An era of reboots, remakes, and reimaginings for horror as a genre has both franchised and fractured futures of its most prominent titles. The ongoing push for relevancy among classic works of horror that have already promised fame to themselves has resulted in cautious skepticism touched with intrigue over how timeless scares can be emulated for the modern age. As prominent series names in horror are recycled, there is room for creative liberties to be taken upon their grand return. David Brucknell's Hellraiser improves upon the grounds given by its predecessors.
In total predictability, Hellraiser's centerpiece is the Hell Priest themself. Jaime Clayton's Pinhead is as chilling as she is hauntingly elegant. Her presence on-screen doesn't entirely excuse the drag of the film's first half that hinders its own pace. Clayton's undeniably stunning demeanor promises that the first feminine Pinhead is not to be forgotten while the gender-defying villain manages to stay honest to Hellraiser's source material. Her casting is a historic win for LGBTQIA+ representation, as she is the trans woman to claim the role. Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart crafted its creature as a non-binary being with a more womanly-sounding voice. Brucknell's Hellraiser celebrates concepts of gender expression and identity through Pinhead. The Cenobites ditch their once-bold leather apparel when taking a new generation into consideration. Sexuality has made itself comfortable within the horror genre to the point where kink in mainstream horror media does not deliver the same amount of shock value in comparison to Hellraiser (1987).
Pinhead and the Cenobites may be unsettling, but their atmospheric disturbance cannot replace the feeling that there is some form of undefinable emptiness and absence in Hellraiser. Brucknell's capitalization on gore is where Hellraiser succeeds, tapping back into sickening displays of mutilation. While there's a want to bring a more level human story into the film, the narrative struggles to remain as prominent as it hopes. Character relationships are emotionally charged without bearing a genuine sense of chemistry between cast members. The protagonists are not carved out to be made memorable. If Brucknell's mission is to reboot the Hellraiser franchise by constructing a foundation for a new series of Hellraiser titles to follow, a starting point - a torturous, bloody starting point - has been established. Hellraiser aims to reconcile the saga's series of sequels falling flat by revisiting the hallmarks of what made the original such a success. 7/10.