Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: Tony Randel
Written by: Peter Atkins
Starring: Ashley Laurence, Clare Higgins, Kenneth Cranham, Imogen Boorman, Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford & Barbie Wilde
The first HELLRAISER was such a smashing success among critics and audiences that a mere year later, a sequel was pumped out (just in time for Christmas no less). HELLBOUND took a decidedly grislier, gorier and flashier take on the Lament Configuration and the Cenobites. Though Clive Barker only served as a producer this time around, this sequel serves as a faithful continuation of his first tale…almost to a fault at points. Instead of merely opening Pandora’s Box in this script, director Tony Randel (who worked closely with Barker on the first HELLRAISER) takes us deep inside the labyrinthine landscape of Hell itself. Though it suffers slightly from flaws that plague most sequels, HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II is only a minor step down from the first film and should satisfy most Barker fans.
Picking up mere hours after the events of the previous movie, Kirsty Cotton awakens inside an insane asylum. Though she escaped a house full of rotting corpses and the clutches of the sadistic Cenobites, she unsurprisingly has a difficult time convincing the authorities of the truth. Rather than believe her tale of a puzzle box that can open the gates of Hell, the doctors and cops prefer to leave Kirsty in a padded room. However, the head doctor of the asylum is not as innocent as he appears to be. Soon enough, the Lament Configuration is opened, a skinless Julia (the villainess from the first movie) arises, and Hell itself engulfs the insane asylum. Kirsty finds herself on a quest to rescue her dead father’s soul from the endless mazes of Hell and attempts to, once again, escape the clutches of the Cenobites (who are eager to play).
HELLBOUND is a sequel that benefits from having a script that does something different from the first film, but keeps the same general tone. Instead of merely glimpsing a hallway into Hell, HELLBOUND takes the main characters directly into the cold labyrinth of the underworld and introduces multiple threats. In the realm of antagonists, we get Julia, once again played by Clare Higgins, in a skinless Frank-like role. Higgins portrayed a cold, calculating bitch with a human side in the first film, but goes all-out evil during this second round. We get a new villain in Dr. Channard who’s played well by Kenneth Cranham (a Shakespearean actor who was pressured by his grandson to take the role). As far as protagonists go, Kirsty is still a likable final girl and we also get a secondary heroine in the silent, but strong, Tiffany.
Of course, the main concern behind any HELLRAISER film comes in the sadomasochistic Cenobites. Almost everyone from the first film reprises their demonic roles and their make-up designs remain (mostly) the same. Doug Bradley is obviously having a blast as Pinhead and spouts off more quotable dialogue. We are also given a backstory into Pinhead’s origin through a prologue and interesting pieces of exposition that are included in a smart way that doesn’t feel forced in the slightest. Concerning the Cenobites, the only real annoyance I have comes from a distinct change in Chatter’s appearance (he now has eyes). Apparently, a deleted scene explained this change in his character. However, I much prefer the older, scarier design. We also get an especially memorable, big bad Cenobite near the end of this film who is exclusive to this entry.
HELLRAISER II is not immune from a few clichés that plague most sequels, especially those in the horror genre. In an effort to go bigger and better with its ideas, the film forgets to clear up a few plot holes that pop up along the way. Sure, the visuals (especially in the final third) look great and grotesque, but I wish the conclusion didn’t feel like it had a couple of cop-out moments with no explanations. To give further details would be going into spoiler territory. Also, the movie spends an unnecessary amount of time recapping the first film. We see a montage in the opening credits and then we get a longer montage as Kirsty explains her situation to the asylum’s doctors. I understand that this was an effort to catch up viewers who were not familiar with the first film, but this seems both unnecessary and downright annoying (the flashbacks feel like they eat up 10 minutes of the running time).
Given the handful of problems it has, HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II isn’t on the near-perfect level of its predecessor. It’s only a marginal step down in quality from the first film though. This is a damn fine horror sequel and should ultimately satisfy fans of the first film. The story takes things in a different, bolder, and somewhat sillier direction. However, it serves as a nice double-bill when combined with the first HELLRAISER. This is one of the better horror sequels out there, especially when you consider its competition.