Archive for the 'modern horror' Category

May

Comments Off on Hellraiser: Hellseeker

I was excited, dammit, when I saw Ashley Laurence had been hauled onboard for “Hellraiser: Hellseeker.” Maybe hauled onboard isn’t the right analogy. Maybe it’s more like she was lured into the back of the craft services van and chloroformed or she walked across a pit covered with copies of a totally different script.

Laurence matters because she played Kirsty Cotton, the heroine of the first two films and for my quatloos probably the best Final Girl of the 1980s. After the meandering noir fable of “Hellraiser: Inferno,” roots needed returning to, and Laurence’s Kirsty never failed to kick ass. Plus, Kirsty still had a story to tell. Unlike many a horror franchise heroine, she skipped the traditional perfunctory offing in the opening of the first sequel she wasn’t heroine-ing. So after literally wearing the skin of her wicked stepmother and witnessing the ultimate answer to man’s search for meaning is a grey maze filled with kinky zombies, how did her hellbound heart go on? I mean…did she take a year off and backpack Europe? I want to know.

More crucial, unfortunately, than Kirsty’s involvement is the helming of this film by Rick Bota, who also directs the next two entries in the franchise. If I ever get access to time travel technology, I’m going back to 2002 and hunting down every person in the phone book named Rick Bota. To be fair, Bota is a deft cinematographer, and I have the feeling these movies were requisitioned by the studio with about as much vision, passion, and resources as you put into ordering a Subway sandwich. “Hey, Rick, here’s a director credit and a script from the slush pile. Go make a Hellraiser so we don’t lose the copyright. On Hearty Italian.”

So all that said, “Hellseeker” sucks.

While I’m feeling food metaphors, let me start with the three-cheese soundtrack. Gone is the fantastic choral score of the first few films, replaced with some wailing-on-a-Stratocaster Winger audition that you could plunk at the start of a light Skinimax offering, maybe something on the USA Up All Night docket. Unacceptable. Save your bargain brand Dokken for Freddy. We need some majesty and dignity up in this joint. You’re not playing Pinhead on with that crap.
It is true that Clive Barker originally wanted metal for the score of the first “Hellraiser.” But Clive wanted metal for the score. This soundtrack is to metal as Screech is to Bill Nye.

Ah, but I’ve not touched the story. Let me get my asbestos gloves.

The movie opens with Kirsty and her husband Trevor riding in a car, laughing, playing, loving each other conspicuously, like people do in commercials for antidepressants and boner pills.

The dialogue neatly informs us they are reconciling from something and embarking on a new start. Then they start kissing and Trevor smooches them right across the center line. Honk, honk, Trevor swerves to avoid a face full of Honda and loses control of his car. The compact goes full Duke Boys rampant, plunging them into a lake, albeit absent Waylon Jennings narration.

Trevor manages to worm out of the car, but the door gets stuck and he can’t save Kirsty. Police divers find no sign of her body, and her seatbelt was undone. Trevor hasn’t even left the scene before he finds himself the target of oblique insinuations from a homicide detective, who by the way is clearly the love child of Lieutenant Columbo and Sergeant Murtaugh.

Besides the police detective who seems to have skipped ahead to the end of the script, Trevor has two other big problems. One: he came out of the accident with a head injury, and so he has trouble remembering anything. Also, his days weave in and out of fugue states and delusions, which are great when you want to mess with the audience without committing to anything happening. I will give Bota and company full credit for some nice Pinhead foreshadowing in a brain surgery scene though.

Trevor’s other big problem is that he sweats Sex Panther cologne. This guy’s BVDs are getting their elastic challenged by every woman in the movie. Who knew being a widower was such a turn-on? You could probably change the music and make this into a sex farce. Just splice in Rob Schneider as a wacky neighbor instead of Pinhead and boom, you’re good. In fact, just keep the music.

Eventually we find out that Trevor was unfaithful with lots of women during the marriage, and so the women aren’t exactly coming out of nowhere. We are also shown that Kirsty found out about the affairs, but more interestingly, that Trevor obtained a Hellraiser box and made Kirsty open it. We don’t get to find out the result of that delightful gag gift until the curtain falls, but you will have figured it out long before then. Suffice it to say, that long drive off a short pier we started with was less straightforward than we originally witnessed.

“Hellseeker” is not terrible, but I’d be straining to call it even okay. I’d rather watch an honestly terrible movie than this thing. Give me all the Zombeavers and Thankskillings you have.

They’ve taken one of the most explicit and daring titles in horror, and they’ve expurgated it until you get something that could play with minimal cuts on Lifetime, at least until the last 15 minutes. It is full of groping and murder, but it is still terribly boring, except when Pinhead is on the screen, but then you probably just feel sad. No Cenobite innovations, barely any Cenobite presence, and you don’t even have the disturbing murders that gave “Inferno” its genuine oog-out moments. And like “Inferno,” the story revolves around getting gutted for hidden sin, metaphorically and literally, which departs significantly from the original BDSM ethos of the Cenobites. They were never here to punish you or reward you; they’re here to play. Because you asked.

There’s nothing to play with here though. Just a dull as dishwater psychological horror title that tacks on some by-the-numbers Hellraiser motifs here and there and calls it a day. This should not have counted toward keeping the copyright.
I have serious issues with the ending, too, honestly, but I’m not going to think too hard about it because it’s a better deal for Kirsty, and she’s the only one I can muster much feeling for in this, what with her 10 minutes of screentime.

roadside attractions

  • The Short Happy Life of Kirsty Cotton
  • Will Someone Turn Off That Guy’s Amp?
  • Pinhead and Kirsty, still Angela’s OTP
  • Wardrobe by Victoria’s Secret
totals

2

blood

BLOOD

Most of it is in that screenshot I have above of the brain surgery.

0

blood

BREASTS


Not even a nip slip.

2

beast

BEASTS Generic retread Cenobites and superficial Pinhead. It won’t do.

2 OVERALL It gets one point for Kirsty, one point for Pinhead, and there are no other points worth spooling this up in your Netflix queue for. Give it a miss.
dripper

Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser: Hellseeker”

trailers

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May

Comments Off on Hellraiser: Inferno

“Hellraiser: Inferno” is a helluva lot better if you don’t think of it as a Hellraiser movie. I’m not sure it was meant to be honestly. You could have swapped the Hellraiser stuff with Candyman or Leprechaun or probably Alf without using very much whiteout, and the story itself is a total departure from every Hellraiser we’ve seen so far.
Craig Sheffer would be playing his second Clive Barker hero here (after Boone from “Nightbreed”) if this were a real Hellraiser movie from Clive Barker, but he’s not, so — anyway, he plays Joseph Thorne, a shady detective with a flair for solving puzzles and playing games. When not being an arsebiscuit to his partner through the unlikely medium of crosswords, he may be found snorting coke, stealing from crime scenes, and cheating on his truly lovely wife with hookers. He’s a flawed protagonist. He’s also the narrator, in another departure from the Hellraiser template, and as faithful as he is to his wife and daughter, probably should pencil him in as an unreliable narrator, too.

Thorne and his partner Tony are called to the super opulent scene of a homicide, and it turns out Thorne knew the victim in school and even bullied him. (Flawed protagonist!) It did not get better for the dead guy, and somewhere along the way, he got himself a hold of the Hellraiser box, and the box got a hold of him, like it do. The true detectives also find a child’s finger encased in a candle at the scene, a particularly chilling little touch that viscerally troubles absentee father Thorne.

Starting with a murder scene and an imperative to hunt down the killer before he finishes murdering the child he sawed that finger off’n, things deescalate quickly when Thorne takes the box along for sexytimes with a hooker. (Flawed protagonist!) He opens it, of course, but strangely, chains do not jet out and get themselves hooked into his face. No! Pinhead, sweetie, did you forget to turn your out-of-office on?
Instead of being shown such sights, he has a dream (or dream-like?) sequence where hotsy-totsy Cenobites try groping him to death, and then a chase, a jump scare, awake, and it’s daylight. Back to work and hunting down that darn killer. Okaaaaaay.

Back at the office, Thorne gets a call from his special friend from the night before, who sounds like she’s about 5 seconds from getting Cenobitified. He rushes back to the no-tell motel, discovers the hooker’s body, along with a child’s finger party favor, and fetches his partner Tony. Thorne then manipulates Tony into helping him clean the crime scene to cover up his involvement, all the while also planting evidence to make Tony a patsy should he get too much conscience and turn on Thorne. (Flawed protagonist!)

Kind of pissed off with each other, but even more desperate to stop the killings than before, Thorne and Tony find themselves on the trail of a mysterious mastermind, known only in breathless criminal whispers as “The Engineer.” I will tell you right now that trail is going to basically involve following chunks of people who know Thorne, along with the occasional child’s finger.

Also, let me tell you about the Engineer. The Engineer is part of the Hellraiser mythos that is never explicitly discussed onscreen up to this point, although he’s familiar to fans, especially fans of the novella. You know that flying snapping thing that chased Kirsty in the first one? That was the Engineer. In lore, he was maybe human once, maybe the one who first opened the gate to hell, but is definitely the one who makes the Cenobites all their fun action features. I suppose taking license with the mythos by making the Engineer the Big Bad is arguable, but to me, it’s one more thing that screams that this movie happened when someone played Hellraiser Mad Libs in someone’s psychological horror spec script.

Craig Sheffer actually does a pretty darn good job with this role. Thorne is a bastard all right, but Sheffer still makes empathy happen and convincingly veers from smarmy self-control to unhinged brutality to utterly beaten and back as the plot demands it. I kind of like that the movie dares to make him such a barely-mitigated dick.

The new Cenobites seem to be purposefully symbolic in their blinded, hypersexualized designs, which is a nice first for the series and unexpectedly deep. There’s also a sort of return of the Chatterer Cenobite, although this one is legless, and somehow that might be creepier.

And then the murders are fairly unflinching and “Criminal Minds” grade disturbing at times, realism that is risky, but interesting, following four movies of nothing but fantastical gore.

I don’t have all good things to say. Honestly, I’m kind of shocked I had that much good to say. For one thing, it drags, often and not in a fun RuPaul way. Also, once the movie starts to invest heavily into the psychological part of its alleged psychological horror, it peels away into a tedious and gory “Groundhog Day.” It tries for profound, but it just gets stuck in a b.s. death spiral, although, I guess, at least the b.s. is internally consistent. Consistent with itself, of course, not Hellraiser or anything from the mind of Clive Barker. Pinhead, the box, and especially the Engineer just do not need to be here, and it makes more sense for everybody if they’re not. But at least Doug Bradley got a paycheck out of it.

roadside attractions

  • Boone! How ya been, Boone?
  • Flawed protagonist!
  • Genuinely creepy new Cenobites
  • Absolutely everybody dying except the guy that deserves to die
  • OK horror movie in there somewhere
  • With special guest star: Pinhead, the Hell Priest
  • What a twist!
totals

8

blood

BLOOD

Grim, realistic horror that’s effective, yet generally no worse than most police procedurals nowadays.

0

blood

BREASTS


Direct to video with minor sexytimes, yet you will have to content yourself with Craig Sheffer nips.

8

beast

BEASTS These are probably the best Cenobites since the original Cenobites. I would also accept them as fine Silent Hill creatures as well. Not enough of ’em though.

6 OVERALL Could have been worse, could have been better, was not a real Hellraiser either way.
dripper

Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser: Inferno”

trailers

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May

Comments Off on Hellraiser: Bloodline

When we last left Pinhead n’ pals at the end of “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth,” Pinhead had been reunited (and it felt so bad) with his ghost, Captain Elliott Spenser, in hell, and the heroine, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Jadzia Dax, plunked the Hellraiser box in the drying foundation of a building, the better to keep people’s mitts off of it. At least people who aren’t Kitty Pryde. And then we see a building with Hellraiser box décor erected on the building site. But Pinhead’s in his hell, the gate to which is literally encased in tons of concrete, and all’s right with the world, right? Right?!
Of course not.
You know how when “Jason X” came out, everyone chortled “haw haw, it’s Jason – in space!” (I love “Jason X” so much, don’t get me started.) But Pinhead did it first and he did it here. The movie opens in the plausibly-distant future with standard issue space marines storming a space facility where a mysterious man, Dr. Merchant, sets a poor innocent low-end Terminator to solving the puzzle box.

The man successfully activates the box-by-bot just as he is captured by Rimmer, the Ripley of this set of space marines, and he pleads with her to get off the station and let him finish what he started. Finish what? Hope you brought some popcorn, Rimmer. Settle in.
The previous Hellraiser movies never really got into the background of the box sketched out in the “Hellbound Heart” novella, although neeeeeeerds still picked up it’s called Lemarchand’s box or the Lament Configuration. The franchise is gonna fix that with Dr. Merchant’s Introduction to the Hellraiser Box 101, and the course materials are a couple of big-ass flashbacks. Because, you see, his bloodline is the bloodline of the title, as his ancestor was the one to create the box in the first darn place. Good one, Merchant family.
And so we’re in powdered-wigs-and-tights era France where a toymaker named Philippe Lemarchand, who looks exactly like Dr. Merchant, has whipped up the Hellraiser box to order for a wealthy client. Of course, he somehow designs it to his patron’s specifications without realizing what it does, and his wife is unimpressed when all he can get it to do is open and play tinkly music. Oh, you just wait, hon.

Lemarchand delivers the box to his client on a dark and ominous night. The client, Duc de L’Isle, looks sort of like an evil harlequin Bea Arthur, and he receives the box while a woman he and his trusty apprentice Jacques – Adam Scott’s first film role, everybody! — have just ganked cools offscreen. Then Lemarchand hangs around watching through the windows while the pair use the box to invoke a demon to possess the dead lady. The sequence is long enough to be montaged, so I have to assume Lemarchand is out there for hours. He should have brought a lawn chair.
And, kids, if you’re going to raise the dead in the front room, consider pulling the drapes.

Understandably bummed, Lemarchand relates all he witnessed to a friend, while his friend chops up a dead body for study. His friend has good advice while rib spreading a corpse – if you made a box that can summon demons, maybe you can make one that can destroy ‘em? And so Lemarchand sets to designing a box for just that purpose and goes to L’Isle’s digs to retrieve the original.
He finds the box, but he also finds L’Isle with an extra red smile bisecting his face, and the demon, Angelique, is now shtupping Jacques. Well, Jacques is a better deal, can’t blame her. They catch Lemarchand and moiderize him, but he has a pregnant wife, so the story’s not over, even though his story so is.

Hundreds of years pass, but we don’t have to watch that. What we do have to watch is brilliant architect John Merchant – same face, got some powerfully stubborn genes in that family – as he unwittingly designs a whole building’s worth of Hellraiser box. You know the box in the foundation and the Hellraiser building from the end of III? Yeah, this is that. Angelique and Jacques have been bumming around Europe, living an Anne Rice novel or summat, when she catches wind of this and wants to go do something about it. Jacques says no, and no means dead.
Angelique tries to seduce John, but he has just enough sense and foreboding ancestral dream knowledge to resist. Going with plan B, she finds the original box in the foundation and seduces a meaty partygoer into solving it, opening the portal to hell. Angelique meets Pinhead and the two do shop talk about hell for a bit, both ultimately very interested in making the building itself into a permanent gate to hell. Angelique thinks she can snuggle it out of John, but Pinhead would prefer to rip it out with serrated hooks. Their blue state/red state approaches put them at odds, but neither way looks very good for John. Good thing he also has a son.
No spoilers because you already know this thing will end where it began, back to the future, with Pinhead in space and a whole bunch of dumb, squishy space marines. They should beam over to LV-426 while they’re at it.
…Did I mention Pinhead has a dog in this one?

Overall, this is probably some of Alan Smithee’s best work. Actually Kevin Yagher directed this, and it’s seriously not bad, but the studio meddled in hell’s domain too damn much and prompted him to quit and take his name off. The elegance and intimacy of the original “Hellraiser” has been purged here and they’ve grafted on a luxurious temptation backstory with the Merchant family – none of whom are interesting enough to be tempted to do anything – and an Alien-esque space marine slasher crescendo. The Cenobites are much improved over the punchlines of III though, and that includes the Chatterer Dog Cenobite. Of course, you do get chains and graphic violence and all of that stuff, but at this point, it’s expected, so having a guy’s skin ripped off is little bit of a yawn.

This is, by the way, the last Hellraiser movie Clive Barker was at all associated with, and we’re not even halfway through the franchise.

roadside attractions

  • Piercings
  • Chainings
  • Reanimation
  • Demon possession
  • Extreme Cenobite Makeovers
  • Piiiinheeeeeaads in Spaaaaaaace!
  • Man’s Best Cenobite
  • French stuff
  • Three eras of Bruce Ramsay’s face
totals

7

blood

BLOOD

Yes. Kinda boring blood by Hellraiser standards though honestly.

0

blood

BREASTS


No boobs. Well, a couple of really dumb guys, yeah, but not boob boobs.

7

beast

BEASTS New and improved Cenobites, including the Odie of the Damned, but that’s it.

7 OVERALL Crappy sequel to some, last decent sequel to others.
dripper

Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser: Bloodline”

trailers

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Apr

Comments Off on Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Sequels! So often the cinematic equivalent of “second verse, same as the first!” “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” could easily have been “Hellraiser Too.” But the good news is “Hellraiser” is a fantastic horror film, so using the skeleton and generous tissue grafts from the first one means you have at least that much good movie, no matter how silly the ultimate Big Bad looks. Um, spoilers on that last bit.
The movie opens with quick edits of Hellraiser: the story so far. “Jesus wept.” The Scorpio killer from “Dirty Harry” is ripped apart by chains. The Cenobites close on a screaming young woman and almost nab her puffy-haired boyfriend, but the Fat One (not to be confused with Joey Fatone) isn’t quite quick enough. Pinhead: “We have such sights to show you…” “Go to hell!” yells the girl as she brandishes hell’s paperweight at the Cenobites. Cue dramatic choral music and the opening credits start coming at us.
If you didn’t get any of that, don’t worry. “Hellraiser II” will cover all of this material again before the third act. For starters, just like in the first movie, we watch a lone man frowning in concentration over the famous puzzle box, only this time he appears to be an old-timey British army officer in a Quonset hut. And just like with Frank Cotton, the Big Bad of the first film, we see the box bzzzrt to life with CGI, we see the petitioner lean tentatively over the box, and then we see chains fly out of the box to hook into the guy, or at least some sort of Naugahyde we’re meant to believe is the guy. This sequence is a little more interesting than Frank’s transformation though, imho, both because we’ll recognize the officer is being turned into Pinhead, and the sequence does a good job interspersing Pinhead’s screams and shots of the torture itself with glimpses of his creepy smile as he is well and truly Cenobitified.
In the present day, the young woman what banished Pinhead and his fellows to hell before the credits, Kirsty Cotton, wakes up in a psychiatric hospital. She’s told her boyfriend Steve from the first movie was sent home, his wild tale of the Cenobites apparently totally corroborating Kirsty’s, but not to the extent he needs to be institutionalized, too. However, a nice man from the police is there to sort of interrogate her, so there’s that.
Meanwhile, two trigger happy cops investigate the Cotton house, which is now definitely in America, despite being sorta in England in the first movie. They find a jump scare, but also a bloody mattress with chains on it, and so they call their boss to find out what to do with such big time physical evidence. The boss happens to be the officer interrogating Kirsty, and she overhears the discovery, because these are seriously the worst cops since Barney Fife swore in Gomer and Otis.
Then we meet Dr. Channard as he monologues to a rapt operating theater about charting the mind’s secrets while sawing open a patient’s skull. They really do brain surgery like this, you know. I think they discourage actual villainous monologuing, but the sawing a conscious person’s head open is legit. It would not be unfair to think of Dr. Channard as an excellent Hannibal Lecter audition.
Channard drops into Kirsty’s room with his assistant Kyle just long enough to establish that everybody knows each other’s names and for Kirsty to demand the discovered mattress be destroyed. She explains forcefully that since Julia — her stepmother, Frank’s lover, and the Lady Big Bad in the first movie – died on that mattress, she can be brought back from hell through it, just like Frank was in “Hellraiser.” And that gets her bupkus but a sleeping pill prescription.
Later on, Kirsty wakes, seemingly summoned by a patient in another room quietly putting together a wooden block puzzle. The Channard Institute patients are free range, and so Kirsty leaves her room to discover an innocuous blonde teenage girl puzzling her heart out. As Kirsty watches the patient work, Kyle surprises her. He explains the girl never speaks, and that they don’t even know who she is. A nurse calls her Tiffany. The girl just seems to compelled to solve puzzles, which Dr. Channard encourages. Weird coincidence. Kyle gives Kirsty sleeping pills, which Kristy refuses, and at this point he is clearly not a doctor, but has been horror-movie-boyfriend-zoned.
Kirsty goes back to her room and has a vivid visitation by a skinless man, scrawling on the wall of her room, “I am in hell. Help me.” Already terrified and angry that Julia has a potential portal back from hell just waiting for someone to cut their femoral artery over it, Kirsty worries about how she can bring her father Larry, murdered by Julia and Frank, back from hell.
Just as one might have an inkling that Dr. Channard is a less than a caring caregiver, the movie allows us to tour through the “Maintenance” level of the Channard Institute with him. It is every horrible asylum trope you’ve ever heard or seen. It is a Marilyn Manson video. It is dirtier than John McClane’s shirt at the end of “Die Hard” and there is screaming and crying and scrawling in stuff and straitjackets. The only thing it’s missing is Jessica Lange.
Kyle managed to be Channard’s assistant and yet totally oblivious to the entire floor of patient abuse his boss kips down to, I’m assuming, on a fairly regular basis, but he does overhear Channard making arrangements for the mattress to be delivered to his house. Newly clue-having Kyle is a man of action and breaks into Channard’s house, like you do, discovering Channard is quite the Hellraiser fanboy, with a whole study full of mad scientisting and no fewer than three of the infamous boxes under glass. We also learn that Kyle reads aloud and talks to himself, which is weird, but helpful to the audience.

Kyle also gets to be there when Channard brings one of the Maintenance level patients in to be sat on the mattress. Now I don’t want to spoil this for you, but it does not end well for the patient, who I like to think of as “maggot guy” and at the end of it, Julia has indeed come through the mattress, skinless like Frank, and you can just go ahead and cue up “A Strange Kind of Love” for her and Channard while Kyle wets his pants behind a curtain.
Just like in the first movie, the skinless Cenobite escapee is going to need to suck some victims dry and steal their skin. Actually the mechanism for this is kinda odd. It seems to be a combination of sucking on their mouth or face and shoving the plane of your hand into their neck, and I’m not sure how that works, because that’s bone. But Julia sure knows how it works, and she makes quick work of a whole room full of ladies in various states of undress. Please enjoy all the boobs you are going to get in this one.Kyle and Kirsty show up at Castle Channard because barreling into the villain’s lair was Kirsty’s go-to in the first movie and we’re still working off that script. Kyle does not fare much better than maggot guy in the end, but his contribution does finish off Julia’s skin. Kirsty unleashes a powerful banshee scream, but Julia knocks her cold with a patrician backhand, just in time for her new beau to bring Tiffany home as a surprise.
Julia and Channard hide in Channard’s anti-cenobite bunker while Tiffany solves the box. I don’t know why Channard needs a puzzle-solving prodigy to figure the box out. I get that he’s avoiding risking his own hide, but most people seem to be able to figure out the box with minimal montaging. Julia apparently did after she’d been gutted and effectively drained by Frank in the first movie.
It does work. Tiffany solves the box and the Cenobites show up and instantly rezone Channard’s pad into hell. As the lesser Cenobites cluster around Tiffany, ready to do what they do best, Pinhead forbids them. “It is not hands that call us. It is desire.” And Pinhead’s gaze takes the camera into hell after Channard and Julia.
This is the point the movie really departs into its own thing, adding new material to the skeletal and nebulous Hellraiser mythology while upping the ante in terms of threats and effects. And boy does it suck. OK, maybe not suck, but fair warning, nothing is going to make much sense from this point on.
Hell could be many things. Bottomless pit, unquenchable flames, something like a Bosch painting, that “Informer” song on a neverending loop. Hell in “Hellraiser II” took serious inspiration from Jareth the Goblin King’s realm in “Labyrinth.” It’s M.C. Escher matte painting with a little H.R. Geiger flourish here and there, wind machines, strobe lights, and a few themed sound stages for individual pilgrims wandering its otherwise featureless gray maze. Tiffany has a carnival soundstage, for instance. Kirsty’s is the house where her Dad was killed. Mine would probably be a room of monitors showing this part of the movie.
Wandering around the Labyrinth, Kirsty bumps back into the Cenobites instead of muppets. They menace her as usual, insist she clearly wants what they have to offer, but then strangely still don’t take the opportunity to mutilate her when she proves powerless against them. You know, the Cenobites like to imply Kirsty keeps running into them because she wants to be tortured for eternity, but they keep letting her go, so what does that say about them?
Meanwhile, Julia takes Channard to the center of the Labyrinth and introduces him to her god. No, not Satan, and not Jareth either – it’s Leviathan, who appears to be an obelisk screensaver. She then backs him into a Cenobite-making booth, announcing that the entire reason she was allowed to escape was so she could bring Leviathan more souls. And I’ll never believe in true love again. Kirsty ping-pongs from the Cenobites to dead Uncle Frank, who is being tormented on his own soundstage. He tells Kirsty it was he who appeared in her room, not her dad, who is dead. So in the Hellraiser universe (so far) if you’re killed by the Cenobites, you’re not entirely dead? You’re just in hell. But you can come back. But if you’re killed by anything else, including things from hell that aren’t Cenobites, you’re dead and that’s it? What are the eschatological implications here?
OK, then Julia shows up and kills Frank. I guess. Good. Kirsty contends with Julia, both fighting for Tiffany’s trust, and sometimes it’s in the most unlikely moments a movie passes the Bechdel test. Ultimately Julia’s skin is torn off and she falls to her…death? In hell? Man, I don’t even know.
Channard emerges from the Insta-Cenobite booth as the Doctor Cenobite, looking not at all well, but he looks around in wonder and murmurs one of my favorite lines of any movie, “And to think, I hesitated.” But they really should have left Channard in there for another millennia or so because he just looks silly. He’s like a flying tentacle porn Inspector Gadget. The rest of the movie is Kirsty and Tiffany versus the Doctor Cenobite, getting some unexpected help from our O.G. Cenobites, but ultimately it’s going to come down to Tiffany’s puzzle-solving skillz and Kirsty’s ingenuity to stop the Doctor Cenobite’s terrible medical puns.
“Hellraiser II” is a sequel from a more innocent time when horror sequels were really just expected to be the same movie plus boobs and bodycount, and to be fair, they did that. They do try to flesh out the lore, which would be a good thing if the stuff they added wasn’t self-contradictory crap. Clive Barker said that he was afraid people would laugh at the Cenobites in the first movie, but he managed to make something horrifying and cool instead. The Doctor Cenobite is every bit Clive’s fear realized though, which is doubly a shame because Channard was so effective before he got all go-go gadget. It’s still worth a look, but the movie really does go all to hell once they all go to hell.

roadside attractions

  • More piercing fetishes
  • More extreme maggot wrangling
  • More chains
  • More cannibalizing action
  • Asylum of the damned
  • Extreme Cenobite makeovers
  • Cenobite fight!!!
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Alternate title could have been Bloodspouter.

2

blood

BREASTS


Yes, there are boobs in this one! Not a lot, unless you count Julia’s skinless ones.

9

beast

BEASTS Skinless Julia and the Cenobites deliver the goods, but I’m taking back a point for the Doctor Cenobite being dumb.

8 OVERALL “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” loses coherence in the last reel, but it’s still a good horror flick on its own merits and a decent sequel to the horror masterpiece.
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Apr

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On May 19, 2015, Clive Barker unleashes the long-awaited The Scarlet Gospels on the world. It’s being billed as the last Hellraiser novel and Clive is spoiling us all by letting us know the Hell Priest Pinhead is getting deader than usual, for reals, forever, run up the curtain and joined the choir invisible.
At this point, I go fully Brainy Smurf and point out there has only been one Hellraiser novel, which was a novella called “The Hellbound Heart.” Although, yeah, Pinhead and his S&M monster sect, the Cenobites, were briefly mentioned in his novel Weaveworld as “the Surgeons.”
Really Pinhead and his homies were fleshed out in the movies, of which there are nine. Same number as levels of hell. Coincidence? We’ll see. In celebration/fearful expectation of The Scarlet Gospels, I’m going to watch all nine of these bad boys and review them all here. Assuming I’m not scrawling crosses on the wall in my own excrement by the time I get to “Hellraiser: Deader.”

The 80s gave us so many great monsters – Pumpkinhead, Chucky, the Leprechaun, Michael Myers, the Tall Man, Angela from “Sleepaway Camp” AND Angela from “Night of the Demons” – but Pinhead stands proudly in the winners circle of the greatest monsters of the Reagan years with his arms slung around Freddy and Jason, probably keeping them from going for round 2 against each other. His image is familiar to everyone. He has been on the Simpsons. Your mom knows Pinhead, and for once, that’s not a reflection on your mom. Although time, and so freaking many sequels, clouds the memory, and even if you are a fan, “Hellraiser” might not be entirely the movie you think you saw.
First off, in the novella that spawned it and the first movie, Pinhead and the Cenobites aren’t the Big Bads here, not really. It’s kind of like the first Friday the 13th and Jason’s mom. The real bad guy here is Frank Cotton, a smoldering bad boy hunk and sociopathic hedonist looking for the ultimate in transcendental sexytimes. And so he comes by the box, that iconic Rubik’s Cube of the damned, and retires to his dead mother’s house in London, fingering the box’s faces until the CGI kicks in. The prize inside, however, while not safe for work, is not so much sexytimes as total evisceration, courtesy of the Cenobites. But hey, he asked for it.
If he’s eviscerated, how is he the Big Bad, Angela? OK, fun story. Some indefinite time later, Frank’s brother Larry shows up with his frosty, semi-detached wife Julia in tow. Larry has a great new job in England and intends to reclaim the old homestead, also setting the stage for a fresh start with the pissy missus.
They tour the old house and find lots of Buddy Christ-grade religious iconography, presumably his mom’s, a kitchen given over to maggots, and some of Frank’s things, but no Frank. Not even pieces. The Cenobites love their work.
Larry dismisses it as his ne’er do well, and inexplicably more gorgeous, brother making a smooth criminal exit, but Julia, who was so icy towards her husband, suddenly gets her motor runnin’ and agrees to stay.
On moving day, in a really beautifully-done sequence – have I told you I love this movie? – Julia obsesses over Frank’s picture, and we get flashback mushy stuff as she gets all het up about how he seduced her before her wedding. While she’s, ahem, remembering, Larry and nondescript friends heft the marriage bed upstairs. In the process, Larry accidentally rips his hand open on a nail, and he goes to Julia for help, bleeding all over the floor of Frank’s room. The room Frank was eviscerated in. The floorboards suck the blood up like Karo syrup on a Brawny towel and Frank’s body begins to reconstitute itself underneath the floorboards. It is all very gelatinous and extensively foleyed.
Cut to a dinner party. Larry’s daughter Kirsty is there, and she is about horror movie heroine age and so beautiful. You guys, she is the proto Noxzema girl. Kirsty flirts with one of her Dad’s younger friends, who’s supposed to be British, but speaks with an American accent, and that troubles me at night sometimes. There’s booze and raucous cheer. Except —
Kirsty doesn’t like her stepmother Julia, and while the hostilities aren’t open, Julia is too distracted fantasizing about Frank to be a bitch. She leaves the party to go sniff around in Frank’s things and surprise! Her lover is back, sort of. Some of him. Larry’s blood was enough to bring Frank back to Slim Goodbody suit status, but he needs more. A lot more. Also skin. And he insists Julia help him.
Julia is torn between many competing emotions like so much chain-hooked body, and my God, Clare Higgins deserves an Oscar. Frank is a disgusting monster. But he is also Frank (who is a disgusting monster anyway, but she’s lust-blind to that.) And Frank is a terrifying monster, which both makes him intimidating and something to go screaming to your insignificant other about. And Clare gets all of this across beautifully with wild looks and halted breaths and trembling.
So, Julia consents to help Frank, and the way she’s going to help Frank is by luring men back to the house to bludgeon with a hammer and let Frank suck dry. She starts out very nervous, terrified really, of the men, of herself, and of course, of the thing sucking the marrow out of the guy she just whacked, good old Frankie-poo.
Meanwhile Noxzema Girl Kirsty has troubling dreams with more symbolism than an 80s Heart video, and she begins to worry about her dad. She also has a run in with a really weird guy in the pet shop she’s now working at, and while it’s probably par for the course in New York or L.A. or New Orleans, in England, I gather cricket-eating hobos staring hungrily at you is more of an event.
Kirsty eventually stumbles upon Julia and Frank’s white doughy Englishman abatement service and, after Frank leers at her real good, manages to steal the box and get out. She really does some prime horror movie heroineing here. But then she passes out, and wakes up in a hospital from dreams of a red blooming flower. Mm-hmm.
When a doctor tries to interrogate her, Kirsty insists she remembers nothing. She’s left to recuperate, with the puzzle box as a spur to her memory. So she does what everyone does when they’re left alone with the box and starts feeling it up to reveal its secrets. First, she manages to open a gateway to a fun slobbering, snapping thing that defies physics when it flies and has a stinger for a tail, but after she escapes, she meets the Cenobites. And the only thing the Cenobites want more than to play with Kirsty is to get Frank back.
As gory as it can be, the meat of this movie isn’t effects; it’s Julia turning into a monster for the sake of her love of Frank and it’s Frank being an inhuman bastard who has a 50/50 shot at sticking a knife or his penis in you, and even then probably not where you’d expect. It’s Larry’s marriage turning to ash in front of his hapless, loser eyes and it’s Kirsty being unable to save her father from his own mistakes. The Cenobites are hella memorable, but in this movie, they’re more of a force of nature being invoked by some terribly human appetites.

Also, the Cenobites aren’t clearly Satan-based demons here, despite the title. The Lead Cenobite (Pinhead to you) announces them as “angels to some; demons to others.” That was on the posters, and it’s pretty damn apt. They get to be both in this movie, and while there’s an oblique acknowledgment of hell, it’s arguable whether it refers to a literal Judeo-Christian hell. I’m making that point, because later films are going to go backsies on some of this. But as far as we know in the first movie, they’re just supernaturally-endowed swingers from another dimension.
This is a film Clive Barker made after seeing other filmmakers butcher material from a couple of his other short stories, and he basically said, [bleep], I’m going to do this my way, and it’s going to be awesome. And then he said, oh, [bleep], I don’t know what I’m doing. But he was wrong about that. It’s a tight script and he directs the hell out of it, including some really clever shots and setups. All the actors give it everything they’ve got. There are no limits. So decades later, it’s still scary and there’s not much like it; Phantasm probably is the only series I can think of with a similar feel. I do still have eight movies to go in my Hellraiser-a-thon, but I feel pretty safe saying if there’s one Hellraiser you should see, it’s this one.

roadside attractions

  • Piercing fetishes
  • Extreme maggot wrangling
  • American-dubbed British people because U.S. market
  • Chains of love
  • Guys getting hammered
  • Lots of ectoplasm. At least, I hope it’s ectoplasm.
  • Cannibalizing action
  • Full backal nudity
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Everything that is inside eventually comes outside in this movie.

0

blood

BREASTS


…Except boobs. No boobs. If you don’t look away in time, you may see Frank’s junk though.

10

beast

BEASTS Big slobbering stinger-equipped monster, big flying pterodactyl-like monster, skinless Uncle Frank, and Cenobites for the win.

9 OVERALL Even with some dated SFX, the movie holds up and is still scary, provocative, and – why not say it? – artistically fulfilling. Check it the hell out.
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