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Horror is known for its sequels and franchises. It’s also known for dragging them out way too long, CHILDREN OF THE CORN and THE HOWLING being two examples. And then there’s the HELLRAISER franchise, which is now on its 10th film, HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT. Can veteran effects man turned writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe turn things around? Can it at least be better than the Tunnicliffe written HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS?

We start with The Auditor (Gary J. Tunnicliffe) interviewing a damned soul. We see the punishment meted out to him and see Pinhead (Paul T. Taylor) before jumping into the main plot. A serial killer, The Preceptor, has been busy dispatching victims and leaving biblical quotes at the scenes of their gruesome crimes. Detectives Sean (Damon Carney KREEP, FORSAKEN) and David Carter (Randy Wayne ESCAPE ROOM, DUKES OF HAZZARD: THE BEGINNING) have hit a wall trying to track him down.

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Detective Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris, RISING TIDES) is assigned to help them. Needless to say, the two groups will cross paths with very bloody results. And for those excited to see 80s scream queen Heather Langenkamp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS) in a HELLRAISER film, sadly it’s a very short cameo.

HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT is certainly the best film the series has produced in a long time. That’s not saying it’s a particularly good film, however. It opens on a fairly strong note before turning into a fairly routine cross between SAW and SE7EN. Things do get interesting towards the end, though, with a finale that could be polarizing for franchise fans. However, it’s received, I have to give Tunnicliffe credit for having the chutzpah to try and pull it off. Whether it’s an attempt to come full circle and reboot the franchise or just a desperate attempt to get noticed remains to be seen.

While most of the Cenobites are left pretty undeveloped, Taylor does make a fairly good Pinhead. He’s not up to Doug Bradley’s level, but he’s not bad and a definite improvement over Stephan Smith Collin’s portrayal in HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS. Of the new additions, The Auditor is the most interesting, hopefully, he returns in any future sequels.

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While the first two films are classics, things went downhill quickly. After the fourth film, Pinhead himself became a background character. More than once he was inserted into scripts that had nothing to do with him or the Cenobites. Here’s he’s the most involved in the plot he’s been since HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE. And despite the minuscule budget, there are some twisted sets and convincingly gory effects to back him up. While the franchise still has a long way to go, HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT is a step in the right direction.

Lionsgate will release HELLRAISER: JUDGMENT on DVD and Blu-ray 2/13/2018

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