Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988) Review:

Clive Barker's directional debut with his novel adapted film, Hellraiser (1987), became an instant classic to many. The story had significant depth, its characters felt real, thanks to great acting, the effects for its time were astounding and its music was hauntingly beautiful. So it is no surprise that when a sequel would be made to this favored horror film, fans would expect a product containing the same or better in magnitude. I am one of those fans, but unfortunately, that promise wasn't upheld to the highest degree. It is not to say that the movie is awful, but it had so much going for it and yet it failed to be anywhere close to its predecessor.

The evil Dr. Channard
What really misses the mark and is also the key component to making a good movie, is a story. The story, which was written by Barker and adapted to the film by Peter Atkins lacks a strong sense of story telling. The screenplay will attempt to bring up various subplots but never accesses them fully. For example, this installment provides viewers with the possibility of understanding the older characters better, and, being introduced to new characters. However both are never explained in a clear way or even resolved. It's actually hard to say what the plot was about and who the main villain was either.

After seeing the murder of her whole family, Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) finds herself in a hospital with everyone against her. She tries to explain herself but nobody believes her. Little does she realize that she will prove herself right when the Doctor in charge of the hospital turns out to be as wicked as her evil stepmother Julia and Uncle Frank by unleashing the Cenobites from the lament configuration once again. To do this, the doctor will have a mute girl (Imogen Boorman) open the box because she has a knack for solving puzzles.

However, this doesn't tell me anything. It is never completely explained to why Doctor Channard (Kenneth Cranham) wants to open the portal to hell. In the movie, viewers will learn he's been studying the lament configuration for years but it's never said what he was searching for. It is also never fully explained to why this girl is mute and what happened to her family. The mother of the girl is shown a few times but never bothers to show the end result of her. What gives? At least Atkins wrote a more decent back-story to the Cenobite characters (thanks to Barker's input). But the rest is never finished. It's frustrating.

What pinhead used to be as a human =o
On the other hand, I do give credit to the casting department for bringing back majority of the cast. It's great to see Ashley Laurence again as well as Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman and of course Doug Bradley. I also enjoyed the set design to the labyrinth of hell. I for one would get lost very easily in such a place. The imagery was creepy and disturbing as always too. I still get goosebumps from a crying child; very unsettling.

Adding to that was Christopher Young's film score (who also did the previous film) which made it more effective. Although I found Young's score from the previous film more compelling, I was happy to see that he stuck with his original theme and even built on a few other tunes. Lastly, the make-up department and special effects crew also did a great job. From the Cenobite transformations, gore, creature effects to the skinless characters is still an amazing feat for 1988. I’m just baffled to how incoherent the screenplay puts all these great things together into an almost unenjoyable mess.

Peter Atkins' screenplay digs into some really interesting ideas and character arcs but never comes close to finishing a single one. It is even more frustrating because this sequel contains the majority of the previous cast, the same composer and the same gruesome imagery.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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