- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pinhead and his gruesome Cenobites are back in a pair of movies recently released to Blu-ray.

Hellraiser: Limited Edition Steelbook (MVD Entertainment Group, rated R, 93 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $39.95) — Creator Clive Barker’s 1987 grotesque tale of murder that introduces creatures from an alternate dimension returns to Blu-ray, contained in a metallic case and newly restored for hardcore fans.

Years after Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) unlocks a mysterious puzzle cube and gets ripped to shreds by its horrifying owners, his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and wife Julia (Clare Higgins) and their adult daughter Kristy (Ashley Laurence) return to live in the house where the grisly act occurred.

A skinless version of Frank is resurrected through blood dripping on floorboards and he convinces Julia, who really loves the guy, that she must completely restore him by killing humans so he can feed off their blood and life force.

Unfortunately, Kristy summons his former torturers accidentally through the cube and, as they say, there is hell to pay.

The film was most memorable for the introduction of the gothic, fetish-enamored and masochistic Cenobites tied to that cube.

These soul harvesters doling out carnal pleasure are led by a hell priest nicknamed Pinhead (Doug Bradley). The guy wears black leather, a skirt and literally has large nails sticking out all over his gridded head and face.

Despite some cheesy laser special effects emanating from the cube and Cenobites, Mr. Barker certainly brought a viscous and disturbing take on the splatter horror film that led to a franchise currently featuring a whopping nine sequels over the past three decades.

The 2K restoration of the movie, supervised by the cinematographer Robin Vidgeon, does a respectable job of surfacing visual detail to the full-screen spectacle despite the loads of expected film grain from the original, low-budget source material.

Memorable remastered moments include Pinhead laying out pieces of a human face, the colorful tattoos on Frank’s back, a grotesque regeneration scene showing body innards rebuilding and Frank’s skinless emaciated face highlighting with pus and rotted musculature (say it out loud “yuck”).

Best extras: Plucked from the Scarlet Boxed set from late 2016, the single Blu-ray disc offers all of the impressive bonus content tied to the “Hellraiser” release.

Two optional commentary tracks lead the extras. One has Peter Atkins (writer of multiple “Hellraiser” films) act as moderator as Mr. Barker and Miss Laurence discuss the film. The second has a solo track with Mr. Barker. Both are loaded with memories and nostalgia and required listening for the fan.

Next, an excellent 90-minute documentary, titled “Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser” and narrated by Oliver Smith (the skinless Frank), features archival and current interviews with most of the cast and crew.

The group slathers a bit too much praise on Mr. Barker, but words from cast members such as Mr. Bradley, Mr. Atkins, Miss Higgins, Mr. Robinson and Barbie Wilde (the female Cenobite) offer plenty of production information and amusing anecdotes.

I especially liked learning about the origins of that puzzle cube and the gory make-up and special effects.

Also worth watching are a 26-minute interview with Mr. Chapman and a 12-minute interview with Mr. Bradley.

The Steelbook case contains a two-sided, poster displaying a movie placard and an illustration of Pinhead (19 inches wide by 17 inches tall).

Hellraiser: Judgment (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, not rated, 81 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $21.99) — Lovers of the grotesque got another dose of the gore-ious Cenobites and their accomplices in the 10th movie sequel tied to Clive Barker’s famed horror splatter franchise.

Director Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s direct-to-digital and disc release offers a murder thriller about veteran homicide cop brothers (Damon Carney and Randy Wayne) getting unwanted help from a female officer (Alexandra Harris) as they hunt a serial killer nicknamed the Preceptor.

His grisly crimes, tied to the Ten Commandments, have also peaked the interest of the dreaded Cenobites.

The gothic, humanoid creatures from an alternate dimension are stuck in a haunted mansion and still looking for the ultimate in sadomasochistic carnal experiences by judging those tied to human depravity.

The crew of otherworldly, hellish entities includes, of course, Pinhead (Paul T. Taylor replaces Doug Bradley in the role), the scarred Auditor (amusingly played by Mr. Tunnicliffe), the gluttonous Assessor (John Gulager) and a return of the frightening Chatterer (Mike Jay Regan).

Also, pay careful attention for an appearance by original stalker of Freddie Krueger, actress Heather Langenkamp who plays a foul-mouthed landlady.

This film had promise with a murder twist, an intriguing battle between heaven and hell, and an expansion of the Cenobite universe.

However, some scenes are as disturbing as disgusting and with too many flashes of torture porn and not enough horror, it’s a bit much for even the “Hellraiser” series.

Best extras: It’s slim pickings for “Hellraiser” fans with a deleted scene that helped flesh out the potential killer (the delete was warranted); and an extended scene showing the judgment and torture of a human pedophile that is even more disgusting. Also, an odd gag reel might make fans of the film chuckle.

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