After the phenomenal returns on the first “Hellraiser”, New World executives managed to pick their jaws off the floor long enough to quickly green light a sequel. The result is a worthy follow up, one that has an ambitious script but is nevertheless aesthetically disappointing. Fans of the series will be pleased, although some may be slightly under whelmed by what transpires onscreen.
Picking up right after the original, “Hellraiser II” finds Kristy Cotton (Ashley Laurence) taken to a psychiatric hospital run by the bizarre but brilliant Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who has spent years searching for gateways to other dimensions. Kirsty befriends another patient there, a mute girl named Tiffany, who seems to be gifted at solving puzzles. But Kirsty’s respite from the Cenobites is short lived, as Dr. Channard resurrects Kristy’s evil step mom Julia (Clare Higgins), and the Cenobites are summoned once again. Soon Kristy and Tiffany find themselves negotiating Hell’s labyrinth corridors trying to avoid the Cenobites and find a way back home.
It’s a shame Clive Barker had to forego the director’s chair in lieu of previous commitments, because he would have had a field day with the scenario offered up by “Hellbound”. Instead, Tony Randel (“Fist of the North Star”) is given the nod and he does his best to live up to the gore factor of the original, giving us plenty of skinnings, copious bloodletting, mutilation, and torture. You’d think Randel was going through a rough patch in his life and was working out his frustrations through his job. But while Randel keeps “Hellbound” from being dull, he disappoints visually. With its monochromatic and grim look, Hell has never looked more boring. After the visions dreamed up by Dante and Hieronymous Bausch, audiences are expecting a bit more than what we’re shown here.
Peter Atkins’ script is imaginative and enjoyable even if you haven’t seen the first film, all thanks to a brief prologue that sets up a smooth flow from the first film to the sequel, as well as giving us a nicely morbid setting for the events to transpire. Atkins also presents some interesting new characters in Tiffany and Dr. Channard, and even gives us origins for the Cenobites. The only flaw is the ending, which humanizes the Cenobites and seems very out of place. Demons are better when they’re left demons, not when they’re revealed to be a lot like us. Where’s the fun in that?
Ashley Laurence returns as Kristy, and she seems very comfortable in the character’s skin (no pun intended). She does an excellent job portraying a character that has witnessed unimaginable horror and has lost her father, and soon has to face that horror all over again. As the creepy Dr. Channard, Kenneth Cranham is good as the villain — at least until the Cenobites arrive to upstage him. The Cenobites themselves display an incredible onscreen presence, helped in no small part by their larger screentime in “Hellbound”. The only weak link is Deborah Joel, whose Julia (the skinless version) seems more like a campy wicked stepmother than the seductive murderess of the first film.
The makeup team, lead by Allan Burne, does a terrific job in realizing the Cenobites; in fact, the demons look better here than they did in the original. Christopher Young’s orchestral score is appropriately moody and sinister, setting just the right tone for the film as well as foreshadowing the horror to come. The special effects are also well done, looking very realistic and nausea inducing.
“Hellraiser II” isn’t perfect, but it’s still pretty good, and definitely more worthy to carry the “Hellraiser” name than subsequent sequels. The faint of heart should avoid this extremely graphic film; but then again, if they rented a film with a man sporting a head full of pins on the cover, they deserve whatever they get.
Tony Randel (director) / Clive Barker (story), Peter Atkins (screenplay)
CAST: Clare Higgins …. Julia Cotton
Ashley Laurence …. Kirsty Cotton
Kenneth Cranham …. Dr. Philip Channard
Doug Bradley …. Pinhead