated and dragged to Hell. Meanwhile, Voight bargains with the Priest to grant him a different gift, and she offers him "power". Voight is released from his contraption and momentarily healed, before Leviathan impales him with a large chain and takes him away.
Tempted by the Priest into resurrecting Matt, Riley refuses to wish for a gift because she knows the Cenobites' rewards are always twisted. The Priest tells her that she has chosen to live with the guilt of her actions. The box reverts to its original configuration and the Cenobites disappear. As Riley and Colin leave the mansion, he asks her if she made the right choice; Riley remains silent. Meanwhile, inside Leviathan, Voight undergoes a brutal transformation into a new Cenobite.
My Take Cont.
What is Best about the Film?
Hellraiser and Pinhead aka The Priest, by far, are a part of my favorite franchises. Hellraiser, as young growing mind, found the craziness and oddly arousing nature of the film kept my eyes glued to the screen. The changes from the original gave this reincarnation a fresh pound of flesh.
Having the puzzle box is the most important part of the puzzle. In the original, the box was very mysterious and would change to whatever the directors needed, but this movie provided a fresh take. Bruckner has stated in interviews that each of the six configurations of the box seen through the film — Lament, Lore, Lauderant, Liminal, Lazarus, and Leviathan — represent a different aspect of the human experience, expanding on the seed of an idea planted as far back as the first film. This was wonderful because it gave the box a clear defined purpose and an end game that the player needed to achieve. It felt, in the original, that it was more happened stance than an actual game. It is kind of like, the box will choose a winner.
Next, The new Pinhead and the Cenobites have a new fleshy tortured look instead of the BDSM look of the much beloved 80's version starring Doug Bradley. Jamie Clayton as The Priest or Pinhead holds her own. Although this Pinhead is quiet and reserve, it provided a Jake "The Snake" Roberts vibe. This incarnation never needed to raise her voice and allowed her presence to be menacing. Odessa A'Zion is really solid in the lead role of Riley. Her portrayal of an addict with an addictive personality really came across on the screen. It could be seen with her increasing dependence on Trevor as she moved from one drug to the next. This is all integrated into use of the Lament Configuration that represents her addiction which leads to pain and suffering to those around her as the drive of finding her brother is equivalent to finding her next fix where she is uncaring of the results because she is focused on the immediate gratification.
What were some of the worst take-aways?
The movie's story was very typical. Although it was something straight out of an 80's horror story line, the plot points and story elements made up for it (See Best Thing). There is not much that i can say that is wrong or is the worst thing about the movie except for the typical B-Horror.
Hellraiser's failure is putting to much pressure on The Priest to be the antagonist. The problem persisted in the original franchise when it was trying to make Pinhead the antagonist when The Priest is Jack Sparrow to the POTC (Pirates of the Caribbean) and failed when Jack became more and more of the focal. We love some Jack, but sometimes less is more. Being that Voight is the wealthy bad guy that cannot get his jollies anymore and feeling that he is willing to throw away people to get what he wants. The issue with building him up as the big bad guy is that he is absent for large portions of the movie. As he is granted power, he is turned into a cenobite.
To conclude, this is movie is a mid-tier film or if to make a wrestling comparison, this movie is Mr. Perfect. It is a solid movie but will always be made for the mid-card. There is nothing wrong with that. This movie has enough to create a sequel to expand on the lore that it created and expanded on in this film. That is really exciting for franchise. Some much need new ideas. If my review of the movie was not…scene…please click here.