Impressions: Hellworld

Hellworld is a 2005 straight to video entry in the Hellraiser franchise. It does something a bit in the same vein as New Nightmare, as Hellraiser is a fictional piece of work in the world of the movie. It also features Henry Cavill, which is surprising, and I did not recognize him in my many viewings of this movie, although now I am a bit embarrassed I missed it. Anyway, on with the Impressions.

Hellworld opens with an unnamed person digging a grave and then killing themselves. Flash to a funeral, and we see a group of college-aged people who discuss the person’s death. It turns out they were all obsessed with a Hellraiser online game, and their friend who was struggling with mental problems took things too far. Jake, one of them, blames the group for ignoring their friend’s clear signs of needing help. An unknown time later, the group finds out that there is going to be an exclusive party linked to the game and that you have to solve puzzles in the game to obtain an invite. Chelsea, our main girl, is hesitant but eventually agrees.

When they get to the party, they meet their host, who is a bit off-putting. He shows them some of his more disturbing collectibles, an unimpressed Chelsea sort of scoffs at the whole thing. The group eventually goes off to party, and one by one they end up in various dangerous situations and die off. Chelsea and Jake are the only two that seem to realize that things are not what they seem, and the two of them try to work together to get out of the house and save themselves.

The climax and explanation for what is happening are where things start to really fall apart. I mean, the movie and plot are pretty “eh” up until that point, but the explanation for what is happening to them is… well, frankly, a bit too unbelievable. I get it, slasher trash, Hellraiser slasher trash no less, but still. I will avoid an explanation breakdown for those that have not seen this movie. The why, however, makes sense, and most people will probably work it out.

Once the survivor(s) escape, we are treated to some closing scenes that show that Hellraiser is not all that fictional even in this world, because I mean, of course, we do. It’s Hellraiser, it can’t end with everything related to the franchise being fake, even in the movie world.

To be honest, I am not entirely sure why I like this movie so much. It is lacking in tension and suspense, something that is not that uncommon for late entries to long-running franchises. It also has fairly average kills and is way low on the gore. The second part wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but Hellraiser is a pretty bloody series; I mean out the gate from the first entry, this franchise tried to make audiences uncomfortable. So pulling back on that, especially for a movie from 2005 when gore was starting to ramp up in the genre overall, feels a bit odd.

The characters are also not the best. Jake is annoyingly cold and angry with the group that he was part of but puts all the blame for their friend’s death on them. Then has a total light switch moment about it that feels a bit off. Chelsea is a bit too much of an “I’m not like other girls in horror” trope. Her obsession with understanding the lore of Hellraiser/Hellworld and why none of this is real, is, while technically correct (mostly) is also irksome. It feels like an attempt at Randy from Scream or other “meta” characters who know “the rules” or, in her case, specifically “the lore and history,” but instead of coming off as in and smart, it seems more forced and clunky. She also seemingly has one explanation for why she knows this can’t be happening, so it falls flat on delivering the type of character she’s meant to be.

The pacing is also not great, which adds to the lack of tension and suspense. Still, it is fairly entertaining, or at it least was for me. It is also the Hellraiser that I feel the most comfortable lumping in with slashers. The Hellraiser franchise isn’t really slashers but uses a lot of the same tropes and ways of playing out, so they always sort of got grouped in. They are, and they aren’t slashers, is the best I can put it. This one is the most “it is,” especially with the party setting and the fact that because Hellraiser is fictional in this world, you can assume a human killer.

It is also trying to do something fairly unique. Yes, other franchises did concepts similar to this; again, I mentioned New Nightmare, but Hellworld did it its own way. I won’t say that it fully succeeded, but I appreciate the effort. We do get treated to Doug Bradley as Pinhead because even while claiming Hellraiser is entirely fiction, you have to have Pinhead.

Hellworld is a product of its time. In the post-Scream world, slashers were experiencing some growing pains. We saw more stand-alone slasher entries while also seeing franchises either die off or get the reboot treatment. Hellworld is a product of that experimentation. The same year Deader was also released, which tried to do a more serious and esoteric plot. Meanwhile, Hellworld leaned into the college slightly weird slasher. Neither really fully succeeded, due in no small part to Hellraiser having its own struggles on top of the genre struggles at large.

Hellworld does manage to strike that “I know this is not good, but I still have fun with it” cord that I like with some slashers, though. By every metric, it’s pretty average, but I still am entertained by it. I can’t even really explain why, and I think that a lot of genre fans have a horror movie or two like that. Slashers especially, at least in my opinion, will have a lot of movies like that.

So bottom line? I can’t really recommend this movie, but at the same time, I do? It’s a weird and interesting entry into a franchise that I think has a lot of highs and lows. I think it’s better than almost every Hellraiser that came after, although grain of salt because my opinion of this franchise is not as high as a lot of genre fans. I believe that as it does for me, it will have a certain “this is fun” appeal to specific genre fans. Everybody else might find it a bit forgettable.

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