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Movie Reviews

Hellraiser II

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Reviewed by Liam Griffiths

Released: June 16th 1989 (UK)

Directed by: Tony Randal

Starring: Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence and Imogen Boorman  

Certificate: 18 (UK)

Picking up immediately after the climax of the original, Hellbound continues the story of terminally unlucky teenager Kirsty (again played by Ashley Laurence), and the aftermath of her run in with murderous Uncle Frank. Trapped in a Mental Institution and plagued with nightmarish visions, Kirsty’s life gets even more difficult when the occult-obsessed manager of the institution, Dr. Channing, uses a blood-stained mattress to resurrected Kirsty’s ill-fated stepmother Julia.

After Channing falls inexplicably in instant love with Julia, they use the skills of a young, puzzle-obsessed mute girl (obviously – I mean, who doesn’t keep one of those handy these days) to solve the Lament Configuration, turning the Asylum itself into one big cosy house of satan, and unleashing the Cenobites once more. What ensues is a 90-minute long, The Warriors style dash through the various corridors, and along the way Kirsty and Tiffany (the mute girl, played by Imogen Boorman) must figure out a way to escape the clutches of Julia and the newly demonised Dr. Channing.

Released less than a year after its seminal predecessor (and with original writer-director Clive Barkertaking an Executive Producing role), all that celebrated atmosphere and tension is brushed under the carpet for this sequel. Instead it ploughs on at a breakneck pace right from the get-go, intent on cramming as much imagery and disappointingly absent-minded schlock as it can.

The beauty of Hellraiser was the slow unfolding of the disturbing narrative – the masterful build-up of tension and the horrific nature of its aesthetic. In Hellbound, none of that is present. Even the act of Julia regaining her skin – an act that took Frank almost the entirety of the original – takes little more than a single scene in Hellbound.

Doug Bradley returns as ‘Pinhead’, along with his team of masochistic demons, only this time great lengths are taken to give them an identity and a backstory – as opposed to the foreboding, background presence they were before. I’m a firm believer that the scariest part of a story is the part that’s hidden from us. Real fear lies in the unknown, and it’s this sense of mystery that made the Cenobites so affecting in the first film. In Hellraiser, Frank and Julia were the antagonists.  The Cenobites, as imposing as they are, weren’t really characters at all.

They were more of a consequence, set in motion by the actions of Frank and Julia. They were a constantly foreboding shadow cast over the whole film, threatening a grisly death to anyone who fell within their reach.Hellbound’s attempt at humanisation is neither necessary nor desired; it only serves to undermine any mystery that made those characters interesting in the first place.

The over-arching themes of death and sex are completely disregarded here, and the focus firmly shifted to grisly imagery and hellish manifestations. Ill-advised puppetry and embarrassingly cheesy stop-motion are employed throughout the film, turning what should have been a stomach-churner into a veritable chuckle-fest to watch in this day and age. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some moments of real evisceration that hit the stomach, but they are very few and far between.

Universally poor acting and laughable dialogue make the narrative amusing at best, farcical at worst – a particular low-point being William Hope’s cringe-worthy ‘Oh God, Oh Jesus, Oh God What is This Stuff’ monologue while searching the nefarious manager’s museum of curiosities.  Ashley Laurence is her usual, abrasive self, only this time she’s given the added burden of escorting Tiffany – who simply accepts the absolute tornado of horror that goes on around her with little more than an absent gaze that defies all logic.

This movie seems to have existed purely to cash in on the unexpected infamy of the first film, and consequently it feels rushed, badly written and clumsy in its continues of a potentially great franchise. I’m almost certain they weren’t expecting Hellraiser to get any more sequels when Hellbound was conceived – which almost makes it a shame that there’s another seven following this one. Hopefully, one of those can capture some of that harrowing mood that Hellbound fervently disregards – but I don’t hold out much hope.

25 year old film fanatic who loves rock music, Xbox and cat videos on Youtube. I also tweet @lewisvstheworld

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