The Hellraiser franchise holds a special place in my heart. I will never forget the first time I saw the opening chapter in the series of films inspired by Clive Barker's nightmarish visions. Watching the original "Hellraiser" now is a mixed bag-some of those special effects look a bit hokey, but others still come across as chillingly effective. Who can forget the glistening visage of Uncle Frank? The lascivious Julia? Or the first appearance of the ominous and verbose Pinhead? The second installment improved on the first, as the film whisked the viewer away to the abode of Pinhead and the Cenobites. A gruesome, perverse picture, "Hellbound: Hellraiser 2" raised the expectations about future entries to a fever pitch. Up next came "Hellraiser 3," a personal favorite of mine even though legions of fans have subsequently disowned it. The series moved into the latter stages of its life from this point forward, taking bold steps in an attempt to expand far beyond anything that viewers had come to expect. "Hellraiser: Bloodline" moved the action into the future while simultaneously looking at the past in an effort to tell the history of the Lament Configuration, the box that unleashes Pinhead and his infernal minions. Then came "Hellraiser: Inferno," a film that toyed with concepts of memory in a way that is a sort of precursor to "Hellraiser: Hellseeker."
The sixth entry in the indomitable "Hellraiser" franchise employs techniques eerily reminiscent of films like "Irreversible" and "Memento" without showing scenes backwards. Trevor Gooden (Dean Winters) and his main squeeze Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) aren't getting along that well. They argue incessantly about the things a couple always argues about, but unfortunately they do so while driving a car. When tempers flare Gooden takes his eyes off the road long enough for the car to do a header off a bridge into deep water. The story picks up from this point forward, following Trevor as he recovers from injuries sustained in the accident. Sadly, good old Kirsty didn't make it through the crash, and now Gooden faces questions from the police. The two detectives who question Trevor try and use the old good cop/bad cop routine to extract a confession from the man. Gooden has no idea why the police are voicing suspicions about the accident since he had no reason to try and harm his loved one. The ongoing investigation is a minor inconvenience anyway because Trevor Gooden feels bad physically and emotionally. He suffers from crushing headaches and other ailments as a result of the crash, although the doctors seem to think he shouldn't have any problems.
Then the hallucinations start, frightening visions of gory violence and weird apparitions that leave Gooden feeling confused and alone. His encounter with a cute neighbor in his apartment building leads to a murder he knows nothing about. In come the cops again, asking increasingly ominous questions about what Trevor knows. Everything is turning weird, with time skewing off into past, present, and future directions. Gooden worries he's losing his mind, and he's right. What he should have asked himself was to whom would his mind go. Fans of the "Hellraiser" movies already have a good idea who's going to turn up in the end to claim Trevor Gooden. Yep, it's Pinhead, that urbane, witty denizen of Hell who always finds time to pop up on earth to lecture the mortals on the evils of bad living. It turns out that that accident might not have occurred the way we thought it did, that maybe Trevor isn't the aw shucks sort of guy we thought he was. 'Tis a pity when a good seed goes bad. Or does it? I won't spoil the shock conclusion for you, but "Hellraiser: Hellseeker" holds its cards tightly to its vest. The film is a roller coaster ride that doesn't let the secret out until the final frames.
Director Rick Bota did a good job crafting yet another entertaining "Hellraiser" sequel. He imbues his film with a stark, washed out atmosphere that more than adequately expresses the bleakness Trevor Gooden feels after the accident. Bota also knows that a movie wishing to attach itself to the Pinhead canon must have a vicious bite in terms of gory violence. A whole host of sharp objects express themselves in various ways in the film, much to the delight of gorehounds looking for yet another movie to tease the palate. Even the acting is better than you would expect for a low budget straight to video horror flick. Ashley Laurence, returning to the role that made her semi-famous in the horror world, does a better job acting the seminal part of Kirsty Cotton than she did in the first two films. She might be a bit older, but she's still easy on the eyes. The only downfall to Laurence's appearance is that she doesn't have more than a few scenes. Pity. The director should have made greater use of this actress. Moreover, Doug Bradley as Pinhead once again appears only briefly, a big disappointment to fans of the man with the face of a million nightmares.
The DVD edition is quite good for a straight to video movie. You get a commentary from Rick Bota, a special effects featurette, alternate scenes that give Ashley Laurence greater screen time, and a bunch of trailers for films like "Imposter," "Backflash," and "Hellraiser: Inferno." This sixth installment is the last of the "Hellraiser" films that have been released; two more are slated for release within the next year and a half. I hope they give us more Pinhead and more over the top gore. I think I will go back and start watching the series from the start again. You should, too.