Hellbound: Hellraiser II Movie Review
After Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) survives her first run-in with evil, she ends up at an institute run by Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his assistant Kyle (William Hope). While he promises to help, it turns out the psychiatrist is obsessed with the Lament Configuration, the demonic puzzle box which unleashes the Cenobites. With the help of the bloodstained mattress where Kirsty's stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins) died, Channard wants to use a mute patient named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) as a gateway, solving the cube's riddle and opening up a conduit to head demon Pinhead (Doug Bradley). Of course, such a strategy could lead to a literal Hell on Earth.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II does something rather unique for a fright film. Instead of repeating what was successful the first time around, it attempts to broaden its perspective, and as a result, establishes the foundation for the rest of the franchise. It introduces us to the Cenobite process, explains how humans are seduced and then transformed into the demonic sadomasochists, and expands on the original's sex and pain perversions. It features several incredibly gory sequences (including a psychiatric patient's memorable self-mutilation), multiple bows to Barker's original, and enough open-ended elements to guarantee an ongoing collection of cash-ins (eight so far, and counting).
Because Barker is more interested in the ephemeral aspects of fear vs. the basic biomechanics of dread (the Cenobites were originally not intended to be the focus of the series), there are some who wince at Hellbound's overreliance on splatter. The first film definitely had ample arterial spray, but it served a sentient purpose. Blood brought individuals back from their servitude in Hades. It also functioned allegorically as a symbol of marital discourse. In fact, Hellraiser was really a husband's ultimate nightmare, asking how far a wife would go to "resurrect" her love for another man. Hellbound offers no such allusions. Here, we get killings, corpses, and other random atrocities, as part of what ends up being a basic macabre geek show.
Gone are the semi-logical connections between personal delight and eternal damnation, the Cenobites satiating earthly needs while demanding eternal payback in the afterlife. In their place are interesting origin tales, including a peak at how a WWI solider named Elliot Spencer became the baddest of all big-screen fetish fiends. We also learn the basics of damnation, including the age-old notion of being tortured for eternity for (and by) the sins of your life. While Barker's first feature offered up some amazing performances from Laurence, Higgins, and Andrew Robinson, Hellbound is too concerned about effects to meter out emotion. In fact, Randell's direction feels like the work of someone who decided to dispense with the depth and get right into the nasty bits.
Still, as part of the ongoing Hellraiser legacy, Hellbound is an excellent sequel. It shares little with its predecessor except characters and chutzpah, and yet carves out its own place in the pantheon of Cenobite lore.
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