Review: The shocking turns to numbness in new ‘Hellraiser’

Writer-director Clive Barker’s 1987 horror movie “Hellraiser” (adapting his novella “The Hellbound Heart”) became a cult favorite due to its kinky overtones and its visually striking villain: a spiky-domed demon dubbed Pinhead. 

The new reboot retains the elements that define a “Hellraiser” story, including the sadomasochistic extra-dimensional monsters and a cast of human “heroes” who rarely act heroically.

But there’s something lacking. For all the flayed flesh and impaled skin in the picture, this “Hellraiser” isn’t sharp enough.

Directed by David Bruckner from a screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski — a trio who previously collaborated on the excellent supernatural thriller “The Night House” 

this “Hellraiser” stars Odessa A’zion as Riley, a habitual substance user who helps her shady boyfriend steal an ancient puzzle-box.

The box can be twisted into multiple configurations, each of which leads to the solver’s hands getting punctured and a portal opening to a realm ruled by the Cenobites, a hedonistic race for whom pleasure, pain and enlightenment are all tightly — some might say constrictively — intertwined.

The new “Hellraiser” is suitably bloody, and Bruckner and company understand (at least theoretically) the core of Barker’s premise, in which people’s rapacious needs end up hurting everyone in their general vicinity.

The movie even has a great Pinhead, played by Jamie Clayton, who captures the Hell Priest’s eerie calm and unsettlingly alien carriage. 

But while this film looks better and feels more serious than most of the “Hellraiser” sequels, there’s something pro forma about it.

The plot grinds through nightmarish scenes of demonic menace and torture, with no sense of surprise or revelation. Conceptually, the picture works. But over the course of two hours, what was shocking becomes numbing.

‘Hellraiser.’ R, for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity. 2 hours, 1 minute. Available on Hulu