With over 100 films at Fantastic Fest, many provided surprises. Hellraiser and Medusa Deluxe surprised me the most.
Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the country, shows horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and unusual films that don’t necessarily fit into standard genres. The 2022 edition screened primarily at Austin’s iconic Alamo Drafthouse Theater – South Lamar. It also used online options and other venues to give fans more ways to watch.
Surprise, It’s Pinhead
At least a couple of nights each year at Fantastic Fest produce real excitement, such as the Secret Screenings. You can feel the tension in the auditorium as the audience waits for the film unveiling. Wednesday night’s Secret Screening delighted the audience with Hellraiser, and not the 1987 version, but a new interpretation of the world unleashed by the puzzle box.
The new story involves a young woman, played by Odessa A’zion (Nashville, Grand Army), in financial trouble and attempting to recover from alcohol and drug dependency. This, and her boyfriend, lead her to uncover the puzzle box.
This is not a sequel to the original Hellraiser. Ten sequels were enough. Like the version of Halloween which premiered at Fantastic Fest in 2018, it wants you to ignore all those sequels. Rather than sequel, this falls into the category of “reimagining.”
Clive Barker Helped
After the screening director David Bruckner, joined by other filmmakers and cast members, answered audience questions about the film.
One audience member noticed that Clive Barker, whose novella The Hellbound Heart inspired the original movie, had a producer credit on the new film. Bruckner explained how Barker was extremely helpful and supportive of the project. “He looked at our progress and made great, positive suggestions,” Bruckner said.
Bruckner also discussed the different Cenobites, followers and helpers of Pinhead. He said that they kept basically the same look for Pinhead, played by Jamie Clayton (Hung, The L Word: Generation Q). Bruckner shared that they wanted to create new Cenobites, but decided to keep a couple that were fan favorites, such as The Chatterer.
Bruckner got some laughs and applause when he told the audience that they were lucky. “You got to see the world premiere in a theater as the movie gods intended,” he joked. If you weren’t there that night, you will have to watch Hellraiser on Hulu beginning October 7, but you can start by watching the trailer below.
This film was not on my schedule until I heard that its writer/director, British filmmaker Thomas Hardiman, had won Fantastic Fest’s Best Director Award.
The log line for the film read: “Tensions and hairspray run high when a stylist is murdered at an elite hairdressing competition where a passion for extravagance borders on obsession.” I thought: like Christopher Guest’s Best in Show, but with hairdos instead of dogs. The surprise? I was totally wrong.
From the opening scenes this film is an intense thriller. Hardiman earned his Best Director award by crafting memorable characters who leave a deep impression.
Initially, you will suspect that the murderer is Cleve, played by Clare Perkins, whose screaming hostility and arrogance in the opening scenes sets up an environment of anger and suspicion.
As the film progresses you will develop suspicions about almost all the characters. Each gets their own segment to explore their needs, the flaws in their psyches, hostilities with other contestants, and beliefs that the judges are prejudiced.
There are moments of humor to provide a break from tension, but this is definitely a film that takes you on a dark journey.
To get updates about future Fantastic Fest events and ways to view its films, check its website.