Monday, June 3, 2013

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) - A Review


“It is not hands that summon us. It is desire.”

In the sequel to Clive Barker’s 1987 directorial debut Hellraiser, we see the events that follow the devastation of Kirsty Cotton’s life. Since I started this series, I figured I would finish and review each chapter as I watch. As with most any horror franchise, the first chapter is normally the strongest. While Hellbound: Hellraiser II was by no means a bad film and I actually think it stood up pretty well with the first, it too fell privy to this pattern.

Head inside to take a more in depth look at my thoughts on the film.

Title: Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Director(s): Tony Randel
Writer(s): Peter Atkins
Producer(s): Christopher Figg
Story by: Clive Barker
Starring: Clare Higgins, Kenneth Cranham, Ashley Laurence, Imogen Boorman, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bramford, Barbie Wilde, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, William Hope

A year after the Lament Configuration was rearranged and Pinhead was set loose on suspecting audiences, Clive Barker returned (this time in the producer’s chair) and let Tony Randel take control of the Hellraiser empire to bring us Hellbound: Hellraiser II. In this film, they quickly establish that this franchise is going to be about giving the viewers answers. Answers about the Lemarchand’s Box, about Pinhead and the Cenobites and how it all came to be. I like this. A lot, actually. In this film we see a bit more about Pinhead’s history, and we learn a bit about how he came to be the monster that we all know him as; the bringer of pain and harbinger of suffering.



The film opens much like the first, it appears to be the early 20’s (sometime in World War I) and a man, who we later find out is named Captain Eliot Spencer, is sitting cross legged with the box attempting to open it. Of course he is successful and chains tear into his flesh, ripping him into the world within the box. Unlike Frank’s journey in the first film, Captain Spencer does not meet the Cenobites. He becomes their leader. His flesh turns ghastly pale, nails are driven into his head and he is transformed into Pinhead. The legend has begun.

Back in the 1980’s, Kirsty wakes up in a psychiatric hospital (The Channard Insitute) where she is being questioned regarding the events of the previous evening. As hard as Kirsty tries to convince the police officer of the truth behind the story, he is understandably quite skeptical. The mattress that she has warned them of (as Julia may be able to return after having died on it) is taken as evidence and she is turned over to Dr. Philip Channard and his assistant, Kyle MacRae.


That night, in a dream-like state a skinned man appears to Kirsty in her room with a bloody-message scrawled across the wall: “I AM IN HELL. HELP ME.” Believing it to be her father, she relays her story to Kyle. 

The story gets interesting here, we are taken to the inside of a beautiful and modern house, that of Dr. Philip Channard. We see the inside his study, a room very different from the rest of the house. It is here that we see that he has acquired the blood-stained mattress that Julia died on. He has also done extensive research into the Lament Configuration, Lemarchand’s Box and the things that it is capable of. He has even gone so far as to collect three boxes, all of which are on display in glass cases. 

For some reason, Kyle decides to break into Channard’s home and he starts in the study. He discovers Channard’s hobby, and when Channard arrives home early he is forced to hide behind a curtain to avoid being found. Channard enters with one of the more unfortunate cases from the hospital, a psychotic man who believes he is covered in maggots and is constantly begging to be relieved of his affliction with wails of “GET THEM OFF”. After being supplied with a sharp instrument he goes to work to remove the maggots from his flesh, coating the mattress in his blood. This acts as a catalyst for Julia to return to the world of the living, and she reemerges (minus flesh) from the mattress and kills the poor devil. 


Kyle informs Kirsty of everything once he has arrived back at the hospital and gets Kirsty out as she believes that she must enter the realm of the Cenobites in order to save her father from Hell. She journeys back to the Channard homestead where his sinister plan begins to unravel. Using a mute girl named Tiffany from the Institute who has an uncanny ability for solving puzzles, he is going to open the box and discover the true mysteries that lie in The Labyrinth, home to the Cenobites. 



This film took on a very different tone than that of the first. We are introduced to new 
characters, and reintroduced to a few old, but as mentioned before there is an air of learning more about the Cenobites and the world that they live in. Kirsty is playing in their dominion now, where they have complete control. She can’t send them back to a place that they already are. There is also the new dynamic of Kirsty working with Tiffany to make it out of this world and once again defeat the Cenobites. I liked all of this, it was nice to see a change of pace and the direction it went didn’t bother me much at all.

Now, onto the P’s and C’s:

1. The Soundtrack.
Watching the sequel showed me something that I took for granted in the first film, and that was the immense soundtrack that built this ever mounting sense of dread that you feel throughout the film. The sweep of strings when Pinhead first enters the screen gets your heart pumping and it gets you on the edge of your seat. Hearing the swell of voices when the opening credits began to roll got me excited about revisiting Kirsty and seeing what was going to happen next. I am a big fan of soundtracks, and in a horror film I firmly believe that a soundtrack (or lack thereof sometimes) is the key to making it work.
2. The Story. I absolutely love the fact that this franchise is telling a story, and while it gets cheesier as the chapters progress, it is an immense story. Unlike Halloween, we see a deeper story here. We see that the Cenobites were not always monsters, they were at one time human beings that were chosen to become the demons that we grew familiar with in the first film. They became a product of their own twisted desires, effectively, they created themselves.


1. Continuity Issues.
There were a few continuity issues that irked me a bit. They weren’t things to completely turn me off of the film, but they were enough to mark itself as a step down from the first film. First of all, Julia’s return to the mortal world. In The Hellbound Heart, and the first film, we see what it’s like when one’s body returns to the mortal world. Frank was an emaciated beast, not even capable to stand on his own two feet. Julia returns, for the most part she’s fully revitalized. All she needs is skin which leads me to my second point. Julia returns to her former bitch of a self, beautiful skin and all. Frank is forced to use his brother’s skin. Was this intentional? Did he not have enough bodies to seep energy from in order to regain his own skin? Also, the winged creature from the end of the first film was never explained, which I was sorely hoping for.
2. The Script. This one suffered mainly due to the fact that Clive Barker took a step back, and I think that showed. While he provided the story, the script itself felt weak. There were key moments that could have been major, get-on-your-feet and scream moments that just fell flat due to faulty dialogue and lazy acting.

Overall, I’m not complaining. I thought it was a great film and a worthy follow-up to the first. Did you check out the first film yet? If you did, get on the sequel. They’re all on Netflix.


-Rg Lovecraft

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