This will always be a hard film to review because it was not the version that was originally intended. There is a script out there for what Clive Barker and Peter Atkins envisioned for Hellraiser: Bloodline that seemed quite interesting. Though studio executive has got to meddle and we get what eventually came to the screen in 1996.
Hellraiser: Bloodline focuses on the creation of the Lament Configuration, and it affects through the centuries. This is fairly close to being a prequel, a sequel and the last film sequences of the franchise due to the time jumps. An interesting concept for the fourth film in a horror franchise! This scope and interest to make something more meaningful shine even with the studio interference. We have two directors on this film, with script changes and multiple new scenes before the troubled production ends. This is a film I would love Simon Brew from Film Stories to cover honestly.
We open in the year 2127. In space where a robot is being controlled to open the Lament Configuration from a safe distance. It’s controller however is running out of time as a squad of soldiers come barricading onto the ship. The captured man details who he and his family are and what they are known for. Cut to the 18th Century and the creation of our fabled box.
Where Hellraiser: Bloodline falters (Other than everywhere) is that it tries to tell too much too soon. Much like Hellbound did. There was no patience from the studios involved (Miramax/Dimension Films this time). This should have solely been based on the origins of the Lament Configuration in the 18th Century, yes some tweaking to Pinhead would have been needed to have him involved. Or he could have been completely absent until the end of the film.
Let’s be honest, he had his fill of screentime in Hell on Earth (Even Doug Bradley who played Pinhead wanted less screentime in Bloodline). By focusing on just one timeline we can get to know more and feel a mythology build. Then the next two can be what the next acts where of the film. It makes sense and this would mean by the film’s opening we are on the 6th film. As a bonus, Hell on Earth never gets to exist! I might be off to write 6 Hellraiser scripts now. So excuse me…
With a budget that now was stripped down and did not meet the expectations of the script. There are some quite dodgy special effects scenes here. The dogs are the worst affected by this both in practical and computer effects with the briefest of dimly-lit shots used. In reality, they should have just been cut in place of one Cenobite, but there ain’t much we can do about that now. That said, some of the deaths are pretty brutal to watch and while the ideas of the original are now long gone, there is no psychosexual torture scenes or anything of that ilk, they are good death scenes.
Hellraiser fun fact (not really). This is the second feature appearance of actor Adam Scott. So there is that going for it. None of the cast come off well here and that is most likely due to their limited time on screen and the decimation in the edits. Few to any of the characters come off well and it is just frustrating to see Hellraiser IV wasted as it is here.
The only two who come out of the film with any credit is Bradley and Angelique (Valentina Vargas). They are trying to tell the story of how Hell is portrayed. Centuries ago demons tricked and they tempted you into their bidding until you were sucked in. You were duped and had no choice in the matter after that. In modern times, hell is full of torture and ripping apart, and only fit for those who seek it.
It is a good story to tell about how our societal conventions have altered over time in our depiction of Hell. Our two characters discuss this (all too briefly) and it allows for a bright spot in this rapid 82-minute feature. When the film focuses on that aspect it works. Pinhead wants to see the worst in everyone and wants them either dead or in incredible pain beforehand. Angelique wants to tempt, take her time, death by a thousand needles instead of hooks that grab and rip your soul apart.
Hellraiser: Bloodline could have been the jolt that the franchise needed to be something better than Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series. It could use time and tell stories from any decade, century or whatever. Yet Dimension Film executives butchered the film in the edit. Cutting a full 30 minutes from it and what we have left is just a flat out disappointment.
The worse thing about Hellraiser: Bloodline? This is where it should have finished, yet we still have another 6 films to go baby!
If you enjoyed our review of Hellraiser: Bloodline then feel free to have a read of our review of the previous Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth reviews as we meander through the series.
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