Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is–when viewed in retrospect–hasn’t aged particularly well.
The acting is often campy and overwrought–probably due to a relatively small budget–and some of the special effects weren’t even that good in 1987.
Though Barker did the best with the resources that he had, though I get the feeling that what made the movie most successful was that it took advantage of the ignorance of the average American moviegoer (a ‘cenobite’ is member of a religious order living in a convent or community. That’s it, though Barker’s genius was that he was able to imbue the word with powers and intimations beyond its humble origins).
Ironically enough, some of the sequels–most of which, rightly so, are maligned in the minds of movie goers–managed to capture that mixture of weirdness and perversity crucial to Barker’s work with even less in the way of budget.
So here’s a list of the best Hellraiser sequels, in order of release.
• Hellhound: Hellraiser II
Arguably the best of the series; it was directed by Tony Randel–who also directed the underrated Amityville: It’s About Time–and took the foundation and characters Barker created and turned them into something greater than the sum of its parts.
It also improved upon Barker’s original in virtually every way, and had some really trippy and disturbing imagery.
• Hellraiser: Inferno
The first Hellraiser film from Miramax, as well as the directoral debut of Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange), Hellraiser: Inferno is interesting because it manages to take the Hellraiser formula and successfully take it into a more psychological direction. The horror’s there, but the movie is more of a journey into the mind of its protagonist (in this instance, Det. Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer).
• Hellraiser: Hellseeker
By this time the Hellraiser movies budgetary restrictions are painfully apparent, but director Rick Bota does well with a story that brings back Kirsty Cotten (Ashley Lawrence) and connects directly to the original movies.
• Hellraiser: Bloodline
For some reason Hellraiser: Bloodline is much maligned–which probably has more than a little to do with the fact that the original director, Kevin Yeager, left the production due to studio interference and had to be replaced by Joe Chappelle, who had to cobble a movie together from Yeager’s completed footage–though I have always found it more interesting that most of the sequels.
Not everything worked, but when it did it was pretty effective.
But don’t take my word for it. Most of the Hellraiser films are on Netflix, so you can choose for yourself which is the best.