Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a direct continuation of the first Hellraiser film. Kristy Cotton (Ashley Lawrence) is fittingly now in an asylum called The Chanard Institute, after the events of Hellraiser. The Channard Institute’s head, Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham, Maleficent, A.D.: The Bible Continues), finds Kirsty’s story of a puzzle box able to open intra-dimensional doors intriguing. Being a collector of LeMerchand boxes himself, he’s looking for a way into hell. Channard has kept locked away in his institute a young girl named Tiffany in order to help Channard solve the puzzle box should he ever find it. We learn what lengths Dr. Channard will go to in order to achieve his ends in this very ambitious sequel.
A lot of criticisms of Hellraiser II that I’ve read on-line over the years is that it is incomprehensible. I disagree. Certainly, there are a lot of moving parts, and it is very surreal. That doesn’t mean it is plot less. It means the people saying these things weren’t paying attention. All the major characters (Kirsty, Julia, Channard, Tiffany, and Pinhead) all have a story arch. The writing and characterization are stellar, considering the genre and subject matter. Writer Peter Atkins stepped up on the world Clive Barker created in the original Hellraiser. The entire mythology is expanded upon and explored as the characters find themselves adventuring through the Hell the Cenobites call home. The epic and hauting score by Christopher Young helps sell the terrifying, dreamlike, and operatic nature of the film. It is hands down one of the best scores ever in a horror film.
At it’s heart, Hellraiser II is fairy tale of a young girl battling her evil stepmother. And Julia (Claire Higgins) is the ultimate evil stepmother. Her reintroduction is legendary at this point. Channard uses the mattress she died on to bring her back, by letting a patient who hallucinates bugs are crawling over him have a razor blade. It gets ugly real quick, before Julia rises up and tears him apart. Unlike Frank, Julia has found a home in Hell, and isn’t looking to escape. She’s looking to recruit. Channard takes her on as a lover, and finds that out her true motive too late. His transformation into one of the strangest cenobites ever has him come around on this rather quickly.
Doug Bradley returns as the Lead Cenobite, or as he’s known at this point: Pinhead. Hellraiser II is smart enough to know just how popular and iconic the character is after the first film, and how to capitalize on his presence without ruining the mystique. Hellraiser II is the only film to give the poor guy any characterization (other than being long-winded), and he goes on quite the journey in this film. Thanks to Kirsty, he learns who he was before he become Hell’s bounty hunter, and this causes a change in him as he slowly transitions into Kirsty’s protector. His ending here is much better, and fitting, than what his own creator would give him twenty-four years later in the extremely disappointing The Scarlet Gospels.
Sadly, this would be the last film in the series to really get the point of the Cenobites, do anything serious with the story, or try anything different. The later sequels turned Pinhead from a guy doing his job into a wannabe Freddy Krueger. What they should have done is given us a re-match between Channard and Pinhead where Pinhead mops the floor with him. But I digress. The Marvel/Epic comic book series gave more justice to this world and would somewhat continue the story line, but also disregards certain plot points to create it’s mythology. Hellraiser II introduces us to Lord Leviathan — the god of this hell that feeds on appetite, desire, and lust. This would be changed in the comic book, which has Leviathan fighting against the stench of mankind and trying to bring order to chaos. This would be something the new BOOM! Studios comic would continue on as well (and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out). This issue with the Hellraiser mythology being constantly at odds with itself is something that would continue to plague the series in print and especially film as it went on. But here in Hellraiser II, it is perfect, and should have been left alone.
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