I recently sat down to watch Hellraiser II: Hellhound for the first time in quite a while having written about Hellraiser last week. Granted it’s not exactly a zombie movie but dead people get up and murder left and right. SO let’s go!
The poster has Pinhead front and center which is interesting in that he was meant to be killed off in this movie initially with the intent that Julia, the stepmother from the first movie would then be the leader of the cenobites.
This isn’t how things worked out though as the producers realized in time how popular the character was and so, although we do see him defeated in this film he is bound to return again.
Speaking of which the title, or subtitle, for this film, Hellbound is a nice wordplay meaning some people are bound for Hell, i.e. they are going there, or they are bound in Hell, i.e. they can’t get out.
The fallout from the events of the first film sees Kristy locked up in an insane asylum and warning people that the things in the house particularly the mattress where Julia died have to be destroyed. Confronted with the idea that Hell is a real place and her father is trapped there she is desperate to help him. So when she sees a vision of a man with no skin asking for help she decides to get back in the fray of things.
The hospital just happens to be run by a sadistic doctor named Channard who just happens to know all about the Cenobites and the puzzle box. Kristy teams up with another patient and one of the doctors as she journeys back into Hell.
Though predictable especially for a horror movie, it does what it was meant to do, it fills in the story we didn’t get from the first movie like Pinhead’s origin and expands and explains the Cenobite’s world. We learn about what happened to Kristy after the events of the first movie and the larger world of people dedicated to the puzzle boxes (yes there are more than one) all they represent and in doing so introduces us to a larger world.
As I noted in my review of the first Hellraiser movie, the word cenobite means a member of a monastic community. It made sense in this movie to show who or what it was the cenobites were monks for. The god? we are introduced to, a massive diamond structure called Leviathan is just one of many gods in this otherworld. It’s a serious WTF moment but one of the movie’s strengths is that it doesn’t give us the expected image of hell as a fire and brimstone thing with a devil king and his pointy beard lording it over the suffering souls.
There is a moment at the end of the first movie when a massive devil-like demon appears but at this point we aren’t sure what that was. This is the nice thing about both movies, they raise questions, answer the important ones and leave us with a bit more to wonder about.
Hellraiser II falls prey to a lot of the pitfalls of sequels of good movies. The audience going into the first movie didn’t really know what to expect and so their expectations were wide open. The same people returning for this movie have the first one to rely on and their expectations are understandably high.
The plot is more complex and has more twists, turns and coincidences to keep audience members on their toes but it doesn’t necessarily play out as better story telling. We are twice mislead about who characters are when they really turn out to be other people, the vision of Kristy’s dad turns out to be uncle Frank while Julia at the end of the film turns out to be Kristy wearing her skin. These kind of fake outs work but too many of them detract from the overall storytelling. Keep in mind we already had a major takeout like that in the first movie. The strength of that takeout was that the audience was basically in on it and the reveal was a major driving force at the end.
One thing that bothered me (MAJOR SPOILER ALLERT) was that the Cenobites were so easily defeated at the end of the film. Doctor Channard comes in and just cuts them all up and they don’t really do much to fight back. They all drop like flies. Maybe Channard was just meant to be that much more powerful? But it seemed a little sudden.
The effects in the first movie are never really topped in this film. This doesn’t really bother me except in places where the effects are a part of the story telling. Frank came back in the first film as only half formed but in this film when Julia comes back she is nearly fully formed except for skin. Is that because she’s smaller than Frank and didn’t need as much to bring her back? I thought they were simply saving on effects by not having a half formed version of Julia.
There are a number of reused shots in this film as well, most are the footage from he first movie meant to catch us up on the events of that film in case Hellhound is the first one we’re watching but when Pinhead’s human character gets turned into a cenobite and his flesh is hooked, I’d swear those are the same shots from the first film.
All in all it’s a fairly typical horror sequel but if you like the blood and gore, then this might be good for a Thursday night movie night. (Definitely see part one first though.)