Branson Reese’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Hellraiser franchise is a little like Survivor in that it can change its shape like liquid to fit into whatever container its placed in. It's done slasher, torture porn, 90s HBO rerun cheese, and even flirted with that most golden calf of horror: Italian feeling. With the latest installment we've finally gotten a prestige horror Hellraiser. As with all prestige horror, the themes are laid bare for you so you don't have to go digging for them. This time it's addiction, one of my favorite themes due to my own addiction struggles. Naturally this caused me to watch the movie incorrectly. I kept pointing at the screen like a four year old watching Blue's Clues or a 24 year old watching some stupid thing I can't be bothered to look up. TikTok sea shanties. I don't know.
Riley (Odessa A'zion) is a cool, pill popping fuckup who has loud sex with a sort of Jesse Pinkman style idiot that causes everybody in her apartment to scream at her so badly she runs away to the playground from the Are You Afraid of the Dark? opening credits. I don't know that it was intentional but this movie tackles something I think more media should address: when you're in the throes of addiction everybody around you is so fucking annoying. Later on as we were supposed to care about these nags I could feel my investment waning. Wisely, the movie makes all of their suffering aspects of Riley's guilt. The entire world revolves around Riley. Honestly liked that a lot. It do be like that sometimes.
I don't mean to slag on this though, it had a lot I liked. At the end of the day if you show me some cenobites I'm gonna smile and enjoy myself. Even these smooth cenobites did it for me. Saw some people complain and call them sexless. Okay buddy, if you say so. I actually loved the way these cenobites looked. Loved the way their bodies reacted when they removed things from them. Loved how uniquely each one moved. Let's get some short cenobites in there next time. Can you imagine a 5'7" cenobite? I can't. But that's where movie magic steps in.
Ultimately this falls into the all-too-common franchise trap of giving me too much cenobite lore. I am fascinated by the inner workings and rules of those freaks, but I've never once actually needed to know a damn thing, especially because none of it makes all that much sense. That's fine, it doesn't need to. Just don't tell me then! It's the inscrutability of their actions and philosophy that terrify me. The idea that they're acting in a way they perceive as benevolent but I could never begin to truly comprehend. I think one thing this movie does very right is take an agnostic approach to the rest of the franchise. It's not really a sequel, nor is it a remake. It's not even really a reboot. It's just the most recent Hellraiser movie. Bugs Bunny is in the 1300s in this one, just shut up and enjoy. Same idea.
Anyway this is coming across more negative than I mean it to. I had a nice time watching it.