Hellbound: Hellraiser II

After the success of Hellraiser it was somewhat inevitable that sequels would follow. Hellbound: Hellraiser II was the first effort and it makes quite a nasty horror film although sadly it lacks the style of the original. The action picks up just hours after the end of the first movie as we embark on another nightmare inspired by Clive Barker.

One of the Doctor's patients is allowed to play with razors

Once again we meet up with Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) as she lies frantic, still reeling from the shocking events that saw her family murdered, in a secure psychiatric ward. These are never nice places in horror films and this is no exception. The head psychiatrist, Dr Chanard, is also a total freak of nature who fancies unlocking the secrets of the box. The misguided, or possibly insane, Doctor manages to resurrect the wicked stepmother Julia from her bloody mattress, much the same way as Julia did for Frank in the first film. Naturally the cenobites don't like this.

The film was directed by Tony Randel and he does a fine job, nothing spectacular but decent enough. The film looks as though it had a fairly big budget and the effects are decent for the time (1988) although they do look rather poor now. Hell itself is something of a disappointment as it seemed to consist of a big labyrinth, a series of oddly lit stage sets and with a huge spinning box in the centre but the cenobites look great and they provide some chilling moments.

The Doctor has another of his patients working on the box and before long she manages to open it. Julia is less than pleased that the cenobites may be after her but the Doctor is positively delighted to be exploring hell and he is soon transformed into a grotesque cenobite attached to a big tentacle with all manner of surgically sharp spinning implements with which to cause mayhem. The action is brutal and very gory in places veering into gross territory a bit too often.

Pinhead was always the character associated with Hellraiser, him and his band of cenobites were the most memorable part of the first film, despite the fact that they only appeared for a very short time. This is where Hellraiser II goes wrong (by hight). Pinhead and his cenobite chums are given more screen time but they appear to be a bunch of weaklings compared to the sick Doctor who really goes on a soul harvesting rampage. Pinhead blunders, and then appears to be struggling and this destroys his character he is defeated too easily. His origins are revealed and go on to form the basis of the next film.

The evil Julia, played by Clare Higgins

The acting is pretty mixed; yet again we are subjected to the whiny and useless Ashley Laurence who just grates my nerves the whole time she is on the screen. However Kenneth Cranham as Dr Chanard turned in a serious performance which really added to the film, he was very creepy and unpleasant. Clare Higgins as Julia is also very good again here, although she gets less to do than in the first film. The storyline is typical Clive Barker and so very dark and unremitting, the script is passable but comes across pretty badly in places.

This is a true horror film in that there is no sweetening, the characters who get killed are not necessarily established as evil, and Pinhead and his cenobites are made to look a bit wussy by the psycho doctor. However I think it relies too heavily on the first film for inspiration and there are a number of ideas which are played out again here though not as well - such as the Doctor feeding Julia victims as she did for Frank in the first film. This effort lacks the reality of the original, the stylistic touches like the creepy guy with his beard of insects and the fantasy hell setting definitely doesn't look real or scary enough.

A fairly uninspiring 90 minute horror effort which is elevated above the average by Barker's backdrop and characters. I wouldn't rush to see it but if you liked Hellraiser then you could check this out. The sequels which followed were steadily worse but obviously they belatedly got the point that Pinhead is the star of the show and they resurrected him after his ignoble death at the end of this film.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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