Catching Up: “Hellbound: Hellraiser II”

IMG_0343.JPGSequels. They’re everywhere. No matter how hard you try to ignore them, they just won’t go away. When a sequel is part of a major franchise it’s hard to overlook the work, even if it’s inferior in every way.

The New World Pictures film “Hellbound: Hellraiser II”, may be the first sequel in the series, but should’ve been the last overall, if not left completely unmade.

This horror sequel stars Clare Higgins (“Father Brown”, “Doctor Who”), Ashley Laurence (“Mystery Woman: Sing Me a Murder”, “ER”), Kenneth Cranham (“Maleficent”, “37 Days”), Imogen Boorman (“Westbeach”, “Casualty”), Sean Chapman (“Casualty”, “A Mighty Heart”), William Hope (“Thomas & Friends”, “Walking with the Enemy”), Doug Bradley (“Shame the Devil”, “Scream Park”), Barbie Wilde (“Melody’s Her 2nd Name”, “Comics”), Simon Bamford (“Parson and Son (Short 2013)”, “Dead of the Nite”), and Nicholas Vince (“M is for Metamorphosis”, “The Hairy Hands (Short 2010)”).

The film is directed by Tony Randel (“The Double Born”, “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction”) and written by Peter Atkins (“Prisoners of the Sun”, “Hellraiser: Deader- Winter’s Lament”).

The film originally opened on Dec. 23, 1988

So, to be honest, the only reason I’ve got something to say on this film, so quickly, is that it was on TV the same day I decided to watch the original. Okay, it’s actually that that second film was going to be on and I had yet to watch the original. So, I did that, and here we are. Moving on!

The film suffered from an absolute lack of a story. This film’s plot is even thinner than the first film. I’ll give the writer credit for wanting to explore Pinhead’s and the other Cenobites’ backstory, but it was so slight it was useless. The story also suffered from having a random character that just happens to have a fascination or a thing? a longing to study? … whatever, the occult. It comes in hand quickly, but just comes out of nowhere that you’re supposed to accept it as fact and move on. The only positive with the overall plot is that it picks up a short time (a day or a few hours) after the events of the original film.

Then, there’s the characters, which weren’t given any more life than the previous film. You can like or dislike some easily, which is usually not hard, but there’s nothing that really has you hoping they live, considering you know someone will. It’s all in the formula. I still enjoyed Laurence’s character, but she’s the lead, so it’s expected. She’s still tough and determined, but that’s all she’s got going for her. Disliking Higgins’ character is incredibly easy, as she’s still a horrible person. The only truly troubling thing is why is she the villain? Her motivations, even after being in hell for a short while, are very unclear. The whole thing with Cranham’s character also makes no sense. It was somewhat okay to be a doctor that liked the occult and would devout a lot of time to seeing if there’s any truth, but when he goes out of his way too be the villain and become a demon, I stop caring. There’s nothing clear that says why he wants this. Why would anyone want to be a demon?

The only bright spot, carried over from the original film, as will probably be true with the remaining sequels, is that the special effects are quite impressive! They’re the only thing that make this pre-torture porn, torture porn film worth seeing! You know, the same reasons the last four “Saw” films sucked but were somewhat worth seeing. Anyway, the effects were pretty well constructed on all fronts, even if the level of gore seemed to be a bit more excessive than the last time. Because of this too, I was able to be excited to see the Cenobites and be grossed out by what Cranham becomes later on. It also explains why I was actually more bothered, than scared, with Julia’s resurrection scene. So much unnecessary blood, which if you’re not easily scared, is rather pointless.

While I’m glad this film went with practical effects, and okay designed sets, as I’m sure that stopped once the mind-90s rolled around, I’m saddened that this film couldn’t see fit to stick with a simple aspect of mythology. Originally it took Uncle Frank a long time to go from skeleton to complete person, but here, no such thing. Sure there are lots of victims for Higgins’ Julia, but her regeneration begins with her already having a lot of muscle and bone already existing. It stood out so much and was just skipped over. And I’m fully aware that this is probably due to budget constraints, but it’s still sad and I was able to be distracted for the entire transformation.

A horror film series is only as effective as it’s many cringeworthy scenes. This film has them, plenty, but then it’s padded with a lot of other boring story and equally boring characters. Things aren’t helped when so little is developed to even look like a good B-film, but that’s okay because we bring back the most liked iconic villain, Pinhead. I would’ve been more excited if there’d been more of Pinhead and his friends, but once again, they’re all relegated towards the back. They’re supposed to be the main attraction but are hardly used. The only time they become important is when they’re being destroyed by the newly created monster Cranham becomes. Wait, what? Then how is there another film, let alone a whole series of sequels? Another thing I don’t understand about this film, along with the strange ending. Some iconic film series just can’t be loved, no matter how much you want.

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