Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Film Review: HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988, Tony Randel)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Doug Bradley (Pinhead in the entire series), Kenneth Cranham (PROSPERO'S BOOKS, HOT FUZZ), Claire Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Imogen Boorman (DREAMCHILD), William Hope (ALIENS), Barbie Wilde (a female punk in DEATH WISH 3).
Tag-line: "It will tear your soul apart... AGAIN!" I won't lie- the similarity to the GHOULIES II tag-line has charmed me.
Best one-liner: "The case is terminal!"

Hoo boy. Now I realize that this thing underwent a lot of last-minute rewrites as a result of Andy Robinson (the Scorpio Killer in DIRTY HARRY) refusing to reprise his role as Larry (the dad), but goddamn, this movie just doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and I feel like it almost has more in common with BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY than it does HELLRAISER. I mean, there's certainly visual spectacle: M.C. Escher-esque matte-paintings,

a lot of skinless bodies,

and the return of our favorite demons (but with a new actress playing 'Female Cenobite,' which is surprisingly noticeable in a bad way).

Barbie Wilde is no Grace Kirby.

There's also a LOT of 80's lightning and laser effects. I mean there are a lot in the first, but here, there's an inordinate amount. There's a ton of recycled footage, and, based on the information she now magically possesses, our heroine seems to have WATCHED the first film along with us instead of experiencing it firsthand as her character.

Anyway, it begins promisingly- a flashback of Pinhead's human self first opening the puzzle box during WWI- but instead of seeing more of the Cenobites, we see even less than in the first. If every HELLRAISER fan compiled a list of things that they'd like to see in the second film, I guarantee we'd see things like 'more Cenobite focus' and 'more Frank backstory.' Instead, we get something that was on no one's list: Dr. Channard. "Who's that?," you ask. Well, (*vague spoilers*) get ready to spend 99 minutes finding out, and seeing him easily kick the rumps of our mysterious Cenobites.

Pin-who? No, I'm telling you, we need more Channard.

Why? Because the people out there are thirsty. Thirsty for more Channard.

Big payoff. Cenobite Channard. Quenches that thirst for more Channard. Plus, we no longer need those pesky other Cenobites. They were pretty crappy, anyway. Nobody liked them.

It'd be like if TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 had focused on a really boring serial killer played by Mike Farrell, who killed off Leatherface and the whole clan halfway through the movie without much ado, and then proceeded to do his own thing for the rest of the movie. It's like that, but with a whole lot more medical one-liners: "The doctor is in," "The case is terminal," "I recommend amputation," etc., etc. Sheesh. Two stars.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

I guess I liked this film more than you did. True, it isn't as good as the first HELLRAISER but it does have some good stuff going on. Plus, you get the wimpy ineffective Lieutenant from ALIENS playing an equally ineffective guy!

I just stumbled onto your blog by way of Google finding your ass-kicking review of Walter Hill's EXTREME PREJUDICE. Not to mention you champion guys like John Carpenter AND John Flynn. Very cool. Keep up the good work you almost turned me around on ESCAPE FROM LA.... almost.

Sean Gill said...

Thanks for the kind words, sir!

I think I would have appreciated HELLRAISER 2 a lot more if Dr. Channard had been played by, say, Powers Boothe.

J.D. said...

Agreed. Can't enough Powers Boothe. Just watched NIXON again a few days ago and even in a marginalized role he was still awesome.

HK Fanatic said...

Yeah, I was hesitant to say anything but I kinda have a soft spot for Hellraiser II. I view the first installment as straight-up Clive Barker horror, while Hellbound is more like an 80's dark fantasy film. Honestly, the art direction is almost enough to carry the movie for me. I really enjoy the climax in hell, what with the giant labyrinth and floating leviathan. It's some evocative stuff, even if it's not as dark as the first one.

"i am in hell help me"...

Sean Gill said...

Well, I apologize for pissin' on what seems to be a cult favorite, it just rubbed me the wrong way. I'd be willing to give it another chance in the future. How do people feel about HELLRAISER III? (I haven't seen it yet)

HK Fanatic said...

Ha ha, no need to apologize. ;) I agree with your critiques of the film. I doubt many people would argue that Hellraiser II is a genuinely "good" movie. It's just that, as with a lot of cult films, it has a particular art direction and style that appeals to some people and helps them overlook the flaws.

Hellraiser, where do I begin? It's worth watching but I quit the series after that. Hellraiser III is basically the point where Paramount/Dimension Films realized "Hey! People seem to like this Pinhead guy. We could probably make a ton of money if we put out a movie where he goes around killing a bunch of horny young people while spoutin' off wise-cracks and such!"

Okay, it's not quite THAT bad but you get the idea. It's the first Hellraiser set firmly in America and it features a bizarre approximation of the early 90's underground goth club scene that has been so Hollywood-ized that it's virtually unrecognizable as such. It's like the studio thought "goth scene=yuppies who are into S&M". There's lots of hanging chains and KMFDM on the soundtrack. Into all this walks Pinhead, brutally dispatching club-goers and getting in a few Freddy-style one-liners.

So yeah. It's a pretty commercial horror movie but it's got that slick, early 90's horror feel and you can tell a lot more money went into it than the first two installments. Also, I just looked it up and apparently the director - Anthony Hickox - also did Waxwork I&II. Too bad Waxwork is a hell of a lot better than Hellraiser III.

Sean Gill said...

Wow. I can't decide if your description repulses my inner cineaste or intrigues my inner trashmonger. Goth yuppies. One-liners.... I'll probably check it out someday.

J.D. said...

Yeah, HELLRAISER III is pretty crappy and the franchise only got worse with subsequent sequels. Now, there's a remake/reboot in the works. Blech.

Daniel W. said...

I loved how Channard had a seemingly endless supply of medically related puns. On an unrelated note he played a damned good Pompey Magnus in HBO's Rome!

Daniel W. said...

Out of all franchises posters though..Pinhead's sneer in this one is by the far the best image of the unfortunate creature.

Sean Gill said...


I do enjoy a good medical pun... though I think DR. GIGGLES has the market pretty much cornered!