Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Hellraiser Chronicles: A Question of Faith

Director: RN Millward
Writer: Kieron Hazel
Producers: RN Millward, Kieron Hazel
Cast: Rob Leetham, Adrian Palmer, Leila Gray
Country: UK
Year of release: 2005
Reviewed from: screener DVD

I’m not the right person to review this film. For one thing, this is not part of the never-ending Hellraiser franchise but a fan film and I never watch fan films. There are enough original movies out there - and certainly enough genuine sequels - that I have neither need nor time for unofficial, amateur spin-offs.

Nor can I claim to be a serious Hellraiser fan. Out of the eight films I have seen number one about twenty years ago and number three a couple of weeks ago (in preparation for watching this). It goes without saying that a low-budget, unauthorised indie short is never going to live up to the original Hellraiser, one of the best British horror films of the modern era. But by the same token, it goes without saying that this is much better than Hellraiser III, although that’s unfairly faint praise; I have squeezed better things than Hellraiser III out of my bottom.

Anyone I watched this because it was the first thing on a disc of three short films that RN Millward sent me. It’s not a bad little half-hour horror film if viewed in its own right and in fact if you took the Lamont Configuration out of it and redesigned the bad guy’s costume so he looks less like a Cenobite, you’d have a decent little film that could stand up on its own without trying to piggyback on someone else’s ideas.

Father Dominic Farrell (Rob Leetham: Waiting for Dawn, Whatever Happened to Pete Blaggit) buys a terraced house which is haunted by the ghosts of three friends with whom he shared an unwise demonic summoning twenty years earlier. The demon was a Cenobite (Adrian Palmer) who started life as an Italian priest in the 1930s called Father Lombardo (also Palmer), who became corrupted when he gave in to the sins of the flesh and raped a possessed girl (Leila Gray). Father Farrell needs to raise the Cenobite again and send it back to Hell in order to free his friends’ souls. I think.

The spooky scenes are particularly well directed and edited, raising some genuine chills. However, there’s no real air of sexual menace, with the Cenobite looking more like a pasty-faced bloke in a leather jacket. However, the flashback Italian scenes, introduced with an excellent effects shot of a hanging miniature, are quite powerful as the possessed girl lures Father Lombardo into sin.

This screener disc was absolutely packed with extras including two commentaries, in one of which Millward discusses the problems which the productions faced because of the paucity of budget and schedule. He also points out some aspects of the story which, to be frank, don’t come across in the film itself.

A Question of Faith is, so we’re told, a pilot for a proposed TV series. While I have no doubt that there will some day be a Hellraiser TV series, simply because it’s a franchise that refuses to die, that series is clearly not going to be this, because rights holders always commission their own projects, rather than picking up speculative fan productions, however well-produced. One must assume that Millward and friends are aware of this rather basic truth of How The Media Works so it’s not clear how serious the ‘pilot’ status of this short film should be taken.

What is even odder than the concept of a fan-produced TV pilot is that absolutely nowhere in the credits is there any mention of Clive Barker. Plenty of other people get a ‘thank you’ but there’s no acknowledgement that this film owes its entire existence, ultimately, to Mrs Barker’s little lad Clive. It’s like making a Star Wars fan film without even a tip of the hat to George Lucas. I rather assumed that people who made fan films would be fans.

I really don’t know whether this is any good as a Hellraiser story or as a fan film. In its own right, it’s a decent enough 30 minutes of low-budget spookiness. But I don't want to make a habit of reviewing fan films. That's not what I do.

MJS rating: B-
review originally posted 15th April 2006

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