- Directed by Tony Randel
- September 9, 1988 (Toronto International Film Festival) / December 23, 1988 (US)
Kirsty is admitted into a psychiatric hospital after the events at her father’s house where the head doctor unleashes the Cenobites.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is the conclusion of the story arc begun in the first film. This would have been a nice conclusion to the whole series if it had ended here as all characters get a disposition of to one extent or another. And of all the films this is probably my favorite.
Hellraiser set a standard and began a universe that goes on in one form or another to this day but tried too hard to be weird and unique. Instead while not bad it ended up as a weaker film than it could have been. This here is a more linear story rather than the attempted surrealism that was its predecessor. It is still filled with dark and disturbing imagery yet tells a more cohesive narrative.
While Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) and Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) are relatively blank slates as characters, Hellbound does a good job of fleshing out its villains and explaining why they are the way they are. In some aspects it manages to convert them from the curious to the truly evil. In others those that are first presented as evil before becoming unfortunate victims. That is unusual for the genre.
Pinhead (Doug Bradley) gets the most detailed story as it is revealed he was once Captain Elliot Spencer who came across the puzzle box and for whatever reason was chosen by the demonic god Leviathan and transformed. Somehow in a few brief moments when he has recalling memories of who he once was he becomes sympathetic and you feel bad for him. Doug Bradley is one of those quality actors that got stuck in genre material. A blessing for genre fans but unfortunate situation for a talented actor.
Pinhead is just as commanding as he was in the last film. Unlike other movie villains of the time, he was not immutably silent or slinging witty one-liners. Instead he spoke when necessary and even appears to operate by a code as demonstrated by preventing the torment of Tiffany when she summons the Cenobites as they are summoned by desire and not just the mechanizations of the puzzle box.
Of all the Cenobites reveals, perhaps the one for Chatterer (Nicholas Vince) was the most disturbing. While the puzzle box allows for the call, desire is the signal which is sent. In the film’s climax the Cenobites are stripped of their powers which reveals who they once were. Chatterer is revealed to be in actuality a small boy. What desires did that kid have? How messed up was he?
And that’s where Hellbound excels at. It’s not necessarily frightening but rather just disturbing. There’s plenty of weird and unusual things that make your skin crawl or make you go “Ew!” This dark and sinister world presented is more about what you see than the feelings that you feel.
With the help of Dr. Phillip Channard (Kenneth Cranham), a psychologist where Kirsty is being cared for immediately following the events of the first film, Julia (Clare Higgins) pulls a bit of an Uncle Frank and returns via the mattress that she died upon in Hellraiser. This is something as far as I can recall that has not been used in the other films though I may be incorrect on that part. And it’s a cool way to bring people back though a bit of an escape hatch for those damned to the Cenobite hell dimension. It is also a big hole in security that should be fixed.
Channard becomes a Cenobite himself eventually during the course of the story. Unfortunately he was a one off character but he makes such a great impression. He is a demonic surgeon whose prescription is death and mutilation. Cranham himself delivers his lines like a Shakespearean actor performing MacBeth and not some dude is black leather.
Though it’s not filled with over-the-top special effects, somehow the battle between Channard and Pinhead feels epic and is probably just one of the cooler horror film battles of the time. It also helps that Channard was a great cenobite design and execution in his own right. You get the feel of two powerful rivals throwing down even though ultimately not much happens. I guess it is just good acting and a great story.
Kristy is fairly one-dimensional here and now that I think about it she really wasn’t that well drawn out in the last film either. She’s just the hero and does little beyond scream and chase after Daddy who she thinks is trapped in Hell because of what happened in the previous movie. Which makes you kind of wonder what she thought of her father. If he was indeed a good man, why would she presume his spirit is in Hell as he was killed and did not die from puzzle box use.
The character of Tiffany is not much better. She is a patient at the hospital and has a gift for solving puzzles which is why Dr. Channard is interested in her. I don’t think we even get her real name as it’s well-established that her real name is unknown and ‘Tiffany’ is just a nickname given to her by the staff. As McGuffins in a film go Tiffany a pretty big one. She is malleable and controllable and perfectly suited for Channard to do the work he is afraid to do. He desires what the box can show but not the consequences it brings.
While Hellbound is a more focused story there are some elements that get rushed through and a few that are disposable such Dr. Kyle MacRae (William Hope) who is framed as a love interest for Kirsty and just kind gets done away with rather quickly. He provides Kirsty a ride and Julia a few square inches of skin and not much else. However the story here does a good job of wrapping everything up. It is not meant to have a sequel but rather end the story.
The imagery is bizarre and the Leviathan world looks like a surrealist painting. I think this movie accomplishes surreal better than quite by accident better than its predecessor did. There there is unusual and weird imagery but is within a focused and well thought through narrative.
As sequels to previous films go this is probably one of the best sequels out there. It takes what was done in the first film and improves upon it. It has a more focused narrative. And I dare say without this movie the first film would’ve been remembered but a largely unimportant movie of the time. Hellbound solidified Pinhead’s ranking among horror icons. It made him a character rather than just the evil of the film.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a fantastic follow up to the first film. It is as disturbing and weird as the first film but much more focused and linear in what it shows. This is most certainly a movie you should watch if you love horror!