There are some sequels that blend with their predecessor so seamlessly that you’re left with the impression that they’re just the second half of one really long movie. Hellbound: Hellraiser II is one of those movies. Despite being directed by a different person from the original (Tony Randel helmed this installment), it has all the atmosphere and presence of Clive Barker’s original Hellraiser to the point that if you were ill-informed (or maybe just illiterate) you wouldn’t be able to tell.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Our heroine, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), is recovering from her last encounter with the Cenobites at a psychiatric clinic. Her struggle is far from over, however, as the twisted Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) has taken a special interest in her case. Obtaining a bloody mattress from the ruins of Kirsty’s father’s house, Channard manages to bring the murderous Julia (Clare Higgins) back to life. Following Julia’s instructions, and with the help of a mute puzzle prodigy named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), Channard opens the door to Hell. Meanwhile, Kirsty secretly pursues them into the depths of Hell’s labyrinth in the hopes of rescuing her father’s trapped spirit. Once there, she encounters Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his Cenobites again, but this time she’s armed with some valuable information that may not just save her from them, but from the brutal Channard-Cenobite.
A lot of fans tend to prefer Hellbound over Hellraiser, and I’ll admit that it’s a pretty tough call. They’re both fantastic, but in uniquely different ways. While Hellraiser was a far more personal tale of seduction and damnation, Hellbound is vastly more epic in scope. Clive Barker, writer and director of the original film, both wrote and supervised this production, so it stays very true to his vision for the series.
Being essentially an epic journey into the depths of Hell, expect some grander production values in just about every department. The labyrinth that composes Hell remains one of the best set designs I’ve seen in any horror film. The intention is to appear grotesque, endless and maddening, and it delivers the entire laundry list (thanks to a lot of matte paintings, admittedly). In addition to the labyrinth, we at last get to see its fearsome master: Leviathan. Though he’s nothing more than a giant rotating version of the Lament Configuration, he still manages to have a presence despite a total lack of anthropomorphic attributes.
All our favorite Cenobites are back and then some. Pinhead leads the way, but this time we learn his origin and get to see Doug Bradley do some acting sans make-up. Female Cenobite (Barbie Wilde), Butterball (Simon Bamford) and the Chatterer (Nicholas Vince) all make comebacks as well. Chatterer gets a rather random redesign halfway through the movie, which happens abruptly and is never explained. The reason is evidently that the actor was unable to see through the original Chatterer mask, so a scene in which Kirsty views Chatterer’s new eyeball-installing disfigurement while prowling the labyrinth was written, but ultimately replaced (the scene where Kirsty peers through the hole and sees the two blurry figures having sex was where the Chatterer scene was originally intended to go).
In addition to all our old favorites, a new Cenobite comes along: Channard. The Channard-Cenobite is a fan-favorite, which is easy to understand, as he’s very surreal and very elaborately designed. I particularly liked all the weird and random s--t popping out of his fingers. Others, such as Julia and Frank (Sean Chapman) make their return, though Frank’s scene felt a little unnecessary.
To interrupt my dull praise for an instant, there were a few aspects of the film I didn’t like. While visually kickass, the Channard-Cenobite could get incredibly annoying with all the puns and one-liners he spews out. Additionally, his showdown with the other Cenobites was fairly anticlimactic; the fight ends as soon as it starts. I get the narrative purpose of that (Channard has a direct tether to Leviathan, so he’s basically a god), but it made for a dull showdown. Outside of that, my only other issue would be with the character of Kyle (William Hope), a rather bland love-interest insertion the film could have survived just fine without.
Hellbound is every bit as good as the original, so much so that I can’t recommend watching one without the other. While the follow-up films can sway violently in the quality-department, you can’t go wrong with this one. Very surreal, very gory, well acted, well directed… and just damn epic.