Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Tony Randel, 1988)

Is there such a thing as too much crazy? The opening chapter in the series gave us the gourmet batshit we desire in small, economic doses. Teasing us with some hooked flesh here, some splattered guts there, Hellraiser was rather crafty when it came to bringing brainsick to the masses. As is the nature with most sequels, especially the one's that immediately follow where the first film left off, Hellbound: Hellraiser II is nothing but wall-to-wall insanity; in fact, there's little time to breathe, as we're inundated with one wonky aberration after another. (You sound like you're not a fan of the direction part two decided to take.) I do? Well, it's not that I didn't like the film, I just found it a little overwhelming at times. I mean, there's so much... (Yeah, yeah, we know, it's so crazy! What did you expect, it takes place mostly in Hell, a place where everything either bleeds or is covered in cockroaches, and creepy blonde girls who like they just walked off the set of The Dark Crystal wander the halls looking for ornate puzzle boxes to solve.) Hell is a crazy place. And I should know, I've been there. No, I'm not talking about Etobicoke. I'm talking about... wait a second, I am talking about Etobicoke. As most people know, Hell isn't an actual place, it's more of a state of mind. Some of us can drift aimlessly through life and not experience Hell once. Others, like myself, on the other hand, experience Hell on a daily basis. Damn, that's probably one of the bleakest things I've ever said.


Remember when I stated that I would throw one of my world famous hissy fits if Julia Cotton wasn't in the sequel? Well, she's in the sequel, all right. While can I understand why Clare Higgins doesn't play Julia Cotton without skin (the make-up for "the skinless look" must take hours), I was genuinely relieved when she finally appears onscreen. Playing the role of the wicked stepmother in the first film, Julia Cotton has since graduated to the post of the evil queen.


You could call her The Queen of Hell. But don't let "Pinhead" (Doug Bradley) hear you say that, as he pretty much rules Hell with an iron fist. Or does he?


In the film's opening scene, after a brief refresher course reminding us what happened in the previous chapter (previously on Hellraiser: some people opened an ornate puzzle box, and, as a result of this action, some people were torn apart by hooks attached to chains), we get a motherfucking Pinhead origin story! Wow, I didn't expect that. I always figured that the Pinhead character would remain a bit of a mystery, a ghastly creature who is forever doomed to exist solely within the confines of our nightmares. While I kind of like the idea of not knowing too much about his past, it was good to know that he's not just some boring boogeyman with no humanity or personality (like most movie modern monsters).


We actually see the pins, or, I should say, nails, enter Pinhead's head for the very first time. It turns out that Pinhead wasn't always Pinhead. It would seem he was just another white person with a thing for playing with shiny, ornate puzzle boxes. Here's some free advice that bears repeating: If you ever see white person sitting cross-legged on the floor, run immediately in the opposite direction, some freaky shit is about to go down. And, yes, this includes white people who do yoga and meditate on a regular basis.


Taking a much needed rest after a long night of fighting Cenobites, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) eventually wakes up. Unfortunately, she wakes up in the Channard Institute for the Mentally Deranged; it's not actually called that, but it's a pretty accurate description (stay away from the so-called "maintenance" level, if you know what's good for you). When a police detective is finished interviewing her, Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his assistant Dr. Kyle (William Hope, a.k.a. the guy from Aliens) take over. As the detective is leaving, Kirsty says, "You have got to destroy that mattress!"


If you remember, the mattress has Julia's blood on it. And you know what that means? (Hey, isn't this the same mattress that Kirsty's father cut his hand while trying to move it upstairs?) Yep. You could say the entire Hellraiser series owes a debt of gratitude to that grungy mattress.


(Not so fast, Kirsty clearly told the detective to destroy the mattress. In other words, no mattress, no Julia.) Oh, you're so naive. The detective has no intention of destroying the mattress. Besides, he thinks she's nuts. It doesn't matter because Dr. Channard has already arranged that the mattress be delivered to his house. (What does he want with a bloodstained mattress?) Excellent question. When Dr. Kyle overhears Dr. Channard talking about securing the mattress, the very same mattress Kirsty insisted they destroy, he decides to do a little sleuthing.


Meanwhile, as Dr. Kyle is going into Nancy Drew mode, Kirsty is visited by a skinless man who writes, "I am in Hell. Help me," in blood on the wall of her room. Assuming the skinless man was her father, Kirsty seems more determined than ever to get out of this place; if only she had an ornate puzzle box.


Breaking into Dr. Channard's house via the back door, Dr. Kyle discovers that his study is basically a makeshift museum dedicated to the ornate puzzle box; in fact, he's got three boxes on display. I didn't care for way Dr. Kyle talked to himself as he poked through Dr. Channard's collection of oddities, as people talking to themselves in movies while snooping is a pet peeve of mine. Anyway, he better keep his mouth shut, as Dr. Channard is home. Hiding behind some curtains, Dr. Kyle watches, or, I should say, listens, as Dr. Channard sits one of his patients (a guy from the maintenance level) down on the bloodstained mattress, hands him a straight-razor, proceeds to allow him to cut himself repeatedly (the patient thinks maggots are crawling all over his skin). Charming.


As the mattress becomes soaked with the patient's blood (the patient, by the way, is played by Oliver Smith), a skinless woman emerges. Wrapping her legs and arms around the blood-drenched patient, the skinless woman absorbs his essence, much the same way Skinless Frank (Oliver Smith) did the first film. Since it's Julia's blood that was originally on the mattress, we can assume the skinless woman currently lapping up blood is Julia. However, Skinless Julia is played by Deborah Joel, who, I must say, looks amazing. The skinless make-up is stunning. I mean, the way it glistens in the light is so wonderfully ghastly; I want to look away, but I just can't, it's so, ugh.


Skinless Julia isn't enamored with her appearance, as she thinks she looks "strange," "surreal," and "nightmarish." In order to rectify this, Dr, Channard wraps Skinless Julia in bandages.


(How is Dr. Channard going to lure people to his home like Julia did in the first film? He doesn't have shapely gams, and he doesn't wear satin blouses.) Don't forget, the maintenance level of his institute is filled with people. (He's not going to feed his patients to Skinless Julia, is he?) Yep. And get this, he has a special room where Skinless Julia can absorb them in private. Judging by the number of shriveled corpses hanging from the ceiling, I'd say it took about seven patients to make Julia whole again. And you know what that means? Enter Clare Higgins.


After seeing what he saw heard at Dr. Channard's house, it's safe to say that Dr. Kyle is firmly on Team Kirsty. Sadly, his time on Team Kirsty is rather short-lived (no one can resist the charms of Julia...when she has hair and skin).


On the bright side, Team Kirsty will soon discover that they have an unexpected fan in Pinhead. Now, I'm not implying that Kirsty and Pinhead will be going on picnics together any time soon. But the odd rapport the two display with one another whenever they're onscreen together is one of the film's strongest elements.


If you're wondering why Dr. Channard is so eager to make Julia whole again, it's quite simple, he needs her to help guide him through Hell. (Kind of like Jack Baker helped Lois Ayres in The Devil in Miss Jones 3 and 4?) Yeah, I guess. At any rate, to get to Hell, Dr. Channard employs the puzzle-solving skills of a patient named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman). Solving the puzzle box with relative ease, Tiffany opens the gates of Hell, allowing Dr. Channard and Julia to begin their journey of self-discovery. Of course, Tiffany and Kirsty enter Hell as well; the former still has this cockamamie idea in her head that she's going to rescue her father.


Favourite Doug Bradley line readings in Hellbound: Hellraiser II: "But please, feel free, explore. We have eternity to know your flesh"  and "Go on... but trick us again child, and your suffering will be legendary even in Hell!" I love the way Doug says the words "flesh" and "suffering."


The scenes in Hell, an ashy labyrinth of hallways where the sound of babies screaming is played on a loop, are pretty effective in terms of creepiness (I really need to get myself some of those drawers that contain writhing women that open and close every now and then). However, I thought the so-called "New Cenobite" was a tad lame. Maybe I'm not familiar with the story or how things work down there, but I don't see how the New Cennobite could be stronger than the old Cenobites. Plus, the New Cennobites appearance was nowhere near as cool as Pinhead (the most eloquent movie monster of all-time), or the "Female Cennobite" (Barbie Wilde). Nonetheless, my feelings toward the New Cennobite are summed up perfectly by Tiffany when she first sees the New Cennobite and says, "shit" (her first words). Other than that, this movie is pretty fucking awesome.


11 comments:

  1. I love this movie so much. I am glad to read that you think that skinless Julia is a disquietingly sexy sight. I've mentioned this to a few people and they tend to back away.

    Did you know that the patient who mutilates himself with a razor is played by the same actor who was skinless Frank in the first movie? He doesn't look quite so elegant with his skin on.

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    1. Yeah, I think I mentioned the fact Oliver Smith plays the mental patient on the mattress and Skinless Frank somewhere in my review.

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    2. Oops, so much for my reading comprehension skills.

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  2. I've seen Julia recently in two different shows, and didn't realize at the time it was her. She had a small but pivotal role in a recent Doctor Who, and she had a feature role in several episodes of the British version of Being Human. She was really good in both parts, too!

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    1. I'm glad to hear she's still working in the biz. The Hellraiser movies are the only things I've seen her in.

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  3. Hi there, been kinda of a quiet follower of your site for a while, love the reviews and discovering films I would be interested in but never knew existed.

    Wondering if you've ever heard or watched http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098234/ before. Loved the total eighties vibe throughout and some really solid performances from the bands.

    Anyway I've said my bit for now chow!

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    1. Yes, I'm vaguely familiar with The Runnin' Kind. In fact, I don't think you're first person to mention it to me. At any rate, I'm adding it to my list. :)

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  4. Barker originally intended for Julia to be the real villain of the franchise, and this movie was meant to be the setup for that, but the public wanted Pinhead instead. Have you ever read the original novella Hellraiser was based off of, the Hellbound Heart? The first movie doesn't diverge too much from it, but one of the major things about the Cenobites I think the franchise should have left in was that they weren't really demons at all; at least, not in the Judeo-Christian sense that the franchise adopts. The book only hints it, but the suggestion is that the Cenobites were originally humans who figured out how they could lock themselves away into their own pocket dimension so they could experiment with sensation. Unfortunately, an eternity of no limits has pretty much exhausted all the conventional possibilities and left them over the top sado-masochists. In fact, they may not even be intentionally cruel, their senses of pleasure and pain are just so screwed up that they think they're giving their victims what they want.

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    1. Yeah, I recently read that Julia was supposed to be the focus of the Hellraiser franchise. Anyway, I can see why the public would want more Pinhead. I mean, look at him.

      My Clive Barker phase had subsided by the time I got to the Hellbound Heart... but I did devour The Damnation Game and The Great and Secret Show.

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