Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Tonight, I delve into the creatively twisted and disturbingly brilliant creation of Clive Barker's sequel to 1987's Hellraiser. Unlike the original Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II was not directed by Clive Barker, but instead directed by Tony Randel and based on the story and characters created by Clive Barker. While the first film focused mainly on Kirsty trying to survive her homicidal stepmother and uncle in the wake of her father's murder, while portraying Pinhead and the cenobites as mysterious, demonic creatures, Clive Barker was intent on this film showing how the cenobites came to be - their mortality, past humanity, and even a "softer" side to Pinhead. All the while, Kirsty is now trying to survive an insane doctor bent on unlocking the secrets of the puzzle box, even to the point of resurrecting Kirsty's stepmother and venturing into hell itself.

While this movie didn't exactly portray the same sense of horror that the first film did, it definitely stands on its own as a gory, imaginative fantasy horror that depicts the same cenobites that were once hunting Kirsty before as almost heroic to her now. After the events of the first film, Kirsty is locked up in a mental institute for the criminally insane, run by a twisted doctor that is himself fascinated with the mysteries of the puzzle box. After tricking one of his patients to open the puzzle box, the doctor and a newly resurrected Julia Cotton (Kirsty's stepmother) wait for the doors to open before venturing into hell for the seemingly sole purpose of exploration and knowledge. This happens fairly soon in the film and prepares the audience for something they hadn't been exposed to in the first film - Clive Barker's version of hell. With Kirsty convinced she can save her father's soul, she grabs the puzzle box and runs through the doorway behind them.

Before this takes place, there is the entire disgusting reconstruction of Kirsty's stepmother, Julia Cotton. The infamous mattress from Hellraiser is discovered by the doctor, who uses it to sacrifice his more mentally disturbed patients to a skinless Julia - I'm sure some scenes from the first Hellraiser come to mind. Well, after about a dozen people are sacrificed, Julia eventually regrows her skin and becomes the same person we all recognize from the first film. Although apparently her skin growing back wasn't a necessity for the morbidly demented doctor, who didn't seem to mind making out with a skinless Julia. I have to admit, those scenes in particular made me cringe in disgust. The mere thought of exposed nerve endings being touched or kissed would have to be excruciatingly painful. I watched this with a friend who asked the question, "Doesn't that hurt? You know, touching exposed muscle and nerves?" All I could think was whatever pain Julia was in was nothing compared to what she felt in hell.

Clive Barker's interpretation of hell is very interesting. Instead of lakes of fire and demons with pitchforks running around, we see a labyrinth of sorts with winding pathways that lead to dark corridors opening up to more pathways. It seemed that if anyone stopped walking or running and stood in place long enough, a hallucinatory mirage of images would become visible to that person. This happened when the doctor was walking along and stopped before seeing images of two men make love to Julia, and again when Kirsty stopped in a pathway before seeing images of her house and bleeding pictures on a bookshelf. There was almost a sense of complete hopelessness in that no one else was around and no matter how far you ran, you weren't making any progress, and if you stopped then you were tormented with fantasies meant to drive you insane. I thought this representation by Clive Barker was genius and original, although subtle and withholding. It was the lack of production that ironically created a sense of a deeper effort. Oh, and then there was Leviathan...

Picture a giant, diamond-shaped metallic object, standing probably a hundred-feet tall and rotating while standing on its point. While rotating, this object projected a black beam of light, (think inverted lighthouse), that if exposed to, you were shown your past sins and sins committed against you. Also this object created a sort of deep horn sound that people familiar with Morse code will recognize as the word "God." Well, this is what awaited those who managed to make it to the end of the labyrinth - and its name was Leviathan. This large, mechanical being is explained by Julia to be the god of flesh, hunger and desire - and also the being that transforms humans into cenobites. The giant mechanism wastes no time in capturing the doctor and transforming him into a nightmarish creature that is attached by his head to the tentacle of Leviathan; a creature that even Pinhead and his minions can't oppose.

Immediately after transforming, the doctor makes his way back to the doorway to the normal world and goes on a killing spree in the hospital, even killing Pinhead's three cenobite minions. Kirsty finds an old photograph of Pinhead when he was human in the doctor's office and shows it to Pinhead, who then begins a head-to-head battle with the transformed doctor. Pinhead reverts back to his human form and the doctor is destroyed when Kirsty solves the puzzle box and the tentacle of Leviathan is retracting back into hell, pulling the doctor's head off in the process. The ending is as epic as it is visually stunning.

In closing, this is probably not a film for everyone, especially not those just wanting a simple horror flick to watch with friends for Halloween, but more of a horror film for enthusiasts of Clive Barker or just horror fantasy in general. It's gory, twisted, and at times nearly visually unbearable, but if you appreciate an interesting story, incredible character development and great acting then definitely watch this one, (right after watching the first Hellraiser, of course). If you find that you enjoy this film, then give some other Clive Barker creations a shot, Hellraiser 1-9 (based off his characters), Nightbreed, Rawhead Rex, Candyman 1 & 2, and many others.

3 out of 4.

"We have such sights to show you."

Cheers and goodnight.

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