The fifth Hellraiser sequel, Hellseeker, is nowhere near as fun or inspired as the fourth, sad to say. It’s hard to follow up a sequel that includes journeys into both French Revolution times and outer space, but even so this is a pretty dreary attempt other than the fact that it brings back Ashley Lawrence’s Kirsty from the first two films, albeit all too briefly. Most of the film focuses on her husband played by Dean Winters who seems out of place here and who I can never see as anyone else but the human personification of the OnStar navigation guide thing ever since he did those commercials. Kirsty is mostly out of the picture and he’s wandering listlessly through a drab desk job, a philandering lifestyle full of cheating and lying and strange memories of a hazy car accident where she apparently died, but he can’t quite get the facts or the recollections straight. Grisly murders start to happen in the city, crime scenes that he’s always conveniently around, and soon two suspicious detectives are on his trail, then slowly but surely Pinhead and his gang start to make themselves known. The first two thirds of the film are interminable, as it tries to be a noirish character study of this guy but I just. Didn’t. Care. He’s less than non-interesting and even a guy with Winters’s natural charisma just cannot bring him to life. Then the third act happens and there’s some sparks of life, with a twist that, although fascinating and unexpected, sort of negates the whole silly stream of events we see before with his character and kinda made me go WTF. This is by far the weakest story of the seven sequels I’ve seen so far. Not much in the way of memorable kills, gore, atmosphere or effects, a muddy, murky story, flatlined protagonist and a serious lack of screen time for Doug Bradley, who was all up in the fourth one like a scene stealing mad dog. This one can be avoided and skipped over for the sixth one, which is a fantastic return to form and I’ll get to reviewing tomorrow.
There’s a certain melancholy defeat in viewing a film where missing and murdered people’s cases are met with lethargy, inaction and suspicious reluctance by the authorities, but in the same token they’re important films to watch as they shed spotlights on gross miscarriages of justice and impart that it can’t continue to go on like this. Liz Garbus’s Lost Girls uses a sobering tone, moody visuals and a deep intentional focus on the victims of the mysterious Long Island serial killer as human beings rather than ‘murdered prostitutes’ or statistical notches on the media’s callous belt. Around 2010 in rural New York State a serial killer struck, dumping bodies along a desolate stretch of road and leaving few clues save for vague ties to a nearby gated community that may be harbouring secrets. For struggling single mother Mari (Amy Ryan) this is a different kind of nightmare as her eldest daughter was in the area around this time and is still somewhere out there missing. Together with her two other daughters (Oona Laurence and Thomasin Mackenzie) she launches a fierce personal investigation into the matter when the lead detective (a smarmy Dean Winters) and even the police commissioner himself (Gabriel Byrne in introvert mode) seem to be willfully dragging their asses. It’s a sad story because Mari’s life is already tough enough; she’s severely low income, on her own as a mother and mental illness runs deeply within her family, already blooming in her youngest daughter. None of this makes the situation any better but she has grit, resolve and a desire for redemption that Ryan infuses in her performance nicely. The best work in the film goes to Thomasin Mackenzie as her middle daughter though, she’s an actress who made a big splash in Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace a couple years ago and once again delivers a powerful, understated yet rawly emotional performance. Because this is based on a real story that was never properly concluded there is a sense of heart wrenching, open ended pain here. The police investigation was never carried out properly, their response time to her daughter calling 911 the night she disappeared was unforgivable and as a collective result a heinous serial killer went uncaught. You’ll leave the film feeling sick and depressed, but it’s important that we pay attention because this shit probably happens every day. There’s a strong desire here to shirk the media’s portrayal of victims as deserving it because of their lifestyle and showing them as meaningless numbers in tv reports, while the families are out their mourning the human beings they remember so dearly. It’s in that the film finds it’s one ray of light, an important sentiment to take away. Not an easy watch, but perhaps the publicity now given to this tragic case will one day lead to the arrest of those responsible. Great film.