Even the words “A Stan Winston Production” at the top of this movie didn’t do much to brighten my spirits as I waded into the seventh instalment of the Hellraiser franchise. Deader is the third consecutive entry that originated from a totally unrelated horror script meaning that, yet again, Pinhead and the cenobite lore is backseated in favour of another tale of judgement to a sinful, unwholesome protagonist, here played by Kari Wuhrer. While the name might not mean much to you, she did play a character in Anaconda who I had the biggest crush on as a kid. She’s actually pretty good here too and the decision to pin (heh) this on a female lead rather than the bland blokes of the last few entries is a welcome change of scenery and gets things back, ever so slightly, to the Ashley Laurence glory days of the first two films.
It has a weird, rainy European setting too that was no doubt chosen due to some sort of tax break offered to the production. Hellseeker director Rick Bota returns for the second in his three-film tenure on the franchise and, surprisingly, makes one of the better chapters in the series. It has an unwieldy, sleazy plot that is often unpredictable and is pretty well shot for a mid-2000s straight-to-video horror flick. It also contains some of the strongest imagery of the later Hellraiser sequels, reconnecting with a lot of the ghoulish, sexual and perverse thematics Clive Barker originated. A nightmarish sequence involving a knife wound in a bathroom is genuinely unsettling and memorably icky. There’s also some inventive backdrops like a subway car that has been repurposed as a mobile S&M dungeon as well as a host of chilly environments populated by pale, ghostly security guards who seem to blur into the location. The plot and stuff is disposable but at least Deaderups the ante with some effective atmosphere and design. Not amazing by any means and still a far cry from the true potential of this series, but at least it kept my eyes open all the way through.