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Friday
Jul222011

The Illusionist (2010)

Nothing Up His Sleeve But a Broken Heart

There are plenty of lofty, critic-y words that I could use to describe Sylvain Chomet's exquisite, enchanting, perfectly rendered (see?) animated feature, The Illusionist. I've been very fortunate this week to have spent a few hours frolicking in the virtual, watercolor worlds of Chomet's Europe and Anderson and Hall's Hundred Acre Wood--and the thought of slinking back to the theatre for another round of low-IQ, 3D, CG summer blockbuster is almost too much to bear.

The Illusionist might be for everyone, but convincing everyone to give it a chance is a hard sell. It's a mostly silent, pantomimed, 1950s French period piece about an elderly magician's struggle to find relevance and love in a world that's actively casting off his kind. What little dialogue there is comes in the form of vaguely European-sounding grunts and slurred mumbles, and the award for "Most Thrilling Scene" is a toss-up between a shot of a train moving through the French countryside and a bit where the magician waits backstage to follow an effeminate rock quartet.

If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, I challenge you to watch the first ten minutes of this film. Chomet, working from a lost screenplay by renowned French mime, Jacques Tati, plunges us into a rainy, romantic, mid-century Paris, where the art of practical illusion and traditional entertainment are buckling under the gaudy, spoon-fed gloss of rock music and television. We meet Tatischeff (Jean-Claude Donda), the magician, as he performs rabbit-from-the-hat tricks for sparse crowds. He travels from place to place, taking whatever meager jobs he's offered. A stint at a wedding in France leads to a gig in a small Scottish village, where he meets Alice (Eilidh Rankin), a young girl who believes him to be a true wizard.

Alice follows Tatischeff to the big city, taking up with him in a modest apartment building occupied by other performers--among them, a mime, a ventriloquist, and a trio of peppy acrobats. Alice is amazed by the lights, sounds and bustle of urban living, as well as the elegant fashions she sees in boutique windows. Without her knowing, Tatischeff spends all of his performance money on clothes for Alice, producing them for her seemingly out of thin air. One night, she sneaks into his dressing room and discovers a pair of white high heels inside a gift box. She claims them right away, and Tatischeff doesn't say a thing.

Eventually, Tatischeff has to take odd jobs to support himself, his charge, and her expensive tastes. But his skills as a magician do him little good at cleaning cars, or doing anything except trying to delight diminishing audiences. As he works night and day to make ends meet, Alice sits bored in their apartment. One morning, she spies a handsome, young man across the courtyard, reading a book. They meet up and hit it off; and though her relationship with Tatischeff was never more than that of a surrogate father/daughter bond, Alice's courtship of the scholarly stud feels like a betrayal.

It's here that The Illusionist plunges from Wistful Slice of Nostalgia into Depressing Meditation on Aging. I won't ruin the ending, but I will say that I was glad that Tatischeff got a glimpse of what I saw in Alice early on. Though it could be argued that she's just extremely naive--and not a gold-digger--there's nothing about her behavior that suggest she's a good person. She has the self-involvement of a five-year-old, though she appears to be anywhere from twelve to eighteen years of age.

She exhibits no sense of loyalty, modesty, or decency--but it's easy to see how Tatischeff could have read her constantly smiling face as being that of a well-mannered, sweet girl (The "naive" option is more disturbing--as it suggests she grew up in an unbelievably sheltered community that raises its children to believe that stage-magic is real and that it's okay to essentially elope with a traveling illusionist. Which I understand; but when the village gets its first taste of a jukebox, why isn't there a violent uprising against the singing demons inside?).

That's my only minor gripe about a movie that I adore to death. I rarely see films where the way in which the story is told is more important than the story itself. I'm new to European animation, so please forgive me when I say that The Illusionist is unlike any other animated feature I've experienced. The most noticeable difference is the fact that the characters and the backgrounds work together seamlessly. Often in 2D animation, as with Winnie the Pooh, the characters will be rendered in a much more vivid style than their painted environments. The separation often takes a moment or two to get used to, as the characters often appear to be Colorforms. In The Illusionist, there is no distinction between environment and inhabitant, which creates as believable and rich a world as any of Pixar's CGI creations.

Okay, I lied. Speaking of CGI, a couple of details distracted me during the movie. While 99% of the movie appears to have been hand-drawn and painted, there are a few instances where 3D-modeled cars and trains pop up, mapped to look like the rest of the film. These vehicles move, for the most part unnaturally, compared with the fluidity of the other objects in The Illusionist. I was initially let down by this discovery, but I realized that drawing a realistic train crossing the French countryside in perspective by hand is probably a ridiculous undertaking that could have delayed the movie's release by a couple years (spitballing here). So, no, it's not perfect.

But it is an imperfect masterpiece (To quote da Vinci, "Art is never finished, only abandoned"). The character animation has to be seen to be believed. Even the most exaggerated, cartoonish freaks move with a hyper-naturalism that looks like a flip-book of Alex Ross' life-drawing sketches. The people of Chomet's Europe are as real as any "real" actors you've ever watched on-screen, both physically and emotionally. The Illusionist is at once joyful and sorrowful, an ode to the past and a concession to the future. It's the rare kind of escapism that provides a genuine jolt after dropping you back into the real world.

Monday
Jul182011

Space Battleship Yamato (2010) Home Video Review

Cosmic-kaze

Space Battleship Yamato is one of the most challenging films I've seen; not because it's too profound or original--just the opposite. It's derivative sci-fi through and through, a two-plus-hours Japanese space soap that doubles as the world's quickest-to-the-floor "Spot the Cliché" drinking game. At least, that's how it may appear to people who, like me, got a taste of the movie's rich history only after having experienced it.

I've written recently about my belief that movies shouldn't come with an instruction manual. With the exception of sequels, a person should be able to get from Point A to Point B without requiring prior knowledge of a filmmaker's other works, their philosophical/political/religious beliefs, or their love for a densely crafted, decades-old pile of source material (i.e. comic books, novels, or, in this case Anime series). When the lights come up, I should have enough of a grasp of the characters, plot, and/or overall theme to be able to explain it to someone who hasn't seen it (or, in the case of Midnight in Paris, to emplore people to see it with the confidence that they'll get something out of it without my having given anything away).

A few critics argue that some movies don't need to have a point, that they can be whatever the audience wants them to be--"visual poem" is a popular phrase used to describe incoherent, often beautiful works. On some level, I understand this, but I don't accept it. Until we develop a supplementary ratings system, where "A" means "Accessible"; "P" means "Pretentious"; and "CHL-20" means "Twenty-something Coffee House Loafers Only", I think it's important to draw distinctions--vague as they may be (I'm not suggesting that all movies hold our hands--merely that the people behind them don't jack off all over us for three hours and call the outcome a film).

Which brings me, finally, to Space Battleship Yamato, a movie that, as I said earlier, is almost laughably full of clichés. My prior-knowledge stance compels me to ask why anyone would bother to make this movie, given that it is literally a self-serious homage to the last three decades of pop culture. In the distant future, mankind is driven underground by a mysterious alien horde who blasts Earth's atmosphere with radioactive meteor-missiles. In a last-ditch attempt to save our species, a single ship sets out for a distant galaxy to retrieve a device that will help restore the green planet. Their journey is fraught with interstellar dogfights, body-invading aliens, and crew turmoil.

Brash ex-pilot Kodai (Takuya Kimura) agrees to serve on the ship of his sworn enemy, Captain Okita (Tsutomu Yamazaki), who, years before, used Kodai's brother's ship as bait to avoid destruction at the hands of the evil Gamilas army. Not long into their journey, Okita takes ill and leaves command of his vessel to Kodai, who gradually rediscovers the greatness that lay dormant in his bitter, young heart. Kodai's second biggest battle is with the beautiful Yuki (Meisa Kuroki), a hot-shot pilot who wrestles with her hurt feelings over Kodai's leaving the military years before and the tractor-beams radiating from is steamy, bad-boy eyes.

There are few moments, ideas, or dots along the character arcs that haven't been well-tread in everything from Star Wars to The Hunt for Red October to the latest incarnation of Battlestar Galactica (particularly in Kozo Shibasaki's cinematography), and probably a dozen other cinema touchstones. By the time Kodai and his search party enter the catacombs of the Gamilas' base on the planet Iscandar--which looks almost exactly like the interior of the Independence Day mother ship, I'd all but given up on the story.

But, wait!

What's that noise disrupting the good guys' victorious, happy-ending musical suite? Why, yes, that is the last surviving Gamilas cruiser preparing to launch an extinction-level rocket towards planet Earth. I must admit, this caught me by surprise. I was thrilled to think that I might avoid writing the film off after all.

But, wait--again!

There's something familiar in Kodai's orders to evacuate the ship; something not too original in his decision to use the Yamato as a battering ram to take out the enemy's master vessel.

Ah, yep! That's it! Writer Shimako Sato and director Takashi Yamazaki conclude their film with the opening ten minutes of J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek reboot. Their only discernable stamp is the ridiculous amount of time the few remaining characters on the bridge devote to goodbyes and solemn monologues after the aliens launch the man-ending missile (seriously, it's a good eight minutes of vamping).

So, what does all of this have to do with my opening argument against prior knowledge? Well, it turns out the joke is (sort of) on me. The Anime series Space Battleship Yamato debuted in 1974, three years before Star Wars and light years ahead of everything else I've just accused the live-action adaptation of ripping off. We're now faced with a chicken-and-the-egg dilemma. Having not seen the cartoon, I can't say for sure if the '74 show really spawned a lot of the conventions that have become commonplace today. but my dear friend, Bill, who turned me on to this movie, recalls that as being the case.

Which means I really have nothing to bitch about. Apparently, Yamato came first.

But...

Films do not exist in a vacuum, especially not in the new century. There's no reason to believe that the creators of this 2010 feature were unaware of the impact that movies like Independence Day, Star Trek, and Star Wars had on the global popular culture. It's unreasonable to assume that. This begs the question: Why bother with a straight-up adaptation of a cartoon show that--though perhaps the progenitor of legions of sci-fi tropes--is also so awash in them that the movie nearly capsizes?

The performers are really compelling; the relaxed pace of the numerous dialogue scenes offers a fine counter-balance to the special-effects-heavy space- and land-battles (effects that range from Battlestar-passable to being beneath those found in a Shane Van Dyke movie). And some of the sci-fi elements are really cool--like the Yamato's warp process, which takes it through what looks like an underwater wormhole in outer space (likely a nod to the original World War II battleship). But all of this falls flat in the face of the tired story and narcoleptic story beats.

I guess if all you need is to see flesh-and-blood people wearing leather versions of cartoon outfits from your childhood, then this film is perfect. But for the uninitiated, a story that at least leans in the direction of uniqueness would be appreciated. I would even pay to see more adventures that take place in this universe, ones dreamt up by forward-looking storytellers. As it stands, I can only shake my head at a pretty-looking, wasted opportunity and imagine a world where the animated Space Battleship Yamato's didn't evolve into a listless Frankenstein monster.

Sunday
Jul172011

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Sweet Surrender

The main reason I wanted to see Winnie the Pooh was to marvel at the lush ink-and-paint backgrounds that caught my attention in the trailer. In a medium so dominated by CGI wizardry, it's easy to forget that traditional artists are also capable of creating fully believable worlds with several well-placed hatch marks. The film is packed with beautiful, imaginative illustrations, and I was happily surprised to find the story to be just as captivating.

The plot is simple: Pooh (Jim Cummings) runs out of honey and must get more in order to silence his rumbling stomach. On a trip through the woods, he discovers that his friend Eeyore (Bud Luckey) has lost his tail; the wise-sounding know-it-all Owl (Craig Ferguson) proposes a contest to find a new tail--the prize for which will be a large pot of honey. As the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood experiment with tying umbrellas, cuckoo clocks and other trinkets to the sad-sack donkey's rear end, their human companion, Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter), turns up missing.

Actually, he's not missing at all. The animals misread the "be back soon" note he'd left as being a ransom letter from a mysterious monster called the "Backson". The friends split up the day between searching for Eeyore's new tail and laying a trap for the unseen creature; both endeavors lead to unexpected mini-adventures and a good deal of laughs.

I laughed a lot watching this movie. Co-writers/directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall (plus seven other credited screenwriters) bring Pooh and company into the era of meta-storytelling in ways that are clever but never precious. We've seen the real-world storybook introduction a hundred times in Disney movies, but in Winnie the Pooh, the text of the book becomes a physical object that must be contended with by the characters it describes. The Hundred Acre Wood is also an unreliable dimension, prone to ejecting its denizens from faded spot-illustration borders into the white-and-black uncertainty of the pages that contain it.

This is the stuff of genuine imagination, the idea that stories are transportive and have no constraints outside of a person's inability to dream something bigger. The closing credits play over still-life photos of the "real" Christopher Robin's room, in which stuffed-animal avatars of Pooh and his friends sit posed in scenes from the animated movie. It's a lovely, gold-lit slice of nostalgia that ties nicely in with the leisurely pace of the rest of the film.

I do have a couple complaints I'd like to register, though (of course!). One is a minor quibble with the film; the other is a potentially irrelevant gripe about the moviegoing experience. Please, bear with me.

When I heard Zooey Deschanel's first song in the movie, I couldn't stop thinking about the jingle she wrote for those Cotton commercials. After awhile, I got used to her singing, and even grew to like some of the songs. But to me, her voice is like a flat version of what Adele does with her music--which basically capitalizes on the boisterous, White-Girl-Motown schtick that Amy Winehouse still-birthed a few years back.

(This subjective complaint has been brought to you by Old Man's Ears: "Replacing 'hip' with 'hip-replacement!")

Next, I've gotta call Disney out on the run-time. Normally, I gripe about movies being too long. Winnie the Pooh is way too short. Granted, the filmmakers aren't telling a Harry Potter-level epic, but at 65 minutes (including credits), the suits are practically begging parents to stay home and wait for the video. They pad things out a bit with the lovely Billy Connolly-narrated short, The Ballad of Nessie, but I can only recommend people rushing out to see this movie if they smuggle snacks into a five-dollar matinee. Which is a shame, because I think this is a great big-screen experience.

Winnie the Pooh is an utterly engaging, silly fantasy filled with charmingly naive characters (Old Man Fingers almost typed "stupid") and a painstakingly illustrated world that has to be seen to be believed. My son is too young to have accompanied me to the theatre, and I was genuinely bummed that I wasn't able to share this film with him and my wife. Based on the "ooohs" and laughter of the kids (and adults) in my screening, though, I have a feeling that our eventual trip to the Hundred Acre Wood will be quite a lovely adventure.

Saturday
Jul162011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

The Wizards' Wavering Place

"Maybe there’ll be some magic in Deathly Hallows: Part Two that will make everything worthwhile.  But I have a feeling we’re in for more moping and teleporting and reciting of spells before the inevitable, glorified lightsaber duel—the outcome of which is as easy to guess as the weekend box office."

That's one of the closing lines from my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One. I'm almost disappointed at having written it because I'm now left with little new to say about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two. I blame the film for that, as I'd hoped to write about how the last decade had actually built to an amazing, satisfying conclusion; but that's not true.

Not in the least.

Okay, let me qualify that. If you're a fan of the Harry Potter films, Part 7, Part 2 (as I like to call it) will likely have you singing its praises as one of the year's best movies. It is sufficiently spectacular, kinetic and noisy--and there are more tertiary character deaths and nerd-triumph moments than you can shake a wand at.

If you're a fan of the books, well, that's a bit trickier. As with every entry in this series, Part 7, Part 2 has been criticized for either not showing key moments from the sacred text or sucking the drama out the clipped versions it does show. If you can let that sort of thing go, you may have a great time.

Personally, I spent much of the film wondering why it took eight movies to tell this particular story. The only elements that really play into the finale are the horcruxes--trinkets containing pieces of the evil Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) soul that Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) must destroy--and those were mentioned for the first time in either the last movie or the one before it. I've copped to having a crappy memory when it comes to these movies, but I can't think of a single plot point or character motivation from, say, parts one, three, or five that ties directly into the events of this movie.

The whole Harry Potter story is no more complex than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and could have said everything it needed to say in three 90-minute pictures (for instance, Harry as a freshman, sophomore, and senior at Hogwarts). Everything else is just personality-free, nonsensical filler.

Please, temper your cries of "Blasphemy!" and hear me out. Many of my Pott-head friends tout the final books of the series as being the darkest and most adult. That may be true, especially for stories aimed at children. But for people past the quarter-century mark, I would hope these movies are more iCarly than Apocalypse Now. With the possible exception of the last two installments, the Harry Potter movie franchise is a rinse/repeat formula of grade-school peril that should move and surprise exactly no one.

Jeez, for all my ranting, I haven't even touched on the plot. Here goes: Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) find the last batch of horcruxes and destroy them. Hogwarts is decimated during the final showdown between the virtuous students and Voldemort's legions of dark wizards, trolls, and werewolves. Harry kills Voldemort and lives to spawn a "Further Adventures of"-enabling son/wizard-in-training.

We all knew things would pan out this way. Hell, you could walk into this movie completely ignorant of the books or the previous movies and lay out the plot in about three minutes. The only mildly interesting part of Part 7, Part 2 is the number of homages it pays to other, better films ("homage" is the kindest word I could think of). During a break-in of Voldemort hench-person Bellatrix Lestrange's (Helena Bonham Carter) magical vault, we get a new version of not only the Star Wars trash-compactor scene, but also the "throw me the idol and I'll throw you the whip" line from Raiders of the Lost Ark--all in about three minutes' time! Combine that with a climactic moment in which Ron's mother (Julie Walters) tweaks Sigourney Weaver's famous line from Aliens, and you have the perfect storm of market-tested entertainment: déjà vu for the adults; wholly original moments for their ignorant kids; and a theatre shaking with puzzling, thunderous applause.

I did like some of the last thirty minutes. Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves yank on the audience's heart strings with both a flashback to the secret relationship between the "evil" Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), as well as a touching moment where Harry meets with translucent, glowing versions of his dead parents, mentors, and various members of the Jedi council. I can't tell if the material was actually well executed, or if I merely projected my own loss issues back at the screen; but for once, something rang true in this series.

The movie looks really nice, if not utterly generic. The special effects team makes use of the hundreds of millions of dollars allotted them and convincingly renders dragons that soar and force fields that sparkle and deteriorate. The only dodgy bit of CG in the movie appears in the Snape/Dumbledore scenes, where, instead of hiring a younger actor to play the Snape of twenty years earlier, the studio decided to apply a waxy--dare I say embalmed-looking--smoothing effect to Rickman's face. I've never been really impressed by fantasy-movie visuals: the best-rendered castle is still just a castle, and these tent-pole blockbusters aren't about to risk a single patron-dollar on challenging, imaginitive special effects.

Lest you think I'm being unfair, I should mention that I've seen every one of the Harry Potter movies on opening weekend; I've given each a chance to impress me story-wise, acting-wise, and visually, and have been let down, year after year after year. If I'm to evaluate these films solely on the notion that they're meant to entertain kids then, sure, I'll concede that they're perfectly fine; bloated and rather silly, but perfectly fine.

But looking at them from an adult perspective, it frightens me to think that there are so many people who accept these films as solid entertainment. Were it not for morbid curiosity and a duty to my readers, I would have abandoned these movies eight years ago. Now that the whole thing's finished, I can safely say that Harry Potter is to fantasy what Friday the 13th is to horror--a completely disposable, semi-annual tradition that has more to do with generating cash through cheap spectacle than telling any kind of a coherent story.

Everywhere I go, I see poorly Photoshopped Part 7, Part 2 posters that simply say, "It All Ends." To which I invariably nod and think to myself, "Thank Christ."

Note: Given the special occasion of this being the "last" Harry Potter movie, I splurged on the 3D LIE MAX experience ("LIE MAX" refers to the much-smaller-than-an-actual-I-MAX-screen that some AMC theatres are passing off as the real thing; branding's a bitch--watch out for it). Unless you've been saving all year so that the family can see Part 7, Part 2 in this manner (matinee price: $16 a pop), do yourself a favor and opt for the regular, glasses-free presentation. The film's visuals are dimensional enough that you don't need cardboard cut-out versions of the characters flying at you in order to be thrilled.

Friday
Jul152011

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Space Shuffle

I could be wrong about this, but I believe Hellraiser: Bloodline was the first horror movie to kick-off the "...in Space!" trend (as in, "It's Leprechaun...in Space!" and "It's Jason...in Space!). Had makeup-effects-artist-turned-director Kevin Yagher known that the fourth entry into this series would be such a pop landmark, he might have kept his name on the picture--instead of using the classic shame-onym, Alan Smithee.

Smithee does a decent job with the material. Though not as eerie as the first film or as unsettling and expansive as part two (we'll leave three alone for now), Bloodline is the most unique of the Hellraiser sequels; the story bounces from a futuristic space station orbiting Earth to eighteenth-century France to mid-nineties New York and back again with ease. The horror elements aren't frightening so much as weird and gross--which, honestly, appears to have been the aim.

Really, the person who should've removed his name from the movie is screenwriter Peter Atkins. In a moment, I'll tell you why.

Bloodline tells the story of Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay), a scientist working on a space station of his own design. The year is 2127, and he's just completed the most significant architectural structure in the history of man: an mirror-lined, inhabitable version of the series' puzzle box, which can summon the demons of Hell. Merchant's plan is to conjure, trap, and destroy the cadre of monsters who've haunted his family for centuries.

Before he can complete his mission, a military unit boards the station and takes him into custody. He'd gone rogue on his backers and dismissed the rest of the crew in order to carry out his secret work, and now finds himself being interrogated by an officer named Rimmer (Christine Harnos). Much of the film is told in flashback, as Merchant takes Rimmer on a tour of his cursed ancestry.

In the 1700s, a toymaker named Phillip L'Merchant (still Ramsay) is commissioned by French aristocrat Duc de L'Isle (Mickey Cottrell) to create a special puzzle box. The wood-and-brass faces shift and reconfigure themselves with the right touch, and de L'Isle appropriates its mystery for use in the dark arts--summoning a demon to inhabit the body of a peasant girl that his man-servant, Jacques (Adam Scott), murdered. The demon, Angelique (Valentina Vargas), betrays de L'Isle and spends the next couple of centuries as Jacques's slave, offering up sex and, apparently, agelessness.

On learning of what his box has brought forth, L'Merchant tries to steal it back to create a reverse gateway. Angelique catches him in the act and curses his bloodline to eternal torment before killing him. A couple hundred years later, New York architect John Merchant (Ramsay again!) begins having visions of Angelique, now a high-society temptress who's severed ties with Jacques. She visits Merchant's latest building, a towering, modern something-or-other with massive chunks of the puzzle box jutting out of every surface. Using a dumb businessman as bait, Angelique summons Hell's badass, Pinhead (Doug Bradley). Together, they plan to use one of L'Merchant's old designs to construct a permanent open door between Hell and Earth.

Obviously that doesn't work out, as evidenced by the film's future-set bookends. Indeed, Bloodline's middle portion is merely a rip-off of the climax of Wes Craven's New Nightmare with different actors and a monster that won't shut up.

Yes, here's where Atkins' script really hits the fan. He wrote the previous two installments, too, and each one became progressively more out-there and exponentially talkier. I have too much dignity to actually clock his screen time, but I'd bet Bradley spends a good ten (maybe thirteen) minutes monologue-ing during this barely-ninety-minutes picture. Worse yet, the words coming out of his mouth aren't interesting: they're like the bad, morbid poetry a preppy kid would write to woo the Goth hottie in English Lit.

Pinhead's pontificating drags the movie down so much that I could barely enjoy the brief pockets of levity, as when twin security guards get melded together to create a new member of Hell's army; or the film's last fifteen minutes, which manage to both presage Jason X (i.e. "...in Space!") and make it look like groundbreaking, high-production cinema. The rules of Hell become garbled, too: the fact that Pinhead can't tell a holographic projection of Merchant from the real thing calls the master cenobite's whole mystique into question--maybe he was distracted by the sound of his own booming voice.

It's a shame, too, because this didn't have to be the last theatrically released Hellraiser movie. The ideas are interesting, and the acting alternates (mostly) appropriately between over-the-top and sufficiently serious. The gore is inventive, particularly the scene where the formless Angelique fills in the skinned peasant girl's hide like someone trying on a sock that'ts two sizes too small.

I suspect the problem is that at some point, too late in the production, a lot of people realized they were making Hellraiser 4, and a little bit of their spirit got sucked into the malignant box of wasted creative energy. Retrospect is a bitch, though, and if any of them had had an inkling as to how magnificent their movie would look compared to the next decade-and-a-half of direct-to-video sequels, I'm sure at least the director would have proudly slapped his real name right back on the poster.