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  • Rev Horror

Hellraiser II: Hellbound

Dir. Tony Randel (1988)

Kirsty is committed to a psych ward, where the evil doctor in charge is determined to summon the Cenobites once again.


When Pinhead burst onto the scene in the original Hellraiser, Barker left far more questions than answers. Unlike in The Hellbound Heart, Barker's novella that inspired the classic original film, Pinhead is a mysterious figure that simply appears, whenever the Lament Configuration is solved, to torture his victims and drag them to Hell. Is he simply a demon or is he a previous beneficiary of the Configuration's infinite pleasures? Thankfully, Hellbound: Hellraiser II is here to answer this question that undoubtedly arose from the groundbreaking original film. Not-so-thankfully, it kinda sucks. The opening scenes of the film (after the several-minute-long "last time on Hellraiser" recap of the original's finale) shows Doug Bradley himself solving the box and being cut, hammered, and tortured into becoming his gnarly Demon-self. I feel sure that we'll get even more of these inception stories as the series develops.

The inherent truth of the Hellraiser movies, however, is that it is not the presence of the Cenobites themselves (or their origins) that are the instigators of whatever plot will arise. The Cenobites are, after all, summoned to Earth; they don't exist on our plane unless someone calls them to it by solving the Lament Configuration, and almost everyone who solves the mysterious puzzle box does so knowing what their actions will bring forth. In the first film, it is Frank's pursuit of carnal revelation that leads him to seek out the Configuration in the first place, his dedication to searching for infinite pleasure compelling him to solving the puzzle. In the novella, he is well aware of the results of his actions, though perhaps not conscious of the full scope and powers of these otherworldly beings.

In the first sequel, it is Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) who seeks these entities, his hunt for the doorway to Hell that drives his quest into the human mind as the head of the mental institution in which Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) has been committed. He raises Julia (Clare Higgins) from the dead by supplying her with unwilling victims, from which she vampirically sucks the lifeforce necessary to build her back into a living being. Unfortunately, after Julia is resurrected (in a particularly gory and brutal scene), the movie becomes a smorgasbord of violence-for-the-sake-of-violence and nonsensical plot meanderings that feel almost disrespectful to the originality and intrigue of the original film.

We do, of course, get answers about the origins of our Cenobites, the film revealing that each "demon" is actually a human who was converted into monsters through pain and torture. The Good Doctor Channard becomes a Cenobite himself, seeking to wrest control of the Hell Dimension from Bradley's Pinhead. After Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), a young supposedly-mute girl who is used by Channard and Julia to solve the Lament Configuration and open the portal to Hell, opens said portal, everything goes to shit within the narrative structure of the film. There are some interesting visuals, giving viewers and fans of the series their first look into what lies beyond the doors of the universe, but the editing of the film is choppy and disorienting as much of the rest of the film proceeds in a noticeably non-linear fashion. The characters find themselves in different locations with no explanation as to how they got there, jumping back and forth between Hell and the dormitory of the mental institution for no apparent reason. The doctor is sadistic, but his obsession with the universe beyond is barely touched upon other than that he is, in fact, obsessed.

It was nice to receive an explanation for the Cenobites, but very little else of what occurs is explained at all: the Configuration is turned into a bizarre looking artifact that doesn't seem to be a puzzle at all, the Cenobites are offed one-by-one by the newly transformed Dr. Channard, and Tiffany randomly seems to find her voice, speaking for the first time in the movie upon the reveal of the newly created Doctor Cenobite, a funny but ridiculous scene with zero explanations given for the abrupt psychological healing. What have been otherwise good special effects quickly deteriorate into bullshit, with Channard's Cenobite powers revealing themselves to be Clash of the Titans-era stop-motion claymation snake hands with roto-rooter teeth. The Hell World itself is revealed to basically be inside the Lament Configuration, which is a cool idea but provides no reason for why its also so easy to get back out and back into the mental hospital.

It's just a mess. It's not bad, per se, but it is most decidedly not good, either. It's a worthwhile watch just to watch Bradley do his thing, as he is only slightly less menacing than he was in the first film. Laurence is fine as Kirsty, and Cranham is relatively impressive, at least as the human version of the doctor. The rest of the movie is rather blah, however, failing to achieve the heights of the psychosexual impact of the original. In fact, so very little is devoted to the actual intents of the Configuration and its denizens that it fails to feel like a Hellraiser movie at all, rather serving as a cashgrab for people who wanted to see more of the light-blue demons and their natural habitat. It bodes poorly for me, in my pursuit to review the entire series, that even the second one turned out not to hold too many candles to the first. Oh well... On we trudge.

Who this movie is for: Clive Barker lovers, Fans of the original who want a little more explanation, Fetlife members

Bottom line: Hellbound is not a worthy sequel to the original, as it becomes clear that the idea well was almost dry after the first one and I'm about to go through a bad week of lackluster sequels. There are some bright spots, with some excellent gore (and one particularly uber-disturbing scene during the reincarnation of Julia) and a great performance from the always-amazing Doug Bradley. By and large, however, the film fails to find its footing and utilizes some of the worst editing I've seen in a long time (at least in a mainstream production) to deliver a barely coherent sequel to an all-time great horror film. It's worth a watch for fans of the series for Pinhead alone, of course, and it's got enough tenuous connection to the original that it won't disappoint too much. Just don't expect a psychosexual masterpiece, because it is hardly that.

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