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Hellraiser IIII

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Reviewed by Liam Griffiths

Released: June 16th 1989 (UK)

Directed by: Kevin Yagher

Starring: Bruce Ramsay, Valentina Vargas, Kim Myers

Certificate: 18 (UK)

So we’re four films deep in the legacy of Hellraiser, and it would seem Pinhead and friends took a little trip into outer space. I know what you’re thinking; it sounds utterly daft and you would be forgiven for rolling your eyes so hard they flop out onto your cheeks. But you know what? Stave off that urge, because Bloodlines is actually a really good film.

I know, right? 

Bloodlines follows the story of Phillip L’Merchant, an 18th century French Toymaker responsible for the construction of the Lament Configuration. On board a spaceship in the year 2127, Dr. Merchant, a descendant of L’Merchant, attempts to right a wrong that’s shamed his family for centuries using the ‘Elysium Configuration’, which would destroy the Gates of Hell instead of opening them. Jumping between three separate timelines (the past, the future, and the ‘present’) Bloodlines was supposed to be the final instalment of the franchise and would act as both a prequel and a sequel to the original film.

The notion of dealing with the extreme opposite ends of the Hellraiser legacy at the same time is a very intriguing move, and one that could go completely wrong at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, Bloodlines found its way into the hands of Kevin Yagher, who seemed to know exactly the kind of thing fans were hoping for.

It’s an extremely well-produced film, ditching the gaudy, slapstick direction the series was heading towards and twisting it back towards its roots. That elusive ‘mood’ I keep talking about is back, and while the blood still gets thrown around willy-nilly, it never tips over into silly territory like Hell on Earth did. Well, maybe once or twice; Twin security guards, I’m looking at you.

Doug Bradley reprises his role once more as everyone’s favourite demonic pin cushion, only this time he’s accompanied by a rather twisted version of Cujo and a beautiful demon called Angelique in his sinister ventures. Bradley gets a much better deal in this one than he did in the previous two instalments, with several moments of excellent dialogue for him to run wild with. 

Bruce Ramsay does an excellent job as various members of the unfortunate L’Merchant bloodline, especially in his final showdown with Pinhead, and a supporting cast of competent actors plays very much to Bloodlines strengths. Valentina Vargas is in smouldering form as the beautiful Angelique, and Adam Scott (you know, the douchebag brother from Step Brothers?) creeps it up as the twisted Magician’s Assistant Jacques. 

Lovers of the old red stuff won’t be disappointed either, since Bloodlines brings buckets of gore along for the ride. There’s plenty of skin stretching and flesh-tearing – as is Hellraiser tradition – along with a particularly surprising (and equally gruesome) decapitation. While not as overt and possibly not as repulsive as some of the death scenes in previous instalments, the deaths in Bloodlines are certainly more at home with the overall feel of the film.

What’s most impressive about Bloodlines is how ambitious it is in terms of narrative. Things could have gone really badly. It could have marked the very last time Doug Bradley stepped into the leather boots of Pinhead. Instead, it juggles a potentially volatile mix of inter-twining timelines with ease, while somehow maintaining an interesting and enjoyable story along the way. Calling it

‘Hellraiser in Space’ is to do the film no justice – because the interstellar setting is purely a narrative device, as opposed to a grander theme, and it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall mood in any way. Bloodlines is definitely worth watching, and between the excellent writing and respectful exploration of the Hellraiser lore, it is easily my favourite sequel so far.

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

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