Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

After checking out Hellraiser and enjoying it, I figured it was time to catch up with the sequel. Now I’ve heard the films get progressively worse and worse, but that the second film was worth checking out. Is this true, or is this flick more like a torture worthy of Pinhead himself?

Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) is recovering in a mental ward after the horrific experiences of the previous film. Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) seems very interested in her story and helping her, but in truth he’s well versed in the world of the Cenobites and the puzzle box. He’s seeking out the final pieces so he can open the dark dimensions himself. It does take long for Channard to rip open a door and unleash the Cenobites and a really pissed off Julia (Clare Higgins). Now Kirsty must shut the dimensional door and save her father, whose bloody corpse is begging or help. But will Pinhead and his crew let anyone leave their hell?

Good Points:
  • A true followup story that builds off the events of the first film
  • Greatly expands the scope of the story and characters
  • Julia is one badass woman!

Bad Points:
  • Budget limitations keep some concepts from really taking off
  • Some changes are made to the rules set up in the previous film
  • Really damn gory, not for squeamish

The dimensional door that we only glimpsed in the Hellraiser is thrown wide open in this film and Kirsty is like a dark Alice in Wonderland with Julia acting as the hate filled Queen of Hearts. The scope and ambition of the film are impressive and it almost pulls it off. But a few missteps and a sloppy script keep it from besting its predecessor. But it is well worth seeking out for fans of dark twisted horror.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 4
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

In Depth Review
I was not expecting this to be a direct sequel to the previous story. Too often in horror, do we get more than one story with the same characters. Usually only the featured killer is preserved. But director Tony Randel and screenwriter Peter Atkins decided to take some of the elements that Clive Barker hinted at in Hellraiser and flesh them out. On top of that, they knew they had a couple great characters with Julia and Kirsty. The result is watching the last of this ruined family finally destroy themselves and provide a disturbing vision of the world the Cenobites inhabit.

The first half of the film is a lot like the previous one, focusing on Kirsty’s mental anguish and fear. Her visions of her bloody and helpless father torment her, and Dr. Channard’s questions seem to only reopen the wounds instead of heal. Some solace comes in the form of the young girl Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), who never speaks but can solve any puzzle given to her. Guess where she fits into all this.

Meanwhile Channard resurrects Julia, using some spilled blood. Her skinless body erupting and devouring a helpless victim is a horror lovers dream come true. Deborah Joel, who doubled as “skinless Julia” does a great job of being repellant and alluring all at the same time. She and Channard work overtime to return Julia to her proper form and she’s just raring to get some sweet revenge on Kirsty.

Then the movie takes its left turn down the rabbit hole as Channard gets Tiffany to open the puzzle box and the dimensional door. Kirsty goes after Tiffany. Channard explores this new world until he is delivered to the Cenobites by Julia. This second half of the movie is both impressive and a little bit of a letdown. Barker left plenty to our imagination in the previous film and it made things a lot creepier. Here, we are shown the dark twisted world and whole it visually interesting, you just wish they had a bigger budget to make it a little more believable. More interesting concepts are hinted at, and the whole thing seems like a bigger puzzle to play with.

But most of the money is spent on the gore effects and the new cenobite in the form of Channard. He’s a horrific creation, but a little silly too, with his tentacles ending in surgical interments. He also spouts groan-inducing one-liners that even Freddy would avoid. Luckily he’s so demented that he does provide a menace to the human characters.

Sadly, Pinhead and his cohorts are almost supporting cast in this film. They have a few lines, appear from the shadows a few times and threaten everyone, but the payoff is weak. We get an interesting prologue sequence that hints at the origins of Pinhead. But it doesn't play into the overall story too much. In the end the Cenobites face down the disturbing Channard Cenobite but it ends so quickly that it’s anticlimactic. If the series was going to finish off Pinhead in this film, that would have been a serious disappointment.

And yet, we get Julia, with Clare Higgins just going for broke in the role. She’s twisted, evil and over the top. Her interaction with Kirsty, Tiffany and Channard is really fun stuff, and I wish she had taken over as the main villain of the film. She ends up getting sucked into some kind of wormhole partway through the film, and disappears for a bit. But rest assured she has one more appearance to make. You can tell Higgins was having a blast and it really makes her scenes work.

For me the big problem is Tiffany. Boorman is fine in the role, but it is so obviously a writer’s construct, and not a character. If the script had a few more passes it could have really sizzled. As it stands, it gets a bit bumpy here and there. A few plot points from the first film are ignored or altered (like the fate of Frank and Larry) to make this plot work, and it feels like cheating.

Of course I have to mention the music. Christopher Young returned to provide the sequel score and with the expanded settings and new villain, he goes for broke. A twisted carnival theme is added for a house of mirrors sequence, but all the main themes from the original are retained and given even greater color and exploration. This is a huge gothic style score with lots of power behind it. Truly one of Young’s best horror scores and up there with the scope and power of Jerry Goldsmith’s work on The Omen III: The Final Conflict.

I enjoyed the film quite a bit. Hellraiser worked better overall, but Hellbound was a solid follow-up and opened the doors to delving into the cenobites and their world even more. But that may not have been as good in practice as it was in theory.


  1. As popular as this series was, I never saw any of the movies. I found the trailers off-putting, though perhaps that was a case of judging a skull by its nails. Also, Roger Ebert hated the original, and, while I don't always agree with Roger, I take his reviews into consideration when picking films. Perhaps it deserves a belated look.

  2. I'm with you on Ebert. Sometimes he's right on, other times I don't get his decisions. Give "Hellraiser" a try. It's better than he gives it credit for. Another one I don't agree with him on is "Blue Velvet" - but I'm a David Lynch fan, so take my opinion there with a grain of salt.