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John’s Horror Corner: Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), exploring Clive Barker’s Labyrinth and Cenobite upgrades.

July 27, 2015

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MY CALL:  This is one of the more interesting horror movies of its decade—second only to its franchise predecessor.  Gory, dark, exploratory and with an engaging story, this is not a movie to miss.  MOVIES LIKE Hellraiser:  Hellraiser (1987), Re-Animator (1985), Lord of Illusions (1995), Nightbreed (1990) and The Thing (1982).

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The movie opens with a something of a highlights reel of the best and grossest scenes from part 1.  Continuing immediately from where Hellraiser (1987) ended, we find Kirsty (Ashley Laurence; Hellraiser, Warlock III) in a mental hospital where her account of what happened to her father, uncle Frank and stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins; Being Human) is received as more than a little hard to swallow.

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Whereas Hellraiser (1987) delivered credible character reactions to an incredible evil force, Hellbound takes a nosedive into bonkersville in terms of plot believability.  I, in no way, mean this as a complaint…I LOVE this movie.  But this “movie” is the point in the franchise when we stop using the word “film.”  Clive Barker’s infernal art and brilliant storytelling are behind us now.  It seems that perhaps our new director Tony Randel (Amityville: It’s About Time, Fist of the North Star) was trying a little too hard to fill Horror Master Clive Barker’s (Nightbreed, Hellraiser) shoes.  The gore–which was already heavy, sloppily gross and pleasurably unique in part one–is now turned up to an “11” and the plot elements seem to have shifted from credible to nonsense.  Almost every event in the story evidences this mania—not that the horror genre is known for its storytelling.  In fact, as bonkers as it is, this story is told more eloquently than most horror (especially in the late 80s).

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Now in a mental hospital, the doctor in charge of Kirsty’s case just happens to be an amateur expert and collector obsessed with all things occult, especially the Puzzle Box and its history.  In other words, coincidence has been pushed to the extreme as Kirsty’s caregiver has been waiting for this!  After Kirsty warns police to destroy the mattress on which Julia died in part 1 (because Kirsty somehow understands exactly how coming back from Hell works all the sudden), Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham; Hot Fuzz) somehow gets the police to deliver this murder case evidence to his private residence with the intentions of summoning Julia.  For a blood offering he checks out a deeply disturbed patient from the screaming basement ward of his mental hospital–it’s what you’d expect from an 1800’s mental hospital…in a horror movie…on steroids…and then more extreme!!!  Dr. Channard seems to frequently bring disturbed patients to his home without restriction.

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So clearly, this movie has gone to comicbook lengths to bring something crazy to the screen.  But you know what?  It remains crazy awesome!!!  I haven’t read Clive Barker’s books (on which this is very loosely based), but I think we can safely assume that these actions would all much more carefully explained and tactfully justified in his detailed pages.  As it turns out, the book on which Hellraiser was based (The Hellbound Heart) was quite short and only minorly addressed Pinhead and his Cenobites–so already the films have taken their own path.  Meanwhile, in Hellraiser movieland, no one seems concerned with the disappearance of several patients.

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It may sound like I’m slamming the plot.  I’m not.  In fact, overall the story itself remains elegantly unique. After all, whatever liberties this director took in making this film, it is still based on Barker’s refined writing.

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After Julia’s “resurrection,” she sexually beguiles Channard–even though she hasn’t any skin–to help fully restore her with more victims.  He obliges and we get to enjoy a room full of life-drained corpses.  But this isn’t enough for Channard.  He wants to know and see the secrets of the Hell that is The Labyrinth.  So he brings a mute patient with a knack for puzzle-solving to open the gate to Hell with the Puzzle Box.

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Things get yet crazier as Channard and Julia wander the corridors of Hell.  He gets transformed into a Cenobite himself (simply referred to as “the Channard Cenobite”) by the God of Hell Leviathan and is for some reason way tougher than Pinhead and his Cenobite gang.  He kills loads of people with his stop-motion bladed hand tentacles, so Kirsty gets Pinhead to see his inner child and wears Julia’s skin as a suit.  A lot of cool stuff is happening, FOR SURE!

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Whereas part 1 was entirely based on illustrating one man’s escape from Hell and the temptations required to accomplish the task, this sequel addresses that component just in the first act and then moves on to exploring the Labyrinth and witnessing various personal Hells while being swiftly introduced to how Barker’s Hell works and is ruled.  Despite the busy plot of this movie (it does cover a lot), it remains very dark and creepy and, more importantly, the plot makes sense.  We can’t say that about a lot of horror.  Its gore-pleasing effects are abundant, the story pushes the Hellraiser franchise into a new dimension, and we learn more about the background of the Cenobites and the mythology behind Barker’s Hellish Labyrinth.

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This movie is buckets of cool (and blood) and one of the more interesting horror installments (along with part 1) of its decade.

Watch it!  Love it!  Buy it!  Watch it again!

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2015 1:19 pm

    I really like Hellbound Hellraiser II as well. Its certainly very different beast from the original film, perhaps even more visceral, and it certainly has some gory sights to show us. Its a good continuation of the story, there’s some very unsettling scenes, and the fight between Channard and the Cenobites its brilliantly staged. Love this film!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      July 28, 2015 8:28 am

      Me, too. I can only imagine what the franchise would have looked like if Barker stuck around in a greater capacity after part 1. He helped plan the story for Hellbound and gave input, but still… In either case, I love this film and I love the franchise in general.

      • July 28, 2015 12:06 pm

        Yes, the first two films are certainly the best, although I do like the whole franchise overall. It would have been great if Barker had stayed for a few more films. I enjoyed his new book, the Scarlet Gospels, think that would make a great Hellraiser film as well. Hellbound is one of those horror films that I always enjoy rewatching.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 8, 2015 10:24 am

      I wish Barker pulled a JK Rawling and wrote more books that would subsequently be turned into movies.

      • August 9, 2015 8:12 am

        Yes, that would have been good. Still, Barker’s new book, The Scarlet Gospels is a good read, fingers crossed that he adapts it as a film one day – it would certainly make a great Hellraiser film.

Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. John’s Horror Corner: Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992), Pinhead in the big city and the biggest action sequence of the franchise. | Movies, Films & Flix
  3. John’s Horror Corner: Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), an anthology that is so much more than simply Pinhead in space. | Movies, Films & Flix
  4. John’s Horror Corner: Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), a crime thriller about a dirty cop, the Puzzle Box and The Engineer. | Movies, Films & Flix
  5. John’s Horror Corner: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), a sequel with a very different story to tell. | Movies, Films & Flix
  6. Who did Satan best? The 10 coolest, smoothest and creepiest Devils of film | Movies, Films & Flix
  7. John’s Horror Corner: Nothing Left to Fear (2013), a mediocre religious horror story about a small town with a dark secret. | Movies, Films & Flix
  8. John’s Horror Corner: The Haunting of Morella (1990), a smutty, possession-themed, boobstravaganza exploitation film with craptastic effects. | Movies, Films & Flix
  9. John’s Horror Corner: Night Angel (1990), the pleasantly gory tale of the evil succubus Lilith. | Movies, Films & Flix
  10. John’s Horror Corner: Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2002), a decent direct-to-DVD horror film and an “okay” Hellraiser film. | Movies, Films & Flix
  11. John’s Horror Corner: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master (1988), continuing the evolution of Freddy Krueger’s influence. | Movies, Films & Flix
  12. John’s Horror Corner: Hellraiser VII: Deader (2005), a trippy, cult-driven mystery of resurrection. | Movies, Films & Flix
  13. John’s Horror Corner: Lifeforce (1985), Tobe Hooper’s big budget naked space vampire epic. | Movies, Films & Flix
  14. John’s Horror Corner: Warlock 2: The Armageddon (1993), yet another gooey horror sequel that pays no mind to its predecessor. | Movies, Films & Flix
  15. John’s Horror Corner: The Void (2016), the indie horror where The Thing’s (1982) practical effects meet Lovecraft and Barker! | Movies, Films & Flix
  16. John’s Horror Corner: The Mummy (2017), Tom Cruise’s first step into the Dark Universe of Hammer monsters. | Movies, Films & Flix

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