When a film leaves you with so many questions left unanswered, you embrace a sequel like an old friend. It’s a chance for filmmakers to fill in the missing blanks by expanding upon what we already know. Hellraiser 2 is one of these types of film. A friend that you have not seen in awhile, but has such sights to show you. The original 1987 film forged many questions for its audience, a sequel was bound to be well received, whether it decided to answer them or not. And yes, the film did delve into the bag and pull out a few answers for its diehard fans, cracking some of the more ambiguous questions raised by the film’s leather-bound demons. Where do the Cenobites come from? Who are they? What are they? So many questions. But do the answers resonate with its fan base? Is Hellraiser 2 a good sequel or a damp squib? Travel with me into the dark. It’s just through this passageway. Don’t get lost though, here there be spoilers!
Like any good sequel, Hellraiser 2 starts off where the last film left us. Little time has passed for Kirsty, with a brief montage showing us the events from the previous film. Kirsty Cotton has just watched her home, and life, go up in smoke. It’s no wonder that she finds herself in a psychiatric hospital bed, wearing one of those annoying hospital gowns the nurses insist you wear. Her Boyfriend Steve is nowhere to be seen, nor will we, as he is written out of the series with a couple of lines of dialogue, leaving Kirsty and us, alone with the horror! And the horror comes in the form of a friendly Doctor with an odd obsession. For those of you who hate convenient screen writing, the film’s main antagonist is a real treat for you. Dr. Philip Channard just so happens to be the local physician who specialises in brain surgery, mental instability and a has fancy for Lament Configuration boxes. Who would have guessed? And so the plot begins to tick over, with the good Doctor looking to open Pandora’s box, using Kirstie’s tales to kick start his plan.
The film’s story is a slightly underwhelming, filled with stupid characters that deserve to die. Not much time is really spent on character building, instead, you’re thrown a handful of two dimensional people that just make awful life choices. If they end up on the slab, they have only themselves to blame. It almost feels disjointed, with the writers having these great ideas of what to do, but no real story in place. This doesn’t necessarily make for a bad film, but it doesn’t flow very well either.
Hellbounds plot undoes some of the seams from the previous film. Having set some guidelines in place from Hellraiser, Hellbound begins to raise even more questions. Frank, our favorite undead Uncle, manages to escape from the underworld when blood is spilt on the place he died. Stepmother Julia manages to escape in the same way, with a blood splattered mattress. You would have thought that the Cenobites would have fixed this little hole in the underworld penitentiary fence. Now it would seem that anybody could come back from hell, with a few drops of blood. I always like to think that Frank’s escape was a little more complex, being that the blood that raised him was his own brothers, and where the blood spilt was the place he opened the box. In other words, the place the cenobites killed him. Wouldn’t it have made more sense that this breakout was through several ransom factors, rather than hellbounds open interpretation? More confusion arrives later in the film when Julia tricks the Doctor into a strange device which transforms him into a Cenobite. Here she reveals “Why do you think I was allowed to come back? It wanted souls, and I brought you”. So she was set free to to bring back more souls? Why? What is is this leviathan? So many new question arise that your head will swim just thinking about them. The biggest unanswered question being about Channard. He becomes an alpha Cenobite, capable of destroying the others. Why or how is causally left unsaid, you’ll just have to use your imagination.
Once more, Doug Bradley performance overshadows the other casts, despite Ashley Laurence great reprisal of her character. Ashley’s importance to this film sadly dwindles as the film goes on, making it clear that the part could easily have been written out if the actress had decided not to return. It’s a shame that we never saw much of her after this to be honest. Ashley grounds the movie in a way that others could not. Her “everyman” character is strong and bold, and here in Hellbound, a little reckless. Ashley is not the only one to have their roles restructured. We actually see very little of the Cenobites, something that pained fans in some of the later films, but there’s enough callback from the previous films to stop you from even noticing. Their brief appearances are indeed satisfying. Kirsty discovers they were all once human, turned over what you can only imagine was several life times of pain and suffering. All these years have marked them, physically and mentally, with no recollection of their past lives. The mysterious Leviathan seems to be the power behind it all, though we see very little of this interesting idea too. This “Old God” give Channard great powers and the mad Doctor, uses it to turn the Cenobites, back to their human form. Pin head even goes Kirsty a knowing look in his last moments, almost a on camera wink, as if to say ” this is not the end!. Even though the Cenobites time is short, it’s enough to keep us happy, with the new “Channardobite” carving up misery and mayhem in the real world. It’s all very bloody and entertaining.
The special effects team have once again managed to create a nightmare for our eyes, with plenty of bloody corpse and several very clever in camera effects transitions that any director would be proud of. My favourite being when Kyle MacRae bites the big one. Julia pulls Kyle forwards, kisses him aggressively, and as we pan round, we see the other side of his head is horrible disfigured, as his soul is being sucked out. Using the back of actress Clare Higgins’s head as a camera block, you don’t see that he has only got prosthetics on one side. clever stuff. There is one effect that should have been dropped from the film, the weird baby that is sewing its mouth closed. it makes no difference how well puppeteered this disturbing infant is, it just looks like a toy doll. To make things worse, it appears twice in the film.
I like to think of Hellbound as a path to a more important story. Any fan will tell you that Hellraiser 3 is a much better film, delving into the mythology of Pinhead and his past life. And isn’t that what the fans really want? More Pinhead? This twisted duplicity of the Cenobites, introduced here in Hellbound , is explored more thoroughly in the third film, and you get a better idea of what the Cenobites are. Hellbound shows us where they live, it shows us their power on the tortured souls and it gives us a look at their genesis. It’s not much, but at least it does close some doors.
It may not be as good as it’s sequel but it certainly does hold its own. It throws new ideas at the audience that make it feel like a continuation of a bigger story. And there are elements that work really well. I’m thrilled that we got a glimpse of the underworld, even if it is majorly underwhelming. Such an epic location should have felt more grand. The script is pretty awful too. With characters making dreadful, sometimes deadly, decisions. Why Kirsty gets it into her head that she can save her father is anyone’s guess? Surely, if he came back, he would be just as twisted and blood thirsty as anyone else. And do the victims of these beasts even end in hell? answers on a post card!
As a fan of the series, you’ll love Hellraiser 2, but as a passing fancy, it may not really twist all your dials in the right place. The films off tangent storytelling is all a little confusing and the plot never really takes off in the right direction. It’s gory and fun and a real pleasure to see the cenobites once more, but sadly lacking the energy and thrills that the original balanced so well. Hellbound takes you on a dark adventure, where fantasies and nightmares collide. It’s a twisted vision of endless corridors and dark sights. As the film so rightly ask at the end “What is your pleasure?” well…more of course. Lots and lots more!