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Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
My adult mind fully understands that Hellbound: Hellraiser II, henceforth called Hellraiser II, is a completely unintelligible and incoherent mess of a movie that maddens and frustrates with its increasing disinterest in putting together even the basic outlines of a story, character development, themes, and even much of a premise. It's a disastrously misguided series of shoestring plotting devised only to get the audience from one disconnected set piece after the other. It feels like the whole thing was edited by a weed whacker.
On the other hand, my twelve-year old self who has an admittedly sick and bizarre fascination with unapologetically over-the-top schlock always has a blast with Hellraiser II's relentless gory silliness full of nightmarish hellscapes where the cinematography and production design borderlines on 80s avant-garde video art. My mind wants to dismiss it with a zero star review. My inner child wants to give it five gold stars for pure unintentional slapstick entertainment. So I settle with two and a half.
Immediately after the events of Hellraiser, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), the final girl of the first film, is sent to an asylum because, well, it's hard to convince people that a quartet of BDSM priests from hell tore your family apart limb by limb. Meanwhile, an insane doctor (Kenneth Cranham) brings Kirsty's enemy Julia (Clare Higgins) back to life using a bloody mattress as a portal through hell (I'm not kidding), and Kristy needs to go back to the cenobytes' nightmare world to stop her from, taking over hell? It's not made clear, and it doesn't really matter, because the whole point of this sequel's existence is to cram in as much of what the audience liked from the first film until the clock runs out.
So gorehounds with various body horror fetishes get exactly what they ask for in the form of random gorefest set-pieces that include bloodied naked women pleasuring themselves under white sheets, Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and company filling their narrative purpose of spouting random threats (or promises?) of infinite pain and pleasure, and my favorite of all, the transformation of the evil doctor into a roided-up cenobyte with giant fingers that can turn into various objects like scalpels and flowers (Again, I'm not kidding). In the middle of this madness is kinetic forward motion energy that director Tony Randel injects into the project, thoroughly entertaining fans of unadulterated schlock, even though pretty much nothing he plasters on screen makes a lick of sense. By the time we get to the end, the film basically just runs out of fuel and dies. This is one of those movies that don't end, because there isn't a clear narrative to conclude, it merely stops existing. When it does, relief comes to our minds, and a mischievous smile appears on our faces.
Just like Arrow's recent transfer of the first Hellraiser, this 1080p presentation stays true to the grim and grainy look of the franchise. Yet in this one, due to the larger budget and the bevy of over-the-top horror set pieces, we get a more colorful and vibrant aesthetic. In many ways, the clarity of the image is a detriment, since it shows the cracks in the make-up and optical effects. But then again, that's part of the fun of a flick like this.
If you buy this with the Blu-ray of the first Hellraiser, go with the original 2.0 mix on that one. But Hellraiser II was meant to be experienced with the newer DTS-HD 5.1 mix. This is a soundtrack as busy and over-the-top as the visuals. For a film from the 80s, the surround channels get a lot of exercise, as the audio delivers on the bombastic experience the fans are looking for.
Commentary with Tony Randel and Peter Atkins: This commentary is a blast, since the director and the writer pretty much troll their own movie as they lovingly reminisce about the production, as well as the many bits of gory silliness they embarked upon.
Commentary with Tony Randel, Peter Atkins and Ashley Laurence: Laurence doesn't talk much in this commentary, so this one is mostly for those who didn't get enough of Randel and Atkins' frank thoughts on the production.
Leviathan: This whopping two-hour doc is better than the film itself, because it goes over every aspect of this insane production while the cast and crew praise their experiences with tongue-in-cheek fashion.
Being Frank: Like he did in the disc for the first Hellraiser, Sean Chapman, the actor who played the villain in the first film, talks about his character. And since his part in the second film is shorter, so is the interview.
Lost in the Labyrinth: A vintage featurette ported over from previous home video releases. Watch the bonkers two-hour doc instead.
Under The Skin: In this vintage interview, Doug Bradley talks about playing Pinhead once again.
On Set Interviews: Vintage interviews with the cast and crew during the production.
Surgeon Scene: An infamous scene previously thought missing is presented without finished vfx.
We also get Trailers and TV Spots.
Nothing in Hellraiser II makes a lick of sense, and whatever thin string of narrative completely spins out of control the closer we get to what can barely be described as a climax. Yet it's also the kind of fascinating exercise in genre excess that can't be immediately dismissed off hand.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com