Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hellbound to Disappoint: "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" (1988)

In 1987, "Hellraiser" is released and is a smash hit. In 1988, the obligatory let-down sequel is released, and lives up to its adjectives.

Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) awakens after the first film, and finds herself in a mental hospital run by Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham). The deaths from the first film are being investigated by the police (an interesting angle dropped after the first few minutes), but no one believes Kirsty and her Cenobite story. Channard's assistant, Kyle (William Hope), breaks into Channard's home, and oh, the things he sees!

It seems Channard is an occult specialist, and has a collection of those little puzzle boxes that caused all the problems in the first film. He saves the mattress that Julia (Clare Higgins) from the first film died on, and decides to bring her back, just like Kirsty's father's blood brought back Frank (Sean Chapman). You can kind of guess what happens, as Kirsty must deal with her resurrected stepmother while looking for her father in Hell, and Pinhead and the gang get more screen time.

This is one of those films whose ambitions out reach its budget. While most of the cast (with the exception of Andrew Robinson) return, the film makers come down with a bad case of sequelitis and successfully bump up the scares and gore that made the first one so famous but sacrifice the screenplay.

Laurence is in the lead role here, and does another good job as Kirsty (her bland boyfriend is thankfully dropped for this film). Clare Higgins also returns as the evil Julia, but is not given enough screen time. Dr. Channard, while a creepy character, is nothing new. The horror film where the asylum doctor is crazier than the patient? Did the screenwriter, Peter Atkins, think that was original? Atkins also throws in Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), a convenient plot device/girl who happens to be really good at puzzle boxes! The luck!

The special effects are, again, hot and cold. While the set design is impressive, portraying Hell as a giant labyrinth, the film simply screams out for computer generated special effects. The gore is even more violent than the first film, but it isn't used to scare the audience so much as gross them out. One thing I admired about the first film was the lack of a villain who delivers bad one-liners, but we get it here, and it does not work. We see how Pinhead was created, but for every interesting scene like that one, we get the old "heroine runs, falls down, and drops important object" device.

"Hellbound: Hellraiser II" feels rushed, to the detriment of its good points. Even the closing scene, promising more sequels (five to be exact) feels predictable and old hat. (* * *) out of five stars.