Diary 2018-12-09

By Max Woerner Chase

We watched Hellraiser: Hellseeker last night, and it's one of those movies where even though it's full of gore and mutilation and blood, I'd be hard-pressed to call it a horror movie, because it's overall just so absurd. I can accept that they were trying to make a horror movie, and they wanted it to have a twist, it's just, I guess it came out kind of half-baked.

Before getting into talking about the details, it seems to me like maybe 2002 was the year of characters with CGI stalks somewhere that end in another head. Also, at a very high level, Hellseeker is like if Inferno tried to be more connected to the earlier movies, and also failed to make sense in different ways.

Ignoring "plot-hole" type complaints, I think the big things that get in the way of appreciating the movie as anything other than schlock are:

The big twist is that the movie starts out as a story that the main character is telling himself about his life, using a mish-mash of memories from different times. However, the fact that things don't really match up temporally doesn't really come through—it has to be worked out after the twist—and I feel like the movie could have done so much, in with the weird stuff that they did show (I don't know what the point of the surgery scene was (yes I do, it's because this movie wants to be Jacob's Ladder)), to hint at the fact that we're watching an unreliable narrator construct the events around him. I feel like there's a lot that could be done with that, and basically all we get is sometimes scenes look different in flashback.

Now I'm thinking about the comparison between Jacob's Ladder and these last two Hellraiser movies we watched. Inferno and Hellseeker are pretty similar, in terms of wanting to be Jacob's Ladder, except the viewpoint character's arc ends on a down note. It's like they decided that, they'd better have a downer ending, even if that's not what Jacob's Ladder did.

I was trying to take that further, and it kept on ending up at complaining about plot holes, so I'm going to try to take a broader perspective. I feel like there's a particular kind of ambition in Hellraiser and Hellbound, that came through in the effects and the sets, that I feel is absent in the later entries I've seen, and that's kind of disappointing. I'd hold out hope that later entries will reclaim it, but looking at plot summaries, that seems unlikely. What it comes down to is, I get the feeling that the first two movies were much more about craft and visuals than the later movies. While there are still depictions of weird, fantastical things in those movies, I feel like the camera takes a more passive role in depicting them as the series goes on. Less "okay, let's move the viewpoint around in ways that should make no physical sense" and more "okay, the effect is here, let's point the camera at it and go".

When I think about these kinds of differences, the way we're watching open-ended series in release order is pretty arbitrary. It's just like, there are a lot of movies out there, here's one way to organize them, let's go.

Hmm... I'm not trained as a critic. I do know when a horror movie trying to be serious makes me laugh. All of this dissecting of movies has me thinking again, that I'd like to get better at creating. It's late, but the bathroom is taken right now, so I'll get on researching creative pursuits.