By a customer
from Canterbury UK
, 18 Nov 2004
As a horror fan, it's no real secret that I generally despise sequels. No other genr? has been so decimated by subpar rehashings of good films than horror. Sure, action films often get sequelized, as does the occasional comedy, but with horror it's almost an unwritten rule: If a film makes money, we must make another one to make more money. That's not to say that there haven't been some good sequels?there have been?but the law of averages is safely on your side if you're of the opinion that most sequels stink. Now, knowing that, it makes it that much more exciting when you find a sequel that actually lives up to original?that aspires to continue the story without simply retelling it?and that's why I like Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 so much.
Picking up right where the original film ended, Hellbound continues the adventure of Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence: Hellraiser, Warlock 3). Kirsty's family (father, wicked stepmother, and lecherous uncle) have all just met a horrible fate at the hands of Pinhead (Doug Bradley: Hellraiser, Nightbreed) and the rest of his Cenobites?being ripped apart and taken to Hell. After seeing this and sending the Cenobites back to their home, Kirsty's a bit distraught, so she winds up at the Channard Institute. The institute is a psychiatric hospital run by Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham: Bed of Roses), a noted neurosurgeon. (We know this because we get to see him performing a particularly graphic brain operation). Channard listens to Kirsty's wild tale of the Cenobites and how they killed Julia (Clare Higgins: Hellraiser) and her family.
However, things aren't quite what they seem to be with the good doctor. Channard has a keen interest in the Lament Configuration (the puzzle box that opens the doorway to Hell and calls the Cenobites forth), and he even goes as far as having the mattress Julia died on brought to his home. Soon, Channard is taking extremely disturbed patients to his home and feeding them to the newly resurrected Julia, who needs them to regain her physical form. Meanwhile, Kirsty is being visited by a skinless specter whom she takes to be her father, which leads her to want to enter Hell and rescue him. Channard and Julia want to go to Hell too, but for vastly different reasons. Channard uses a young mute named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) to solve the puzzle and open the gate. Soon, Kirsty, Channard, Julia, and Tiffany are in Hell with Pinhead and the Cenobites.
Rather than rehash the first film, Hellbound takes the important elements and builds on them. Yes, we're treated to another skinless corpse, but it's not a real focal point of the story. Unfortunately, the real focal point of the story never becomes apparent...at least not until you've viewed the film repeatedly.
The script was written by Pete Atkins (Hellraiser 3) and based on a story idea by Clive Barker. We're treated to another tale that plays like a surreal riff on classic fairy tales; this time we not only get the heroine versus the wicked stepmother, but we also get a bizarre, 'through the looking glass' Alice in Wonderland-type story too. Atkins isn't the best screenwriter around, especially when it comes to writing dialogue, and Hellbound is no exception. Channard eventually becomes a Cenobite, which Atkins takes to mean that he's supposed to start spouting some really lame, though occasionally humorous one-liners. But that's not the problem, really; the film's most obvious flaw is that has very little narrative thrust after the first act.
You can look at this movie in several different lights, with several different possible motivations for the characters, but none of them are totally satisfying. At first glance, it appears as though Kirsty is going into Hell to rescue her father. (Why her father, who was an innocent, is there to begin with remains a mystery.) And while that's a pretty good motivation for the film, Kirsty never finds her father; she doesn't even bother looking for him after the middle of the movie. Ok, so maybe Julia's there to appease Leviathan (the Lord of Hell) and open a doorway between Hell and Earth (which seems to make sense, since we see the Monolith in the sky over the institute near the film's climax). This is a pretty good story, too?but no one ever tells us if that's the goal, so we're left wondering what exactly is the point of Hellbound?
Personally, after repeated viewings and much thought, I think the second idea is the ultimate goal, and that Kirsty and Tiffany's goal is to stop Julia and Channard. Of course, it would have been nice if Atkins had made that clear from the beginning.
Really though, the plot isn't all that important. Director Tony Randel (Children of the Night) fills the film with so many intriguing and striking visuals that you won't have enough time to notice all the plot problems. Hellbound looks like a film conceived by Heironymous Bosch, full of disturbing, graphic, nightmarish imagery that's guaranteed to haunt viewers. Perhaps the most impressive imagery is Randel's concept of Hell. Rather than resort to the standard fire and brimstone, Barker and Randel's Hell is a cold, sterile, blue-lit labyrinth with Leviathan at its center.
What about Pinhead and company? Well, they're as impressive as they always are. Hellbound shows us how Pinhead came to be Pinhead (in a really gruesome sequence at the beginning of the film) and even shows us the rest of his crew in human form. Like the first film, the Cenobites don't get much screen time; they don't appear in Hellbound until the film reaches the fifty-two minute mark?not counting the flashback sequences. While they don't get a lot of screen time, they make the time they're in front of the camera count. On the downside, I really don't like the way they're represented in the climactic showdown.
The cast itself is pretty good, with everyone turning in an entertaining, if slightly melodramatic performance. Cranham is particularly good, both as a doctor and wickedly cool-looking Cenobite.
The gore here (in the unrated version) has become the stuff of legend, and for good reason. This film really pushes the envelope, particularly for a mainstream movie. Just about every gruesome perversion is accounted for here: skinless corpses, flesh ripped by hooks, a guy who slices himself open with a straight razor, throat slashings, a beheading, and more. This film more than delivers the goods in terms of onscreen carnage. Needless to say, the squeamish might want to skip this one.
Christopher Young reprises the first film's classic score, and it's just as good the second time around. The orchestral soundtrack is majestic and haunting, evoking a wide range of emotions from the audience. You might even find yourself looking for the soundtrack CD for this one. I did.
In the end, Hellbound is more than a worthy successor to Hellraiser. Despite the fact that the plotline becomes a bit muddled near the middle, it gets points for having the inventiveness to move in a new direction when it could have simply paraded Pinhead and company before the camera and let them slaughter a horde of teenagers (which is sort of what Hellraiser 3 did, only with twenty-somethings as opposed to teens). It's a gruesome, gory, and super cool horror film that's well worth checking out.
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