During the post-production of Hellraiser, a sequel was already greenlit, which brings back to the novel The Hellbound Heart. There was already room for the book to be left a sequel but since that didn't come through, the film version had a much greater chance.
Unfortunately, Clive Barker didn't return to write or direct, but, he did leave it at the hands of a capable director, who, while eluding to Barker's vision, also expanded the world of the hell dimension. The result was a pretty decent sequel. Does the script have issues? Yes, but at least it holds true to the original.
The Story: After the events of the first film, Kirsty, suffering from trauma, is placed in a psychiatric hospital for further evaluation. Upon discovering that her stepmother Julia's blood is on the mattress of her father's house, Kirsty warns Doctor Channard and his assistant Kyle to destroy it. But unbeknownst to her, Doctor Channard has plans of his own. It just so happens, he's been researching about the Lament Configuration for years and seems to have had a thing for Julia before she met Larry. As a way to bring her back, Doctor Channard brings one of his disturbed patients as bait and is able to bring Julia back from the hell dimension but at the cost of her once beautiful skin. Kyle witnesses all this whilst in hiding and runs out and warns Kirsty of what he's seen.
Meanwhile, Kirsty has grown a bond with one of the patients, a young teenager by the name of Tiffany.
To further his devious plan, Doctor Channard uses more patients for Julia to feast upon, completing the transformation of her newfound beauty.
Seeing visions of her father's skinless body, writing the words, "help me, I'm in hell." Kirsty soon goes on a mission to rescue her father and stop Julia and Doctor Channard's plans of grabbing the puzzle box and unleash the havoc of the dimensional god Leviathan and his Cenobites.
Whew! That was a lot of story to tell. Although Clive Barker didn't write the entire script this time, much of his influence was included in the story. I can see that this meant to be the sequel to The Hellbound Heart but I guess his schedule got in the way. So let's move to the cast and crew.
What I really appreciate about this movie is that you have two strong female characters, one a hero, one a villain, that is able to drive a movie on their own.
First, let's start with Kirsty, who is more feisty and determined as ever. The film is very much focused on her by using her wits and intuition.
Kirsty is quite the brave one, facing head-on as she goes through the labyrinth of hell, even when she comes to face her own demons.
Though Ashely Laurence gives an okay performance, she is still able to carry the film.
But the real star of the movie is Julia. In the first movie, she was introduced as this reluctant housewife seduced by her lover to do devious things.
Now she is a woman of her own, fully aware of what power she holds. Just like Frank, coming back from the hell dimension made her bit evil, a bit power-hungry, and it totally fits the character.
Along with her newfound confidence, she also has a glamorous evil makeover. Claire Higgins fully embraces the role of turning Julia into this fierce badass.
No longer the victim of Frank's lust, Julia now takes charge and is willing to satisfy her own revenge by tearing out his heart for betraying her. Julia is by far the best antagonist for this series. I would've like to see more of her.
Doctor Channard has probably been established by Clive Barker before and there is a sort of organic way he fits into the story. He is one of the vilest villains this series has yet. He is fascinated by body mutilation, treats his sickest patients like caged animals without giving them proper care, kills a kid's mother, performs a brain operation to erase memory of said murder, and imprisons her as one of his patients, and last of all kills half of his patients for Julia to feast upon.
His cenobite design is also disgustingly creepy and strange. By turning him into a cenobite, it makes the character vicious and quite frankly unstoppable. Kenneth Cranham gives off a subtle performance, in which any other case, would come off as hammy or over-the-top. That's what makes his character so chilling. His curiosity when it comes to human anatomy soon evolves him into a sociopathic killer. Hell! He's even worse than Frank! If Clive Barker so happens to add this character into the Hellbound Heart sequel, he would've been an interesting addition.
Now we have the character of Tiffany. Not much is known about her other than she obsessively solves puzzles, which would later be used as a plot point.
She is mute and that is by the trauma of witnessing Doctor Channard murdering her mother. Although there's not much to her, I do find the character interesting and I would've like to see her play a part in the third movie as it she who closes the hell portal and defeats Doctor Channard. Imogen Poots did a fairly good job of portraying the vulnerable Tiffany and provides subtle expressions without saying anything. It's a shame the character wasn't mentioned in any of the movies after that.
Kyle was...let's say, not so bright. He's not as useless as Steven in the first movie, he does try to figure things out and help Kirsty along the way but when it comes to pure common sense on his part, it goes all out the window. I know it's reliable for people to act dumb in horror movies to move the plot forward but I wish they could've been another way to off Kyle.
Okay, the gist is, he gets lured out by Julia, who at this point doesn't have a clue who she is, and pretty much sees the bodies that she's eaten.
This could be a warning sign for him to just, you know, run out and warn Kirsty, but no, he just stands there in repulse and soon becomes accessible to having Julia suck his organs out. William Hope, who's mostly known for being in Aliens, was okay for what he's given, though, Kyle was written as a reactionary character.
Aw yes! The cenobites! Once again, they are grotesquely gorgeous as ever with more design and a lot more character.
Doug Bradley as always gives another great performance as Pinhead. In Hellbound, there is a much needed backstory for Pinhead, though, in my opinion, I wish they would save some of this information in the third movie but I digress. Okay, so it turns out that the Cenobites were once human. Some point or other, one of them grabbed a hold of the puzzle box and it somehow turned them into these monstrous beings. For instance, the female cenobite was a nun and the chatter was a twelve-year boy. It just comes to show that the box has no mercy.
Once this is all revealed, the cenobites lose their muster when they fight against Doctor Channard as he kills them one by one. To me, this is one of the weaker points of the movie because the cenobites have such an iconic look and design that they would've had a mainstay in the franchise. Comparing to the cenobites of the later movies are just lackluster.
Okay, on to the special effects. Boy, this movie is go-or-ry! It's twice as brutal and twice as violent as the first in how it really gets into the skin of things. Trust me, this movie doesn't hold back. The makeup and design are top-notch and the setpieces are at a bigger scale now, which I appreciate.
I like that the characters have to run through these weird mazes once they jump inside the labyrinth as it gives off an Alice in Wonderland-esque vibe to the world building.
The directing is fantastic. Tony Randall really did a good job of capturing Clive Barker's vision and embracing the fluidity of the first movie. Tony Randall did not disappoint and gave each amount of respect for the source material.
The writing is a bit iffy, kind of rushed. By the beginning of the movie, Kirsty is already there at the institution. What? They couldn't put her in a regular hospital? Then there's the case of Julia's body on the mattress with the puzzle box intact. Okay, how did she get there? It's not really explained. Though, they did get one thing right by getting all of the cut scenes from the first movie to interject in the sequel. But there are two more writing errors in the film, which I will discuss in our trivia section and by the end of the review.
Clive Barker had originally developed elaborate backstories for the Cenobites in the first film, though their origins were never explored. In this film, he wanted to make sure that, at the very least, the audience understood that the cenobites were once human and that their own vices led to their becoming demons. This element was meant to underline the story of Frank and Julia and their corruption by lust, with Julia intended to become the ultimate villain of the series.
THIS. WOULD. HAVE. BEEN. AWESOME. Julia was really growing as a character at this point. Her path to villainy played out perfectly. As you can see here, there was an alternate ending with Julia coming out of the large pillar, with her blue dress turning black, hinting that she has become the new queen of hell. Serving Julia as the new queen of hell would've been an epic plot for the third movie. But sadly, Pinhead proved much popular with the audience and thus leads us to our next movie (ho hum).
An In-depth subplot detailing the origins of Pinhead was scripted but deleted in pre-production due to last-minute budget cuts. All that remains of this subplot is the film's prologue, showing Captain Elliot Spencer opening the box and transforming into Pinhead.
Some part of me wished they would save the revelation that Pinhead was once human and just the kept the opening scene as a mystery. Though, his backstory is more explained, albeit in a clunky way, in the third movie.
Okay, one of the last writing mishaps was the return of Larry Cotton. Andrew Robinson was asked to reprise his role but refused. I guess he didn't want to be typecast but it's a bummer because he was one of the best parts of the first movie. So this led to a lot of rewrites during the middle of production.
The basis was Larry sends out a message to Kirsty to save him, in which Kirsty eventually finds him and he saves Kirsty from Frank when they battle it out, sort of Kirsty in the novel, would save Rory if there was a sequel to Hellbound Heart.
INSTEAD, Kirsty is tricked by Frank and somehow wants her to be his sex slave. Uh, ew! So in a sense, Kirsty is saved by Julia, of all people, once Frank is distracted by her beauty. Such a shame, bringing back Larry would have been a kickass moment but, oh well, I guess they wanted to wrap things up. Which brings me to my last issue with the script. Not only the beginning felt rushed but the climax was rushed as well.
How on earth can Kirsty fit into Julia's skin that heap of time?
And uh, ew! Why would she wear someone's skin?
Not only that, she kisses the Doctor Channard Cenobite on the lips as a way to distract him while Tiffany closes the portal. How gross is that? Really, Kirsty, really?
END OF SPOILERS******
So that was Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. I really enjoyed this one and it's by far the best sequel this series got so far. Everything about the movie felt organic and told the story in such a cathartic way by making it bigger and broader.
When you look back at it, it could've been a fantastic franchise. But by the third movie, All was scrapped and the story wouldn't have any meat without Pinhead. Which will lead us to our next review. But besides that, Hellbound is a solid addition to the series and I highly recommend it.
My Last Word: A definite Yes.