Next up on Killtoberfest 2, uhh… here are a couple of movies.
First, Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005), the third DTV Hellraiser. It is surprisingly not awful.
I’ve gone over before the problems with the previous two DTV Hellraisers, and I admit that at this point in the series I was running out of hope. Was I putting myself through this torture for no reason at all? Well, the answer to that is still yes, but at least Deader gave me something of a breather. It’s not a good enough movie that I’d recommend it to anybody on its own, but if you’re following in my tracks through this entire series, here’s a signpost reading “Not So Bad.”
This is not even to say that the movie does a whole lot right. Mostly it just lacks the crippling, crippling flaws that the previous two DTV entries shared. Instead, it’s a competent, almost endearingly scuzzy psychological horror film. Sometimes that’s enough.
Although the film runs out of ideas toward the end and starts repeating itself, the set-up is actually pretty neat. It starts with an English journalist named Amy, a real tough girl type used to getting herself in fucked up situations for the sake of the story. (The movie starts with her leaving some kind of Euro crack den she’s been infiltrating for months.) Amy is Girl Friday to her editor, Richmond, who greets her upon return from the crack assignment with an enticing new mystery. He plays for her a video their paper has received; the video depicts a Eurotrash suicide cult ceremony, where a girl chants “I am not real,” kills herself, and then is brought back to life by the cult’s enigmatic leader. Amy jumps at the chance to check this out for herself, and soon finds herself investigating (and hallucinating) in urban Romania.
What makes Deader good enough, even when the structure gets repetitive and it’s clear the movie has no idea how to get to its ending, is that on a scene-by-scene basis the movie actually gets pretty creepy. My favorite scene has Amy discovering a dead body with a clue next to it. No fancy FX work here, no Cenobites; just a scene about Amy have to get real close to the dead girl’s face in order to reach the clue. That’s solid horror work right there. In fact, Amy herself is the best part of the movie. For once, we have a female protagonist in a Hellraiser film and sex has absolutely nothing to do with it. Also, Amy is just darn likable, because the movie establishes her as a tough, no-nonsense, smart character and then lets her shudder, scream, and curse her way through the movie’s various scares. That combination of strength and vulnerability really helped me to identify with and respect her character.
Moreover, the suicide cult itself is an interesting idea that’s pretty far afield from anything Hellraiser‘s touched on before. I always wonder whether these later efforts in the series are generic psychological horror scripts that have had Pinhead crammed in at the end; but if that’s the case here, I wouldn’t mind. The focus on death itself, and playing with the threshhold of death, is an interesting one, and the reasons behind the cult are satisfying to the series fan in a way that the revelations at the end of Hellraiser VI were not. (Perhaps that’s just my bias talking, because the connection here is to Hellraiser: In SPAAAAAACE.) Also, this movie combines the “creepy Euro subway” and “salacious Euro dance club” tropes into the same location, a creepy, salacious Euro dance subway car, and that will go a long way towards endearing any movie to me. (Especially once the movie takes the inevitable step and leads Amy back through the car after all of the creepy dancers are dead.) These elements don’t necessarily outweigh the movie’s flaws, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.
Fittingly, Hellraiser VII: Deader brings my interest in the series back from the dead. I suspect this is the last, highest water mark, though. The next two are supposed to be some of the worst in the entire franchise. Onward and downward, I guess.
Next up, 1980’s Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper.
On the one hand, this movie is awful and boring and I should stop picking movies based solely on their titles. On the other hand, I did see a man rip a fetus out of a pregnant woman’s corpse and bite into it like it was a watermelon. So, there’s that.
Anthropophagus is one of the few dozen films Britain tried to ban, the so-called “video nasties.” In my opinion they had the right idea. It’s not available anywhere and if it were I wouldn’t tell you. It’s for your own good.
(fetus at 1:52)
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