Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Although he had staged a number of plays Clive Barker had no movie directing experience when he made Hellraiser, the 1987 adaptation of his novella The Hellbound Heart.  New World Pictures had faith in the film, giving Barker some extra money to do a rather impressive sequence where a man begins to become reassembled after coming in contact with his brother's blood.  They also had enough faith to agree to do a sequel before the movie was even released. 

Despite its low budget Hellraiser had impressive makeup and effects work, even if it was obvious it was a bit stretched by the time it reached its finale.  Although not in the movie for much time the Cenobites, led by Doug Bradley as the Hell Priest - who came to be nicknamed Pinhead, despite Barker's distaste for the name - became the face of the film.  This was despite the fact that an evil stepmother named Julia (Clare Higgins) was supposed to be the main villain.  The pale, tall figure with nails driven into his head dressed in leather S&M gear, leading other disfigured denizens of Hell called by a mysterious puzzle box called the Lament Configuration, joined the ranks of Jason and Freddy even though the movie was not a slasher film. 

Shortly after Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) burns down her house and banishes the Cenobites she is picked up by the police and brought to an asylum run by Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham).  She is befriended by another doctor named Kyle (William Hope) who, after witnessing Channard bring forth Julia's resurrection, tries to help Kirsty.  Kirsty believes she is receiving communications from her father and wishes to go to Hell to rescue him and soon discovers that Channard has managed to use a young girl named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) to solve the box and grant him and Julia access.

While Julia introduces Channard to her master, Leviathan, Kirsty traverses Hell to find her father, eventually discovering the truth about the Cenobites.  Unfortunately, Leviathan has a use for Channard, and that does not bode well for our own realm.  At the same time both Kirsty and Julia have some unfinished business with Frank. 

This is the only film in the series that remains true to the original, expanding on the lore while providing closure for many of the characters.  Barker had wanted Julia to continue on as the main villain if there were future sequels, but Pinhead proved to be the audience favorite, so eventually he acquiesced and allowed fellow writer Peter Atkins to concentrate on the main Cenobite.  Like most sequels this was supposed to provide more of everything than the first, and for the most part it does, even though Andrew Robinson decided not to return as Kirsty's father and the budget was heavily impacted by a sudden downturn in the American stock market.  

The sudden script changes due to budget problems and the absence of a main character led to the story having a confused, disjointed feeling.  Early on it relies way too much on footage from the first film, while later it seems to rush through a good portion of the story.  It seems like Tony Randel, who directed and also assisted with the editing, tried to get as much of the movie made as possible with New World's executives looking over his shoulder and possibly threatening to pull the plug at any time.  What he was able to do was give the story a dreamlike feel so that it feels like the patchwork job he had to do in some cases was intentional.  This especially works by the time everyone makes it into Hell. 

Doug Bradley gets to do a little bit more with his role this time while the other Cenobites remain as background characters.  We also get a little background story on who Pinhead was prior, although a good portion of it was cut because of the budget.  Although it would have been nice for Andrew Robinson to return - what was intended between Larry and Frank sound like it would have been amazing - at least Clare Higgins and Sean Chapman are back in their roles, with Oliver Smith once again playing the skinless version of Frank as well as a mental patient used as a sacrifice to bring back Julia. 

This is Ashley Laurence's last turn as Kirsty until 2002's Hellraiser: Hellseeker, and though she's not the greatest at line reading at this point in her career she still gives a great physical performance.  She was also lucky to get out before things started to get really dim for this series, even though I seem to be one of the few people that liked Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth despite the fact that even by that one the series was going far afield from what Barker intended.  Higgins was also gone by the next one.  It would be interesting to see where the series would have gone if she had become the Queen of Hell and transitioned to a multifaceted female villain, but that ultimately didn't happen.  Unfortunately for Doug Bradley it wouldn't be long before his role was just to show up again for a few minutes in direct-to-video films that were just given the Hellraiser name in hopes of tricking people into renting them. 

Despite its flaws, Hellbound: Hellraiser II remains the only sequel - and this includes the reboot - that truly lives up to the original.  Too bad the 2022 Hellraiser didn't abandon giving us annoying characters and dull storytelling and return to a world where Julia was the focus, even if everyone else was new.  That story still remains to be told after all these years.  

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Time: 99 minutes
Starring: Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley, Clare Higgins, Kenneth Cranham, Imogen Boorman
Director: Tony Randel



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