Oh, what could have been, Hellbound: Hellraiser II had everything going for it, except a coherent story. The ultimate in missed opportunities to truly kick on an intriguing franchise.
Following up straight after the events of the first Hellraiser, Hellbound finds Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) trying to explain to doctors what has happened. The doctors rightly think she is having a breakdown after the death of her father and stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins). Kirsty pleads for them to believe her and Dr Channard (Kenneth Cranham) does. But he wants to carry out his research privately. This results in awakening one of the dead from the previous film causing hell and its cenobite’s to be awakened.
With Kirsty rather expectedly has lost her mind overseeing what she has seen. A touch not utilised in enough horror sequels it has to be said. Who experiences this and then only has mild trauma? Unluckily for Kirsty, but luckily for the audience, Dr Channard knows something about the Lament Configuration and wants to explore the world using his poor patients as experiments to get there. Convenient? Sure, but it works for the most part.
A sin here is that for the opening half, we see just too much or are reminded of what happened previously. This should have been interspersed throughout via Kirsty’s ever breaking mind. By lumping so much at the beginning the film ends up being a needless sprint to the finish to get to where it needs to go. As others have undoubtedly said, the character of Channard should have been left for another Hellraiser film that didn’t involve Kirsty. His obsession with the boxes and that world is enough to drive a film on its own. Kirsty’s films should only involve her, Julia and Frank, we know these characters and feel for Kirsty and somewhat with Julia who was nudged down a path she could not escape.
There are several issues with Hellbound that need to be addressed. Pinheads past did not need to be revealed so soon into what was going to be a franchise. The mystery of him and his cenobite hoard needed to remain for as long as possible into the franchise. So to reveal his origin in the opening of the sequel is a misstep. Somehow this error can be fixed, as long as they don’t try to utilise it right away in the film… (Oops they did, very silly of you Peter Atkins). By the way, now we are used to the cenobite’s names over the years. It has dawned on me how daft it was to give our leader of the group the name Pinhead. That was some studio interference surely?
Secondly, the idea that clips from the first film (and unused footage as well) were required is a tad nonsensical. I doubt many people would walk into Hellbound and not have caught the first Hellraiser. Though to be fair to the filmmakers, Hellbound: Hellraiser II was made and released less than a year after the first (by one day). So to say that this was a rush job is the understatement of the century.
That said there are things to love here in this sequel. Laurence is again great in her portrayal of Kirsty, albeit a little underused for what she could bring to the film and Higgins again can bring a sense of sadness to her role of Julia. There is regret in her character that she was led to her death and torture thanks to Frank and she wants vengeance. Yet, she is also twisted from her experiences and has become more evil than expected. I would have liked her to become a little more sympathetic, as we see her in scenes looking at what has become of herself and how it could have been so much different. It is a missed opportunity to create something special with the dynamic of Julia and Kirsty that they are mostly sidelined to allow Channard more time.
The focus on Channard and the world of the Cenobite takes us into new territory. Gone is the mystery and some serious world-building has to be done. Yet writer Atkins and Tony Randel simply did not have enough time to work on the project. Just too short a turnaround to create a world that would have been fascinating as it would have been demented. That is the main feeling you get from Hellbound: Hellraiser II. That it could have been so much more if it was not rushed, scenes barely connect. It feels as if there are maybe a couple of films mashed together here.
Personally, this should have finished Kirsty’s story in the franchise. With her trying to overcome what she experienced and be haunted by Frank and Julia. With intermittent scenes of the Cenobites who also haunt and want her. Then we introduce Dr Channard at the end of the film who becomes intrigued by everything Kirsty talks about. Maybe he sees one or two things of that world to cement his interest. Then that kicks us right off into the third film about Channard and Julia.
The special effects are wonderful. Yet the story needed so much work to get it to something reasonable that it almost nullified the entire franchise. Or at least hampered it from being as good as it could have been.
If you enjoyed our review of Hellbound: Hellraiser II then feel free to have a read of our review of the previous Hellraiser as we meander through the series.
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