Hellraiser franchise ranked: From pain to pleasure

Hellraiser is such a unique story and I love everything about it. Clive Barker took a taboo subject and explored every dark and sadistic avenue. With a small novella, The Hellbound Heart, Barker captured the attention of horror fans everywhere with one simple inquiry: “What’s your pleasure, sir?” Let me ask you this… Which Hellraiser film is the best? In this article, I will rank them from the worst to the best, in my humble opinion. Let us begin.    

9). Hellraiser: Revelations

I don’t even want to waste a paragraph on this mess! Doug Bradley did not perform as Pinhead because he was so disappointed with the script. After viewing the film, I can see why. Horrible, incoherent, rushed, created with a budget resembling a killjoy film… These are all words to describe the series mockery that is this movie. In fact, they could show it in hell as a punishment for horror fans. Do you want your suffering to be legendary, even in hell? Watch this movie and it will be.

8). Hellraiser: Hellworld

I don’t hate this one. I actually find it to be pretty entertaining. However, if I didn’t see Pinhead peppered throughout the film, I wouldn’t even know this was a Hellraiser movie. Hellworld felt too mainstream for the series. Hellraiser, as a franchise, is supposed to get under your skin. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to have a typical slasher movie formula. But then again, it doesn’t suck.

Hellworld revolves around a video game based on the Hellraiser mythology. A group of teens win an invitation to an exclusive VIP party for the game, and if you have seen any slasher, you know how this ends. As a fan of the slasher genre, I enjoyed it. However, the Hellraiser fan in me was not as pleased with the final product.

7). Hellraiser: Hellseeker

This one pissed me off. You would have to prefer pain in order to sift through the first 80 minutes of this film. Ashley Laurence returning to the series was a big deal, yet they only use her in approximately 20 minutes of the entire film and that’s being generous. They had so much potential with having her on board and they flushed it down the toilet. Yes, there was a twist. I’m not going to give it away, don’t worry. I just feel that the finished product could have been so much better. Anyone who says different was just blown away by the ending, as was I, and subsequently forgot the hour and twenty minutes it took to get there. But then I remembered.

6). Hellraiser: Inferno

As with most the direct-to-video sequels (with the exception of Revelations), Inferno was not initially a Hellraiser script. My view on this entry has changed slightly after re-watching it. This one gave us all a look at how emotional torture is way worse than hooks and chains.

I don’t want to give away too much to explain why I love this entry. It will give away some major plot points and I would like to keep this list as spoiler-free as possible. Inferno is incredibly story based, so if you want a gore-fest, you aren’t going to get it with this one. You also won’t be able to appreciate it.

I’m placing it in this position because it successfully took the franchise in a new direction. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that success.

5). Hellraiser: Deader

As a stand-alone film, this works. As a Hellraiser film, this works. That’s why this straight-to-video sequel is my favorite of all of them.

Initially, the script was not a Hellraiser script. Dimension had this bad boy lying around and rewrote a bunch of things to fit the Hellraiser mythology. In this situation, I am completely OK with that. The storytelling, as a whole, is great. A secret occult group, a spunky reporter, and raising the dead? Sign me up and take my money!

We follow Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) as she investigates a group known as the “Deaders.” They claim they can bring the dead back to life. Amy has seen a video of them supposedly doing it. She dives in head first and soon finds she may be in over her head.

I love this one because I can believe that it is a Hellraiser film. It’s dark, gritty and full of tortured souls. It could have been a bit more linear in its storytelling but other than that I find it to be a solid entry and an uncomfortable ride. That is what a Hellraiser movie is supposed to be. As the third direct-to-video sequel, I am proud of them for returning to their roots.

4) Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth

Starting a completely new storyline doesn’t always work out. I look at this one as the bridge to the rest of the series. They took the one familiar piece of the Hellraiser puzzle and built around it. That puzzle piece was Pinhead.

Before seeing this, I was the first to complain that we don’t see enough screen time for the Hell Priest. After watching, I would have to say I did enjoy it and realized that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. In Hell on Earth, Pinhead lost his fear factor and took on a Freddy Krueger-esque personality (refer to the GIF above). You know that Krueger from the later installments? The one with all the one-liners? Well, the Hell Priest does NOT do jokes. He does not make slight comedic nods. In fact, if you can’t count on anything else, you can count on Pinhead to stand there, emotionless, as he tears your soul apart! That is why this is fourth on this list. It could have been third but Pinhead just wasn’t himself in this entry. Maybe he had a cold. Who knows?

3). Hellraiser: Bloodline

Bloodline was the last entry to hit theaters. Set in multiple time periods and telling three separate stories, Hellraiser: Bloodline had the pleasure of sparking my emerging interest in the series. I was about six years old when my stepdad rented it. I made it to about halfway through the second act when my Grandma came in with my mom and shut that viewing down. I wouldn’t finish watching this movie until I was 12 but it was worth the wait.

Hear me out. This movie gets a lot of flack for having incoherent moments but anyone would have to admit it was the most ambitious entry. Tackling multiple timelines in an already complex universe is quite the feat. I admire the writer for taking on the challenge. Giving a backstory on the box was a necessity. We’ve seen what it does and why it’s necessary, but we have never seen where it came from. I feel like they did a great job with it and enjoy it every time I watch it. I’m not alone either. Plenty of fans defend Bloodline to this day. I think it might have just been ahead of its time and that’s why it failed at the box office.

2). Hellraiser

I know what you are thinking. “How is this not in the number 1 spot? It’s the original!” Well, I will explain that when I arrive at my favorite Hellraiser film. Until then, just buckle up and continue to enjoy the ride. If it comforts you at all, the original is a very close second.

Based on Clive Barker’s novella, “The Hellbound Heart,” Hellraiser gave birth to the ultra-violent sub-genre of horror films. Renamed to convey a less romantic tone, the movie itself is, in fact, a love story. The original film tells the story of a forbidden love and what Julia (Claire Higgins) will do to get it back. One of the things I love about this film is the introduction of some of the most despicable antagonists the horror genre has ever seen. I am not talking about the cenobites.

Julia and Frank are perhaps two of the most evil souls on earth. Their pure disregard for human life, in order to fit their needs, rivals the demons that are after Frank. Honestly, I would take Pinhead over those two every, single time. We watch helplessly as Julia, the black widow that she was, lure men to her home in order to sacrifice them so that Frank’s body can be restored. Love will sure make you do some crazy things. Have I mentioned that Frank is Julia’s brother-in-law?

I didn’t truly learn to appreciate this film until after I read the book. Their intense and toxic love is not nearly explained enough in the movie. It gives you just enough empathy for those two lovebirds to be able to appreciate their characters. In the film, it is just way too easy to hate them. That is one of the biggest reasons I placed the original film at number two.

1). Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

Where do I even begin with this exquisitely crafted sequel? Set immediately after the original, Hellbound expands on the universe that was only touched upon in its predecessor. Kirsty Cotton was definitely the protagonist in the first the “Frank and Julia” story was more prevalent than hers. In this one, she is the frontrunner. On a mission to save her father, Kirsty enters the labyrinth of Hell, Leviathon, and faces off with Pinhead, Julia, and a doctor-turned-cenobite that is as deadly as he is ridiculous.

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 is an example of how a sequel should be done. You take the complete idea from the first movie and you build upon it. You allow the fans to explore the original masterpiece from top to bottom. This movie was huge. I’m not referring to popularity. The scope of Hellbound is huge. We mainly follow Kirsty but we also get a full fledged Julia storyline and a web that weaves until the two collide. I don’t think that I have ever watched a movie that wrapped up every loose end as efficiently as this one.

After my Gramdma thwarted my plans of watching Bloodline, I was on a mission to watch this series. What was all the fuss about? At 8 years old, I nonchalantly asked her to let me rent this. She allowed it but said she needed to screen it first. After I had been staring at the VHS case for a good two hours, she woke up the nest morning and I could tell by the look on her face that I was not going to be watching the film anytime soon. She walked in the living room and said, “Preston, absolutely not.” It didn’t matter how much I pleaded, she was not having it. So I waited until I went to my stepdad’s house and rented it with him. My Grandmother was not pleased.
You could say I list this as my favorite because I went through Hell, no pun intended, to watch it. Honestly, it blew me away. It’s a well-crafted story that took us to Hell and back just to tie up any unfinished business that the first one left behind.

Some of Hellraiser movies are clearly better than the others, but most of them are great for a binge marathon. Do you agree with the ranking? How would you rearrange them? I’m gonna need an answer. What’s your pleasure, sir? 

About Preston Holt

At 5 years old i was catapulted in to the horror genre and have had no desire to ever leave it. I'm 26 years old with a great sense of humor and a thirst for the horror industry that just will never be quenched. I have a horror review site of my own called cabinintheweb reviews and when I'm not writing about, or watching, horror films, I am spending time with my spouse and my animals.

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