Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Tony Randel, 1988)
I went to a rather excellent show tonight, and behind a few of the performers, the venue showed portions of Hellbound as a backdrop. I hadn’t seen it since it came out; I saw both 2 and 3 in the theater, and I have since spent my time thinking that the first three Hellraiser movies were the “good” ones, and everything after that was terrible. Intrigued by the images, when I got home, I dialed up Hellbound to see if it held up after all these years. The short answer: no. Hellbound is far more in line with the rest of Tony Randel’s awful output (Ticks, Amityville 1992, et al.) than I thought it was.
Plot: Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence, reprising her role from the original film), following the events of Hellraiser, is institutionalized. Of course, no one believes her… or so she thinks. Turns out the head of the facility, Dr. Channard (Hot Fuzz‘ Kenneth Cranham), is obsessed with the puzzle box, and not only that, but he’s managed to procure the blood-soaked mattress on which Julia (Clare Higgins, also reprising her role) died… and proceeds to bring her back in the same way Julia resurrected Frank. Meanwhile, he has puzzle-obsessed inmate Tiffany (Dreamchild beauty Imogen Boorman, in her second and last feature appearance, she would continue working in television until 1993, then faded into obscurity) honing her skills until she’s ready to open the infamous box and introduce him to the cenobites…
NOTE: the rest of this review can be considered to contain major spoilers for the film. If you have not seen it yet and are planning to, read no further and instead just know that I am not recommending it, for the most part, unless you’re an obsessive fan of the original who wants to know what happens next.
On the upside, the movie is chock-full of arresting images; no one who’s ever seen it will forget their first glimpse of Leviathan, or the revealed human form of the teeth-chattering cenobite. On the downside, Randel’s direction coupled with Robin Vidgeon’s cinematography makes the film look as if it were shot deep underwater, with the murk factor painfully high at times. (And that vignette where Spencer confronts Pinhead? My god, people, what were you thinking?) The acting, even by experienced folks like Higgins and Cranham, is often atrocious, and as has been pointed out by more than one critic, the Channard cenobite is the exact sort of bad-guy stereotype that Barker was trying to avoid by creating Pinhead—floating around spouting stupid one-liners like some sort of antigravity-enabled Freddy Krueger circa Dream Warriors.
If you can get past all the bad—and I do suggest doing so at least once if you’re even a casual fan of the first film—it’s worth watching once simply because despite all of the movie’s flaws, both major and minor, Randel did manage to do some very interesting things with the mythology (thanks in no small part to Barker having a decent hand in the writing of the film). On the other hand, it’s not worth watching more than that, and in fact, I can tell you from personal experience that coming back to it again twenty-five years later was quite a mistake. ** ½
Time… to play.