Last time we left the Hellraiser series, Kari Wuhrer was investigating a cult that supposedly resurrected the dead. This go round, Hellworld, number 8 in the never ending series, is a bit more complex and detached than the Deader plot. A group of 5 acquaintances get invited to a super-party for the internet game "Hellworld" at the Leviathan House. In this film, the Hellraiser films do exist (a la Wes Craven's New Nightmare) so our group of protagonists are immense fans of the pinheaded one and everything the movie series has spawned in its wake. Can you guess what is waiting for them in the Leviathan House?
Anyway, this giganto soiree takes place just after the group has to bury one of their friends, who supposedly took the "Hellworld" game a bit too far and wound taking a really long dirt nap. Four of the group, Chelsea, Mike, Allison and Derrick are remorseful for their cohort's death, but Jake, the "rogue" of the film feels that the group is responsible for his death because they knew that "Hellworld" was more than a game. However, sorrow soon fades as the group hits the house for the bash and is greeted by the "Host", Lance Henriksen. Seemingly a huge collector of all things Hellraiser, the host takes the group on a tour of the Leviathan House and gives them a history lesson of all the horrors that supposedly took place there. The detailed summary tells of how the house was originally made a convent, then an asylum and finally condemned after all of its inhabitants went crazy (I thought there were already!) and killed off each other.
Told that the house was under their ownership for the night, the group then parts ways to enjoy the "pleasures of the flesh" for the night. Naturally, the heroine of the film, Chelsea, is a bit reluctant to indulge in the festivities and soon finds herself locked off in one of the rooms of the house. Meanwhile, the remaining four find various ways to get themselves into trouble, ultimately leading to the deaths of three of them in rather gruesome fashion. If you can recall, the FX for Deader were quite graphic and it's master Gary Tunnicliffe returns for more mayhem in Hellworld. He even plays one of the Cenobite's that walks along Pinhead most of the film. I admit that some of the scenes in Hellworld are on par with earlier Hellraiser work, yet I still couldn't convince myself that this film was on their level.
Much like parts 5, 6 and 7 of the series, Hellworld is pretty much detached from the Barker storyline and instead offers up a new perspective on things. Since the Hellraiser films already exist in "real life" (in the film) the audience is challenged as to if Pinhead and his minions do exist, or are just fragments of the group's imagination. The Leviathan, as expected, is turned into a virtual house of horrors as each of the individual's nightmares are brought to life. Unfortunately, Hellworld doesn't provide the mass kill scene like Hell on Earth, instead choosing to single out the players. So that means something is up with the host, right? From the onset it is clear that Lance Henriksen's character is the main villain, although his motives don't become clear until the very end of the film, where the revelations of his character are almost as thrilling as his demise! (oops, did I give that away?) Well, since I did, know that his kill scene is one of the best in Hellraiser history, and this is coming from a hardcore fan of the Barker trilogy. Do note that this is one of Henriksen's most solid performances to date.
The extras on the Dimension disc are about as thick as Henriksen's hairline, offering up a couple of features similar to the ones found on the disastrous Deader disc (alliteration, kids!). Ticket to Hellworld: a behind-the-scenes look, feature commentary by director Rick Bota, writer Joel Soisson, special makeup effects designer Gary J. Tunnicliffe & executive producer Nick Phllips are the two biggies, with a plethora of upcoming Dimension films trailers teased in front of the viewer. I mean, c'mon Dimension.... everyone knows that you shelve your films 2 years before release! I'll be 30 when Scary Movie 3.5 is released!
In the long run, Rick Bota's second go at the Hellraiser franchise is much more prosperous than the first. Although fans of the series won't get a Barker-esque take on the franchise ever again, Hellworld serves its purpose as a splatterfest that provides Doug Bradley with another paycheck. It is easily the best storyline to hit the Hellraisers since Bloodline, and quite frankly would be the film to end the franchise with.