When a horror film shows so much ambition and a need for originality, then its hard to criticise everyone involved.
Hellbound is probably one of the most hardest reviews I have ever had to write. There is so much going on in the sequel to Clive Barker’s original, that at times it ends up getting lost within its own catacombs and the biggest crushing disappointment for me is that for 51 minutes of the running time, this is better than everything Hellraiser offered,
Sadly things start to go wrong just before we hit the hour mark.
A massive plot flaw had me so angry that it seemed just for a few moments that creativity was the main aspect, while all logic was disregarded to the frustration of the fans of the franchise like myself. Then I calmed down, took a breather and realised that it got good again……
Hellbound starts off exactly where the original ended. Kristy (Ashley Laurence) wakes up in a mental hospital after the events of the previous night with thank goodness no sign of her boyfriend who we are told has gone home but I am hoping that its a term for “gone for some serious acting lessons”.
Its here that her mad rant about a small little box that when opened releases creatures like Cenobites, who have a thirst for souls and mayhem. goes unnoticed to the frustrated police officers and the medics. Apart from Dr Phillip Channard (Kenneth Cranham) who has spent all his working life, looking for the pleasure and pain that comes from the box, even some of his patients are there, because of his urge.
Tiffany (Imorgen Boorman) is the perfect example of this. a young mute girl whose passion and skill is solving puzzles, and someone who Dr. Channard will know could come in handy while searching for this pure evil force. With news at what happened at Kirstys house, and all the bodies being discovered, the Dr asks the local police to bring the mattress they found full of blood in one of the bedrooms to his house. The fact they do when they should tag and bag it, is one of the first hints that this film is all set to lose its way.
When the Dr hears the story of how Uncle Frank was reborn thanks to the blood of humans, he decides to do this with the blood soaked bed, in one of the films best moments. Using a patient (Oliver Smith, who played the skinless Frank in the original) whose phobia of imaginary maggots all over his body, results in him laying on that very bed, holding a razor knife, and cutting himself to bits, trying to remove things that are not there. This results in the re-birth of Julia (a returning Clare Higgins) the step mom of Kirsty whose love for her husband’s brother, started off all this mess.
With Julia following the path of Frank, in restoring her body by sucking the blood of humans all under the watching eyes of the mad Doctor, Kristy with the help of another fellow doctor, Kyle MacRae (Willaim Hope) escapes from the hospital, in hope to put an end to this nightmare. So far so great, the film sort of carries on the tension created from the original and builds on it.
Its a perfect fit, Hellraiser had such a slow pace and a feeling of dread, that if watched back to back, works splendid. The pace here is frantic and its a wonderful companion piece. But for all that praise, here comes the negative. When the Dr brings Tiffany into the equation and tells Julia “I helped you, now its my turn!” you mind goes all crazy. Because if the Dr had Tiffany all along and the box, then why did he need Julia? The story is telling us that he had Tiffany for many moons, locked in the clinic, and he had the box, so why did he not get her to solve the puzzle before? It sorts of makes the character of Julia redundant, which is a criminal shame as up until that point, her character was the best thing of the franchise
Interesting, Hellraiser and its franchise was all set to be about Julia. The original idea was for her character to be the main stem of the stories, she was also marked for the already planned third film.
Even actress Clare herself wanted to carry on, but because of the image of Pinhead that was displayed on all the merchandise and film covers, the makers and Barker knew what would sell the most, and it was that character that became pivotal for the future.
This was not apparent until the end of the film shooting however which by then was to late to change any thing especially with such a low budget, reshoots were virtually impossible. At the films release, the writers had severe hate mail over the shock scene involving Pinhead and what seems his apparent demise, which of course was intended but quickly rectified for the next sequel, leaving poor Higgins and the character of Julia, abandoned.
When Tiffany solves the puzzle box, the film sort of goes into the Rabbit hole and all Alice on us, with the gateway opened and the Dr, Julia, Tiffany and Kirsty, all in the depths of hell, running around their own nightmare, its here that all of what was little plot vanishes and the film goes all British Argento on us.
When Tiffany runs into her own hell, and all light colours appear and the music plays, the riff of Suspira is apparent and its here that fans of those films will find rejoice. Imagery is the name of the game for the last half, everything and anything gets chucked at the screen at its at this moment you could say that the Hellraiser franchise hit its peak and was never able to match this again.
Its a film set around a lunatic asylum and lunacy is all what we can only sum up is around us. Its so bonkers and eye catching that its not hard to just forget about the massive plot holes and just go with the flow. There is nothing else we could do. The ambition of the film is way too much for what is on offer. Now, here comes the confusing part, I loved it! Its an horror that is totally different to what is out there. Yes I have criticised the flaws, the illogic moments that made me shake my head, but the grand scope that this horror gives us, is so haunting and memorising that its hard to ignore.
The fact remains that if Bava or Argento came up with this, then there be overwhelming praise for such a bold and interesting new take on horror.
The fact its British and directed by a not a sexy name in Tony Randall, is an easier target, its because we are not supposed to do horror like the Italians, its supposed to be all cliche and dull.
When it is is such a blast as this worthy sequel, then you have to at times applaud its effort, and that is what Hellbound requires, a standing ovation for being the total opposite to what is out there!
The film has its major flaws, too many flashbacks, some really bad plot devices, but the surreal imagery and quite wonderful visions make this an underrated sequel and one film that even Bava and co would be proud of…….