Home media release artwork
|Directed by||Gary J. Tunnicliffe|
|Produced by||Michael Leahy|
|Written by||Gary J. Tunnicliffe|
|Based on||Characters created|
by Clive Barker
Paul T. Taylor
|Music by||Deron Johnson|
|Edited by||Mike Leahy|
Michael Griffin[Note 1]
|Distributed by||Lionsgate Films|
Hellraiser: Judgment is a 2018 American horror film starring Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Heather Langenkamp, and Paul T. Taylor. It is the tenth installment in the Hellraiser film series created by Clive Barker, written and directed by the series' longtime special make-up effects artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe. The plot centers on three police detectives who, investigating a series of murders, are confronted by the denizens of hell. The film expands the fictional universe by introducing a new faction of hell, the Stygian Inquisition, who are distinct from the recurring Cenobites. The Cenobites offer sadomasochistic pleasures to humans who enter their dominion, while the Inquisition processes the souls of sinners. Tunnicliffe plays the Inquisition's auditor, a prominent role in the film.
Unable to direct his screenplay for Hellraiser: Revelations due to a scheduling conflict, Tunnicliffe initially removed all references to the series from his Judgment concept and tried to have it funded as an independent film in 2013. He intended on making a "true" Hellraiser film because of his disappointment with the later films. Several years later, Dimension Films was required to make another Hellraiser film to retain the rights, giving Tunnicliffe a chance to propose his vision. The concept was initially rejected but accepted after he negotiated changes with the studio executives. It was filmed in Oklahoma with Children of the Corn: Runaway, both films produced by Michael Leahy. Some scenes were deemed too graphic by the studio, and were edited. Although Tunnicliffe asked actor Doug Bradley to return as priest of hell Pinhead (a series mainstay), Bradley declined when he learned that he would be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to read the script. Judgment is the second Hellraiser film without Bradley in the role, having been replaced by Stephen Smith Collins in Revelations. Newcomer Paul T. Taylor was cast after impressing Tunnicliffe in an audition for another character. He and Tunnicliffe decided to develop a new look and interpretation, rather than imitating Bradley's performance. Mike Jay Regan reprised his role as the Chatterer, Pinhead's servant in several of the earlier sequels.
Judgment was scheduled for release in 2017 with minimal marketing to avoid negative publicity, but was temporarily shelved. According to Taylor, its release was not a priority for Dimension until the sexual abuse allegations involving parent company co-founder Harvey Weinstein (when the film was put back into post production). It was distributed by Lionsgate Films in video on demand and home media on February 13, 2018. Although critics compared the film favorably to its predecessors, its low budget and police procedural aspects were criticized.
In hell, Pinhead, from the Cenobite sect, and the Auditor of the Stygian Inquisition are discussing how to adapt their methods of harvesting souls in the face of advancing human technology that is making the Configurations (gateways to hell) obsolete. On Earth, three detectives – brothers Sean and David Carter and Christine Egerton – investigate a serial killer known as the Preceptor, whose murders are based on the Ten Commandments.
A connection with one of the victims leads the detectives to Karl Watkins, a local criminal who went missing near an abandoned house. Sean goes to the house and loses consciousness, waking up in the Stygian Inquisition's domain in hell. As the Inquisition prepares to hand down a verdict on Sean for his sins, the angel Jophiel intervenes and tells them to release him. Sean escapes the realm with a stolen puzzle box, and the Auditor requests Pinhead's guidance on the matter. Sean and his brother return to search the house, finding no trace of hell or the Inquisition. That night he is haunted by visions of the Cenobites and hell's denizens, who promise "judgment and redemption" to anyone who opens the box.
Sean and Christine go to the coroner's office and find that a cell phone of one of the Preceptor's victims was stored in her body, recording her final location with its GPS. They find the Preceptor's hideout, where Sean incapacitates Christine and reveals himself as the killer. David deduces the Preceptor's identity and meets with the coroner to find the building. Upon arrival, Sean disarms David and reveals that he is holding his wife Alison hostage, outraged that she had an affair. He forces David and Alison to open the box at gunpoint, summoning the Cenobites and opening a gateway to their realm.
Aware that someone from hell would come to collect his soul after his initial escape, Sean attempts to offer Alison and David to Pinhead. Pinhead tells him that they will be dealt with for opening the box but, because a separate faction of hell wanted his soul, no deal will be made. The Auditor appears, telling Sean that the Inquisition has found him guilty of his sins. Jophiel intervenes again and protests to Pinhead and the Auditor that Sean is part of heaven's plan to instill fear into sinners. Pinhead arranges for Christine to kill Sean, and spitefully dispatches Jophiel. As punishment, God expels Pinhead from hell and forces him to walk the earth as a mortal man. In a post-credits scene, a group of Mormon missionaries in Germany approach a house and are captured by the Stygian Inquisition.
Grace Montie plays Crystal Lanning, a dog-loving socialite whose murder sets the plot into motion. Rheagan Wallace plays Alison Carter, Sean's wife. Diane Goldner plays a Cleaner, an aging nude woman and part of the Stygian Inquisition who forces her tongue on victims as penance. Tunnicliffe conceived the Cleaners as in their nineties (similar to the three Witches from Macbeth), saying that his worst nightmare would be being chained to a bed with old women licking him clean. Andi Powers plays one of the Jury, three nude women in their twenties with skinless faces who hand down verdicts from the Inquisition. Other acting credits include Jeff Fenter as sinner Karl Watkins and Helena Grace Donald as the angel Jophiel. Judgment is the first Hellraiser film to include heaven in its mythology. According to Tunnicliffe, he took influence from The Scarlet Gospels, stating "I am in no way religious, but if you are writing a story that acknowledges the existence of Hell, then you have to acknowledge the existence of Heaven. I'm a big fan of things like Constantine and Prophecy, so it was fun bringing those characters into it."
Only took a mere 30 years to get from being a 19 yr old [sic] make up fx wannabe living in rural Staffordshire to finally getting to write and direct a Hellraiser movie (whilst creating make up effects for a whole bunch of them along the way).
Decades before the development of Hellraiser: Judgment, Dimension Films obtained the rights to the Hellraiser and Children of the Corn film series; Dimension's first films were Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth and Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, shot back-to-back in North Carolina in 1991. Since then, the company has been required to produce films in both series to retain the rights. Around the release of Hellraiser: Bloodline in 1996, Gary Tunnicliffe (who was involved with the special effects of Hellraiser III and Bloodline) pitched a Hellraiser story, Holy War, to Dimension executive Bob Weinstein; an opening scene, about a priest seeking a path to heaven through suffering, was storyboarded. Tunnicliffe continued to provide special effects for the series' sequels through Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), which all were released to direct-to-video after Bloodline, but was unhappy with the quality of the films. Nearing a later deadline to retain Hellraiser and Children of the Corn, Dimension Films offered him an opportunity to write and direct a Hellraiser sequel. Tunnicliffe wrote the screenplay for 2011's Hellraiser: Revelations, but could not direct it due to a scheduling conflict with Scream 4.
Although most of the direct-to-video Hellraiser sequels were conceived as original screenplays that were converted into Hellraiser films, Tunnicliffe's idea for Judgment was intended as part of the series from its conception. He removed its Hellraiser elements after trying to meet with Dimension, who were uninterested in making another Hellraiser film immediately after Revelations. Tunnicliffe showed Judgment to Mike Jay Regan, who enjoyed its premise and suggested the removal of Pinhead for a standalone project. He then attempted to make it as an independent film, but failed to find financial backers, leading to an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign in 2013. Five years after being unable to direct Revelations, Dimension (facing another rights-retention deadline) offered Tunnicliffe the job of writing and directing another Hellraiser film. Tunnicliffe pitched Hellraiser: Judgment to Dimension three times (being rejected each time), and wrote a script treatment for a more traditional Hellraiser film, Enter Darkness, to demonstrate that he could come up with other ideas. The treatment's plot involved psychiatric hospital interns studying patients with shared experiences of the Lament Configuration, while the head doctor collates them to meet the Cenobites himself. The studio approved it, but Tunnicliffe insisted on making Judgment. Dimension told him to write the script for Judgment with the proviso that if they disliked it, he would direct Enter Darkness without being paid. After reading it, they allowed Tunnicliffe to direct Judgment as part of the series after negotiating rewrites, notes, and suggested changes. Saying that Judgment "will have moments unlike any other [film] you have ever seen", he was inspired by the works of Hieronymus Bosch, Francis Bacon, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, David Fincher, and Hellraiser creator Clive Barker:
Tunnicliffe's original treatment began with a Christian missionary approaching a rundown house to spread the Gospel and being captured by the Auditor at the door. The film's next fifteen to twenty minutes would focus on the missionary's audit as he is processed (judged) by the Auditor, the Assessor, the Jury, the Surgeon, the Butcher, the Seamstress, and the Bone Collectors. Two days later, a police officer is captured by the Auditor when he searches for the missing missionary. (Tunnicliffe wanted the scenes in hell to be more nightmarish than they were in the finished film.) The Assessor chokes on the pages of the policeman's sins during the audit, leading the distraught Auditor to seek assistance from Pinhead. Pinhead gathers the Chatterer and the Female Cenobite to find out what went wrong. Flashbacks show several police investigations, misleading the audience into thinking that the police officer is innocent. An angel confronts Pinhead, demanding the police officer's release. The officer leaves the house, returning to raid it with armed colleagues, but find it to be empty. Pinhead and the Auditor review the officer's sins, discover that he is not innocent, and confront the angel. The next day, the officer awakens to the Cenobites invading his home. The audience learns about his sins, and the next fifteen minutes of the film would involve the Cenobites capturing and tormenting him.
—Doug Bradley, on originating the Pinhead role
Judgment was cast by a team led by casting director Chris Freihofer. Gary Tunnicliffe wanted Doug Bradley to reprise his role as Pinhead, the lead cenobite; Bradley refused, criticizing Dimension Films for the quality of the Hellraiser sequels. Tunnicliffe pleaded with him, but Bradley again declined when he learned that he would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to obtain the screenplay. In an interview with Bloody-Disgusting, Bradley said that he had not read the script and declined to comment on the film's quality, but expressed chagrin that it was another rights-retention project. Paul T. Taylor was cast as Pinhead, and Tunnicliffe played the Auditor. It was announced that Mike Jay Regan would reprise his role as the Chatterer, and Heather Langenkamp would play a character in the film.
Taylor became involved when he received an email inviting him to screen test as the Auditor; after the test, he was asked to audition as Pinhead. The latter audition took place in Los Angeles, where Taylor thought he "nailed" his performance. Tunnicliffe allowed him to interpret the character, and he was given months to prepare before filming began. The preparation included smoking (unusual for Taylor), to give his voice a gravelly quality. He took late-night walks in high-crime neighborhoods near his home, which he described as "facing the fear". He said of his performance, "I have a vulnerability in my acting no matter what I do. It's just there ... It's about the stillness. [Pinhead]'s already so terrifying that when he makes a move, it means something. He's very economical and when he speaks, he's so eloquent." Believing that "Pinhead has to be British", the American actor used a British accent when in-character. For research, he visited a comic-book store to read Hellraiser comic books in which Pinhead appeared. Tunnicliffe detailed his reasons for selecting Taylor, stating that he was prepared and open to listening, but also wanting to give his own interpretation: "I wanted a slightly different Pinhead for this new tale, there's a stillness, a dry resolve to this new version, coldness, sarcasm. I wanted a Pinhead with a regal sense of arrogance and boredom and Paul delivered."
Filming took place over a three-week period in Oklahoma, on a relatively small budget of $350,000. Tunnicliffe and cinematographer Samuel Calvin prepared substantially beforehand to maximize shooting time, using a daily average of 30 to 35 complex camera and lighting set-ups. According to Tunnicliffe, all departments were enthusiastic about their work and a work day never exceeded thirteen hours. Filming locations included a derelict building, a bar, a luxury apartment building and penthouse suite, a church interior, a children's playground, alleys, and stages and sets built by the film's art department. Some actors had to be persuaded to arrive at certain shoots, partially because of the film's budget. Tunnicliffe said about filming, "I'm a great believer in really using the time on set. You only get up to twelve to thirteen hours a day, maximum, and I don't like going over time and over budget. I like to have a strong plan going in and the way I do that is that I act out the entire script with my D.P. [director of photography], we act out everybody's roles in every scene. We pick our angles based on that." Local residents contributed to the shoot by suggesting specific locations, and a car dealership loaned a van for the film. Taylor shot his scenes in an Oklahoma City studio, where a set for the "offices of hell" was built. The film was shot at the same time and place as Children of the Corn: Runaway, also produced by Mike Leahy; Judgment actor John Gulager directed Runaway. According to Leahy, "Blood has been flowing here in Oklahoma City. These are two horror films that are going to be seen by a core audience." Another three weeks were devoted to editing, and the film's limited budget restricted the number of lengthy edits. This was followed by the implementation of color timing, sound, and music. The score was composed by Deron Johnson, who was influenced by Trent Reznor and the score of Seven. Although Tunnicliffe's original cut had cues from Christopher Young's orchestral soundtrack from Hellraiser and Hellbound, a more modern approach was adopted for budgetary reasons. The domains of hell inhabited by the Cenobites and the Stygian Inquisition were distinguished by color, with a blue palette used for the Cenobites' domain and a "piss" yellow applied to the Inquisition's.
Some of the film's sexual content and violence was deemed too extreme by the studio, and was removed. Tunnicliffe said, "I don't think people could stomach my original version. The studio certainly couldn't. I could have easily made the film ten to fifteen minutes longer with a more intense cut, but it would probably be TOO much. In the end, wiser heads prevailed." Among Judgment's deleted content were a longer scene of Karl Watkins being skinned to death by the Inquisition's surgeon, and scenes involving the Cleaners. The original version of the sex scene between Sean and Alison Carter was more intense, with the camera cutting back and forth between Sean's view of his wife and visions of the Cenobites. Several false endings were conceived for the scene, including Sean's hallucination of Alison fellating him when he looks up after his orgasm to see David Carter smiling back at him. The nightmare scene in which Sean enters an alley and sees flashes of hell was originally longer and more graphic; at one point, he stumbles across Alison as part of a threesome behind a dumpster with two strange men in pig masks. Tunnicliffe wanted to use surreal imagery to convey that "Sean's world was being torn apart, undone by his experiences at the house within the hellish dimension." In Judgment's original concept pitch, the Jury eats the Assessor's regurgitated pages (not sifting through them) before handing down its verdict on the Stygian Inquisition's captives.
The makeup-effects team was led by Mike Regan and Mike Measimer. Taylor's portrayal of Pinhead was intended to be leaner and more serious than previous incarnations, lacking the earlier films' glib one-liners. This was incorporated into the makeup and costume design, with longer silver pins, deeper blade-slice cuts, solid black eyes and a more-visceral, sleeker wardrobe. The character's original attire was replaced with a ragged robe and butcher's skirt made of chain mail. His many tools and weapons were replaced by a streamlined skinning utensil. Some grid-like cuts were rearranged from his previous design, with one square removed from each side of his jaw and one added to the back of his head. The flesh exposed on his chest was made a rhombus in honor of Leviathan, the god worshiped by the Cenobites; a homage to the Eye of Agamotto symbolism from Doctor Strange lore was integrated into the costume. The Lament Configuration was also altered, built with bleached wood and copper etching. The self-inflicted lacerations on the Auditor's face were intended to be less patterned and more chaotic than that of the more-ordered Cenobites. The facial cuts' positions were borrowed from an unsolicited redesign for Pinhead created by Tunnicliffe for Pascal Laugier's cancelled Hellraiser remake. A blood-stained shirt and threadbare two-piece suit cover the cuts on the Auditor's body. Religious symbols, implicitly torn from the necks of the guilty, are on the bracelet of his right wrist. His black spectacles convey the impression of soulless eyes.
Tunnicliffe had to balance directing the film and overseeing the effects work. About the quality of the blood effects, he said: "I don't think it's so much the quantity of blood but more the nature of the effects, the content and the context. I think some of our blood gags are actually quite beautiful; when you see blood raining down on a naked girl with a skinned face at 300 frames per second you can't help but be mesmerized by the fluid dynamics." Taylor compared the simulated gore to that of the Saw series: "I think people are going to be fascinated with it and the things that are, what I would say, on the border of horror porn, there's some elements of that in it and that will please many Hellraiser fans and fans of just what contemporary horror can be these days where it's just a gross-out." He later clarified, "I think [the gore in the film] is done because of the style and aesthetics in a beautiful way. This is not masturbation, and let's just throw blood at the screen."
Tunnicliffe sent pictures to the wardrobe department of what he wanted the characters to wear, and the department measured the actors. Costumes designed and built for the Cenobites were handled by Tunnicliffe's department. He chose to have certain characters nude because he thought it would look visually more interesting than designing cheap costumes. The costume department used a cast of Taylor's head to design a pin mask for him to wear as Pinhead, which covered his entire head except for his ears. Although he found the costume and makeup extremely uncomfortable, he integrated the discomfort into his performance as the sadomasochist. When he saw his reflection in the mirror in the Pinhead makeup, he said he instantly fell into the character's mindset. Taylor thought the makeup menacing enough that he had a minimalist approach to his performance, feeling that attempting to be conventionally frightening would be overacting.
Hellraiser: Judgment was initially scheduled for a 2017 release. In a 2016 interview with Dread Central, Tunnicliffe stated that marketing would be kept to a minimum, aside from the promo images and casting news that had been released: "It seems to me that any images or fodder given out in good faith are kinda twisted around – usually to the negative – so the best response really is the film itself." Taylor gave a possible explanation in October for the delay, saying that the film may not have finished post-production, "I have a reliable source who just informed me that Hellraiser: Judgment has been on a shelf for a while, unfinished. But now that Harvey Weinstein is out of the picture, Hellraiser: Judgment has been taken off that shelf and is back in post-production." Taylor expanded on his reasoning in a later interview, stating the film might not have been released if not for the sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein, which financially compromised the studio. The film's trailer and release date were released on January 9, 2018. After nearly two years of silence from Dimension Films, Lionsgate Films picked up the distribution rights for Hellraiser: Judgment and Children of the Corn: Runaway; the former was released on digital and home media platforms on February 13, 2018. The film made a reported total of $405,578 in domestic home video sales.
Hellraiser: Judgment was compared favorably to its direct-to-video predecessors. Collider's Haleigh Foutch referred to the film as "a refreshing change of pace" as opposed to the earlier sequels. She praised the film's attempt to expand its universe instead of copying what was previously done, but found its execution sloppy due to a low budget and "pedestrian" human drama. Also praising the special effects and surreal imagery, she wrote that the final product did not live up to its ambitions. Forbes critic Luke Y. Thompson called Judgment the best of the direct-to-video sequels: "That may sound like faint praise, but it is in no way intended as a damnation." Thompson wrote that it integrated the earth and hell scenes more effectively than previous sequels and praised the additional mythology as "the best attempt since the early, more [Clive] Barker-infused theatrical films to deliver a coherent cosmology." He criticized the suggested retail price of the home-video release, calling it a "must rent" for Hellraiser fans.
Similarly, Brad Miska of Bloody Disgusting called it "the most authentic Hellraiser since Bloodline": "While sluggish, it at least serves a purpose ... Everything comes full circle in the final moments, adding an entirely new dimension to the Hellraiser franchise. Solely for Hellraiser apologists, Judgment does just enough to warrant its existence." Steve Barton of Dread Central gave the film a score of 2.8 out of 5: "Hellraiser: Judgment's biggest accomplishment is that it's actually good. All of the acting is solid, as is the story. Pinhead is omnipresent, and Taylor delivers a worthy performance and is every bit as majestic as you'd hope he'd be ... While not perfect nor as good as the classic Hellraiser films, [it] delivers a rather striking vision that feels as new as it does familiar."
Some reviewers were more critical of the film. IGN's William Bibbiani believed it to be one of the best direct-to-video Hellraiser entries, but considered that to be more reflective of the poor quality of its predecessors, "The imagery is creepy and the pacing is brisk, but the story is a faded carbon copy of other, better serial killer thrillers, and the new additions to the Hellraiser mythology rob the Cenobites of their deviant allure and otherworldly menace." Giving it two stars out of five, We Got This Covered writer Matt Donato found the police procedural elements generic and the gore and hell elements inadequate; he called the film "one of the least realized, most throwaway" of the series. Birth.Movies.Death writer Scott Wampler slammed the acting, story, and lack of screentime for Pinhead, calling the film a "mixed bag with the stuff I enjoyed ultimately outweighed by the stuff I did not"; however, "I can't help but be curious to see what Tunnicliffe might do with a decent budget, or less meddling from the rights holders."
Judgment expands on lore introduced in the earliest films, with Taylor calling it a jumping-off point for a sequel that tells a "true" Hellraiser script with an ambiguous ending. He said that the characters in the film could be used in future installments and expressed an interest in returning as Pinhead, but would also be happy with a bigger-budgeted reboot starring Doug Bradley. Tunnicliffe had no particular idea for a sequel, spin-off, or follow-up of any kind when developing the film, but has since suggested a scenario where the Auditor helps Pinhead reclaim his status to overthrow an incompetent successor; a "battle of the Hell priests."
Bradley is open to returning to the Pinhead role, but only with the "Right place, right time, right motives, right script... Since I turned down both movies, I knew other actors would get to play the part. I don't know about 'taking over': enjoying temporary ownership, maybe." He was interested in starring in a film version of the Hellraiser novel The Scarlet Gospels, but is unaware of any plans for such a film.
In May 2019, Variety reported that a reboot is being developed at Spyglass Media Group, with David S. Goyer serving as the writer. Goyer will produce alongside Gary Barber, who described the project as an "evolved" reimagining of the original film. Spyglass vice president Chris Stone is planned to oversee the film's production.